by Hans ten Cate (with special thanks to Joel Wade at Electronic Arts)
Sunday, 22 February 2004

Everything or Nothing was released on February 17. Read last September's PythOnline article on Cleese and the James Bond video games; also read EA's interview with John Cleese! Credit: artwork courtesy of Electronic Arts

While video games based on hit movies are becoming increasingly the norm, Electronic Arts has taken its James Bond video game franchise to the next level with 007 Everything or Nothing. The game, which shipped early last week (February 17), is a full-fledged Bond film in disguise — featuring the celebrity voice talents of the original cast (including Cleese in the role of 'Q'), a story by Bond screenwriter Bruce Feirstein, and a full orchestral score by Emmy Award-winning composer Sean Callery.

The big-production game was two years in the making and features a spectacular roster of Hollywood talent. In addition to Pierce Brosnan, Judi Dench, and John Cleese in their original roles, Everything or Nothing also includes the voice talents and likenesses of Willem Dafoe, Heidi Klum, Shannon Elizabeth, Mya (who also sings the opening song) Richard Kiel ('Jaws' from the earlier Bond films), and Japanese model Misako Ito.

“Since there wasn't a Bond movie this year,” said Joel Wade, producer at Electronic Arts for Everything or Nothing, “we wanted this to be the Bond experience. We didn't want to cut corners.” This meant starting with an original story by screenwriter Bruce Feirstein (who also penned the screenplays for Bond films GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, and The World is Not Enough).

“This was his first foray into video games,” Joel said, “but it wasn't overwhelming for him, he did a fantastic job. He's really responsible for creating these characters... he re-imagined 'M,' the head of MI6, as a woman; he gave voice to Pierce Brosnan as the new James Bond in GoldenEye.

Electronic Arts also contracted members of Hollywood's A-list for the characters in the game, all of whom easily agreed to the project. “At this point, everyone is starting to appreciate the importance of video games. Most of them are artists who care about their performances, and [in the case of the original cast] want to take these characters that they have labored over for four years to come through.”

For actors, Joel confided, the process for a video game can be more challenging, since there is no context to work with. “They have to trust us that we're doing the right thing. There are no sets for them to be in; typically, they don't have people to talk to or play off of; it definitely requires more acting imagination to get a performance. But that said, everyone did a wonderful job.”

Photo: Cleese in Los Angeles recording the voice for Q in Everything or Nothing. Credit: courtesy of Electronic Arts

In addition to having had a 360-degree laser scanner capture his precise likeness, Cleese came in for three studio sessions to do the voice-overs for the game. “It was really fun having him come in to do the part,” said Joel. “Of course, he is a personally funny man and also incredibly smart. I had wondered if he was going to be as charming and funny in person. And he was hilarious and funny to work with.”

Cleese also helped in the recording studio with a few suggestions. “Of course, he knows the character like the back of his hand. Mr. Cleese was always good at checking us to make sure that the lines were appropriate for the character - and appropriately British as well.”

Joel told us that one of the recording sessions with Cleese was on October 27, Cleese's birthday. “When we found out, we got him some champagne and a cake that day.”

The final product is an exceptionally great video game, and not just because of Cleese's involvement. We had a chance to play through the video game a few weeks ago, before its release. The graphics, music, and gameplay are top notch, with every level grander and more challenging than the ones before. While on the one hand Everything or Nothing can be judged as a movie, you still control the action. The game is a combination of third-person shooter and vehicle driving levels, with incredibly fast-paced, fluid, and intense action.

The PlayStation version of Everything or Nothing also features online gameplay wherein you can collaborate with other players or go head-to-head in combat matches. There are bonus characters you can unlock and play in the multiplayer "arena" mode, but Cleese isn't one of them. “No, you don't get to see Cleese or Dame Judi Dench packing heat,” laughed Joel. “It wouldn't make sense, and we wanted to stay authentic to the Bond universe so we couldn't go mucking with it.”

Buy Everything or Nothing at the Electronic Arts store, Amazon.com, and Electronics Boutique.