007: EVERYTHING OR NOTHING
For:GameCube, PS2, Xbox (review copy)
Developer:Electronic Arts
Publisher:EA Games
Rating:8 (out of 10)

There's pussy galore in the latest double-O adventure, but with a porno name like Pierce Brosnan, you'd think this voice-actor Bond would truly take us undercover—bedcovers, that is. Or, remembering 1965's Thunderball, underwater: Connery's Bond dives with Domino Derval, taking her offscreen between a rock and a hard place. The dry money-shot (bubbles rush out from behind the boulder) was reinforced with the image of Domino's bikini floating away—before the prurience-paring final cut. American video games seem coy even in comparison to blockbuster '60s cinema. A recent post on gamegirl-advance.com, the Web's smartest fan site, mentioned Golgo 13, a Japanese spy adventure for NES where the hero recovers health by smoking and fucking. Everything or Nothing's newly emphasized play modes include hand-to-hand action; wall hugs are as close as you'll come to intimacy.

But in a world that produced Dick Cheney, sex suffers. Hacked out by the guy who scripted three of the '90s 007 flicks and voiced by Brosnan, Willem Dafoe, Shannon Elizabeth, Mya, and other face-scanned Hollywoodies, Everything or Nothing's cinema is about as gripping as any recent Bond, which is to say not at all. But of course, the seamless action—now presented in third person—is spit-shined and ever shifting. You'll pass through Egypt, Peru, New Orleans, and Moscow crouching, sniping, rappelling, remote-controlling li'l cars and bombs, and driving weaponized motorcycles and Porsche SUVs. And you have "Bond Sense." And you can become invisible. Only this time, there are no bubbles or bikinis to give you away.



FATAL FRAME 2: CRIMSON BUTTERFLY
(Tecmo—PS2) 7

The delicate underage twins who drift through this high-minded survival update imperil themselves all too pornographically but pop flashbulbs instead of the typical FPS plasma phallus. As Mio, you follow Mayu into a post-massacre phantasmagoria capturing lost souls on your camera obscura while picking up clues like newspaper clippings. There are no bosses to pelt, and the puzzles and plot kinks keep you looking over your shoulder rather than shooting from the hip.


FINAL FANTASY: CRYSTAL CHRONICLES
(Nintendo—GameCube) 8

This Final Fantasy experiment, dreamed up by market-hungry Nintendo, introduces a multiplayer mode requiring Game Boys. Loyalists will be disappointed if they attempt this threadbare adventure alone. But up to four chums, substituting GBs for controllers, will cooperate and compete—and be forced to communicate—in a way that redefines the term role-play. Fulfill individual bonus objectives to progress ahead of your partners—those bastards!


MAXIMO VS ARMY OF ZIN
(Capcom—PS2) 8

Really just an improvement on 2002's overly difficult Ghosts to Glory, Army of Zin boasts action as crisp and effervescent as Crystal Pepsi. Only boyish gladiator Maximo, armor-clad and bearing sword, shield, and hammer, can save the kingdom from blade-armed ghosts in machines. For geeks who warp to Middle-earth via IMAX, such retrofuturist technophobia charges fantasy's frisson. It's Bronze Age romanticism, reforged in silicon.


METROID: ZERO MISSION
(Nintendo—GameBoy Advance) 8

Twenty years ago, fans of Metroid for NES suited up on Planet Zebes, blasted Skeeters, chipped away at Ridley and Kraid, and finally outsmarted Mother Brain. Today, America's 20 million GBA owners can suit up on Planet Zebes, blast Skeeters, chip away at Ridley and Kraid, and finally outsmart Mother Brain—on the subway!


NEED FOR SPEED UNDERGROUND
(Electronic Arts—GameCube, PC, PS2, Xbox) 8

The newest Need for Speed introduces the novel ability to exoticize your crappy base-model with conspicuously sporty aftermarket parts, like spoilers. (And I don't mean car-safety guru Ralph Nader.) Engine ups and nitrous tanks unlock automatically, but hustling style-points by drifting around corners and landing jumps opens almost infinite combinations of superficial customizations. No spinners, though—race designers have yet to reinvent the wheel.


NFL STREET
(EA—GameCube, PS2, Xbox) 9

A grimy take on football's combination of chess, ballet, and gay demolition derby: Each pro you send sprawling over benches and into walls has been beefed to cartoonish proportions, and when you've shown off enough fancy jukes and spins, a "gamebreaker" juice-up renders your crew virtually invincible. In the surprisingly good single-player "NFL Challenge" mode, you earn points to build a franchise, choosing everything from the players' mutated genes to their speed-enhancing sneakers.


PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME
(Ubisoft—GameCube, PC, PS2, Xbox) 9

The first Prince of Persia was 2-D; you play The Sands of Time in four dimensions. Plummet into a chasm? Rewind up to 10 seconds and take another leap. This evolution of Enter the Matrix's bullet-time gimmick rounds out the game's spectacularly acrobatic play, which finds you running along walls and climbing, dodging, jumping, flipping, and shimmying around enemies and through obstacles. The impeccably intuitive controls make this feel as magical as it looks. With empires like this, who needs revolutions?


R-TYPE FINAL
(Fresh Games/Eidos—PS2) 8

A 21st-century 2D shooter: Your insect-like fighter simply scrolls right, encountering enemies that must be showered with bombs and bullets. Yet 101 customizable crafts provide exponentially escalating ways to counter trickster bosses, some of which grow and change organically as you fight them. There are only six levels but many difficult-to-find paths through each. And no quarters required.


SECRET WEAPONS OVER NORMANDY
(LucasArts—GameCube, PC, PS2, Xbox) 6

One part History Channel, two parts Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, this flyover necessarily sucks much of the life-and-death from war history's grand sweep and anonymous tragedy. Whaddya gonna do? It's the postmortem—pardon me—postmodern condition. Secret Weapons' assortment of bombing runs, dogfights, and detail missions fly by thanks to an emphasis on arcade-style ease-of-play, but one simply leads into the next. And characters are rendered in black and white: Stoic American Chase (heh-heh), forbidding Germans, pussy Englishmen.

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