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Contract J.A.C.K. Review
publisher: Vivendi Games
genre: Action Adventure
PIII 733, 128MB RAM, 2GB HDD, 32MB video card
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Nov 11, 03
|» All About Contract J.A.C.K. on ActionTrip|
I've no doubt that many of you out there like Cate Archer. Hell, I know most of the people around here do. I like a bit of Cate Archer. Served after dinner preferably, and dipped in Swiss chocolate. (Ed. - I like my Cate Archer with Whipped Cream and Cherries.) Cate Archer is real and she lives in Idaho. It's a huge conspiracy, but they'll kill me if I tell. (Ed. - Too late.) I got a small message about it tucked away in a muffin I ate the other Thursday. That muffin could've gone to anyone, but no, it had to end up on MY dinner table! That's no coincidence I tell you. Anyway, we're not here to discuss lovely Ms. Archer. Nope, we're here to talk about J.A.C.K. - just another contract killer that plays the starring role in Vivendi's stand alone expansion to No One Lives Forever 2, Contract J.A.C.K..
I scarcely believe it's bullet-proof glass.
Protecting the homestead, yeeeehaaww!
Our boy is a gun for hire and he doesn't ask too many questions about his employer. This, of course, makes him a perfect candidate for the H.A.R.M. organization, who are, as you all know, the arch nemesis of our lovely female heroine. So once again, we plunge into the world of No One Lives Forever, this time behind the iron sites of a brutish trigger-happy killer who's idea of subtlety closely resemble that of Mike Tyson with an earlobe in his sights. Yep, subtly is not how Jack (that's not his name, but we'll call him that) deals with anything in this game - friends foes, puzzles. You can take care of it all by simply spraying it with bullets. (Ed. - Problem solving, Eastern European style.)
Consequently, the gameplay in Contract J.A.C.K. is all about non-stop, over-the-top action, animated blood and flying chunks of stone and wooden splinters. If you need a visual, look no further then the Matrix movies, only with less people in leather. This game has a distinct lack of subtlety, you really just race through decently designed levels and annihilate everything in sight. If No One Lives Forever 2 was about fancy gadgets and stealthy sneaking type of combat, Contract J.A.C.K. is the exact opposite. Its almost Quentinesque action reminds me of the scenes from his latest movie, Kill Bill. (Ed. - Which if you haven't seen, you should.) Quentin Tarantino once said that Kill Bill is the kind of movie characters from his previous movies would like to see. Contract J.A.C.K. is in a way the kind of game they'd like to play. Fire fights often border on extreme violence, but the animated and fun portrayal of such scenes never lets things get out of hand. As was the case in NOLF 2, the game is brimming with humorous dialogue and wacky, exaggerated scenes. Our hero will crash land a space rocket, or fight bad guys as he floats in outer space. The most important thing to note here is that all of these bombastic elements work perfectly to create a very fun and addictive environment that will keep you glued to your seat as you run around levels whacking bad guys. To that end, the designers have done a decent job on the game levels. Maps often vary from spacious outdoor settings to confined areas like army base interiors or the narrow streets of an Italian town. Yes, the level design is mostly linear, but the action will be good enough to keep things interesting as you go. Throughout the game the action only lost some of its steam in the Moon Base chapter. That particular section of the game felt kind of uninspiring and too repetitive. The rest of the levels worked very well for me in a sense that I never lost awareness or felt like I wanted to quit.
Another great feature that ensures Contract J.A.C.K. is frantic and fun enough is the very solid AI code. Your opponents will knock over tables and use them as cover, move around you to try and flank you, use rifle butts up close and always look for the nearest cover. I must say this works excellently in the game. I was genuinely surprised a couple of times by their smarts. Still, this won't come as a huge revelation to those of you who've played NOLF 2. The only thing that bothered me about the AI code is the fact they they'd sometimes needlessly run for cover even though I was reloading and left wide open. The AI code works well most of the time, apart from those few incidents when it would go through its routine without acknowledging the fact that it caught me off guard.
Get that piece of crap off my driveway!
I wanna moustache like that.
Needless to say, no contract killer can feel comfortable without an arsenal worthy of an arms dealer. Well Uma Thurman did, but then again, she has other weapons, just like Cate. (Ed. - Can we say, inherant sex-ayness?) My congrats go out to the team for ensuring that the arsenal is excellently balanced for all sorts of combat. Jack will have several sub-machine guns at his disposal and each will be perfect for a particular situation. My two favorites in the game were the crossbow and the sawed-off shotgun that dub as zoomable rocket launchers. Other guns are also very fun to use, with just the right balance between their kick, accuracy and fire power. Another welcome addition to the arsenal comes in the form of Vespa scooters with mounted machine guns and snowmobiles with a freaking cannon on the front. It's fun driving around and shooting the bejeezus out of everything. Makes you wish you had one such vehicle during rush hour. (Ed. - I don't care if it has a machine gun on it, no one would catch me dead on a Vespa. Now mount a machine gun on a Harley, I'm there.)
The blazing action in Contract J.A.C.K. is made complete by the excellent use of sounds and the Jupiter 3D engine. Jupiter is not exactly next-gen stuff, but it does stand out amongst the current crop of Direct X 8.0 engines. Contract J.A.C.K. will throw an insane amount of particles at you, some nice destructible environments and physics, as well as superb animation that looks fluid and very life-like. The graphics in Contract J.A.C.K. may not be spectacular, but they certainly have all the right attributes to appeal to shooter fans.
The sound design is, of course, very good as you'll hear the type of dialogue and voice over's we've all grown to love from NOLF and NOLF 2. The musical soundtrack ain't particularly rich in a sense that it could've done with a couple of more tunes, but what's there kind of strikes the chord with the game's ambience. There's this particular hard rock tune with heavy guitar sounds that suits the game perfectly. It almost made me feel like I was playing Duke Nukem. Come to think about it, Contract J.A.C.K. has that same type of flamboyance as 3D Realm's beefy macho dude. It will be really interesting to see what Monolith does with his character in the future.
As a final point, I should warn you all to prepare yourselves for a very sudden and abrupt ending to Jack's adventures. Near the end of the game, I was almost certain I was only half way done when the ending hit me harder than an STD from a Belgian hooker! (Ed. - Dude, I've told you a hundred times, condom is not just a city in Thailand.) (I want to visit Condom so bad! - 2Lions) Still, for around 30 bucks you get a stand-alone game and multiplayer support. Yes, the single-player can be finished in a day, and yes, the ending is kind off unfulfilling, but at least you'll have some reasons to return to the game. For thirty bucks though, I would advise shooter fans not to miss out on the opportunity to hear some fun dialogue and engage in a very entertaining fast-paced action experience with lots of personality and gallons upon gallons of animated blood.
8.0 Very Good
Excellent over-the-top action, Jupiter engine, solid AI, humor, fun weapons, this game just has loads of personality;
Short, ends abruptly, problems with moon chapter, AI glitches, not enough tunes, sporadic slowdowns on my ATI 9700 Pro.
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