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No One Lives Forever 2 Review
PIII 500, 128MB RAM, 1.4GB HDD, 32MB video card
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Sep 30, 02 (released)
|» All About No One Lives Forever 2 on ActionTrip|
Ah, the 60's. The decade of free love, Woodstock, and questionable fashion practices. A time when super spies reigned in the box offices, with heroes like James Bond and Derek Flint. Monolith sought to capture that time period with the original No One Lives Forever, and brought the indomitable Cate Archer to the worlds of gamers everywhere. NOLF could be best described as a sleeper hit - a great game that not everyone ran out to buy at first. But every gamer who has played it cannot deny that NOLF was a superior achievement in design, story and action. Ever since its release, people have been anticipating the sequel to recapture that same magic, humor and excellent gameplay, and I'm happy to report the sequel does exactly that, while bringing new facets to an already excellent title.
Asleep on the job, eh Archer?
Oh, and Cate looks sooooo much better, too.
As in the previous incarnation, No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy In H.A.R.M.'s Way is set in the late 60's. Cate is continuing to battle the evil H.A.R.M. organization, bent on world domination - complete with a new Director (who has...shall we say...issues). This time around, H.A.R.M. is working with the Soviets to capture a small island for what is seemingly a resort and casino, but you know that the U.N. usually has problems with invasions and all, and the action could quickly escalate into a full nuclear war.
That is, unless the world's most sexy superspy can put a stop to H.A.R.M.'s plans once and for all...or at least until the third installment, anyway.
Monolith returns to the neverending struggle between good and evil with some snazzy new upgrades, most notable of which is the use of Lithtech's new Jupiter graphics engine, squeezing a few thousand more polys per model than NOLF1 could, and in turn giving Cate Archer one hell of a makeover. More svelte than ever, Cate's new looks rank her very highly on the hottest-female-protagonist scale. They also bring her world of subterfuge to a vivid new height. The designers have harnessed the engine's power to bring us brightly colored and exceptionally well detailed renderings of such exotic places as Kyoto, Japan; Calcutta, India; and...Akron, Ohio? Uhm...yeah.
Along with those scenic locales are added effects that give them that extra touch of realism, such as the cute and fuzzy bunnies hopping about the steppes of Siberia (or that lovely crunching sound they make as you drive over them with a snowmobile at breakneck speed), impressive water effects in the waterfalls and streams, and plenty of flying debris in the middle of a tornado - all the while providing extremely smooth model animations. As a total package, the graphics are very well done.
One of the original appeals of the first game was the sound - specifically the comic conversations between your enemies at certain points of the game. If you're quiet enough, oftentimes you can pick up on these conversations that can range from nonsensical to just plain weird. It's one of the real rewards of the game, and shouldn't be missed. To compliment this, Monolith also did a nice job with the dynamic musical score, playing soft and low while the player is sneaking, then switching to faster tempo if the player is discovered by a guard or is in an all-out firefight. It's also a good indication of if you've been spotted or not by enemies that are out of visual range. A nice effect.
Man, if that neckline went any lower...
There's no place like home!
But all of those things pale in comparison to the game's true crowning achievement: This game has excellent AI. Hands down. Instead of foes merely standing around doing nothing waiting for the player to come mow them down, the developers have implemented a new task-based AI system, where (if the character is stealthy enough) you can observe the AI going about daily tasks - filing forms, tying shoes, writing letters, inspecting weaponry, taking a leak...It's almost as much fun listening to the pseudo-conversations as it is watching the AI go about its business. Then, of course, once the player pops into view, they're all business. The AI has different routines for each different type of enemy - the ninjas like to hop around to dodge shots, and deflect some of what you throw at them with their katanas, while cartwheeling around and returning fire from cover (usually a tree or corner of a building). The Soviet AI will hit the deck and fire from a prone position, and no one will attack without calling for whatever reinforcements they can, so watch out if the alarms are sounded. The AI in this game is among the best I've seen in a good long while, it's not too hard, and not too easy at the same time.
The gameplay is standard FPS fare, with a couple of twists. The game allows the player to run through the game at breakneck speed if he/she so chooses, (suicidal in some levels, however) but the emphasis is on stealth and silent movement. The AI will respond to sounds as well as downed enemies, so the game allows you to pick up the bodies of fallen foes - or eliminate them entirely with Body Remover Spray - one of the many nifty high-tech gadgets that include a handy decoder ring disguised in a makeup compact, a proximity mine that looks like a cute little kitten, and the most nefarious non-lethal trap in existence - the banana peel. Just as in the first game, the levels are peppered with items of intelligence that can be found in desk drawers, under tables, beds, desks etc, and now on the bodies of fallen foes. If your search skill is high enough, you can perform a thorough search of your enemies for ammo, armor, or intelligence items. The more intelligence you find, the more skill points you earn, which can be spent to upgrade any of eight separate skills which enable you to have more hit points, carry more armor or ammo, be more accurate or swift of foot, or reduce the amount of time it takes to search a body or use your array of gadgetry. It encourages the player to scour the level for lost intel items to get you over that next hurdle, even if the items themselves are purely comical in nature.
Lastly, the multiplayer component in this game is a bit different than the standard Deathmatch fare. At certain points of the single-player adventure, Cate finds herself waking up in the infirmary, nursing injuries she took in the field. Kinda makes you wonder how she got there. They always make mention of "The Team," but you never know who that team is, exactly. Well, the developers included a set of cooperative multiplayer levels that allow you to take the role of one of the many trenchcoat-clad UNITY spies (not quite super spies, just plain spies, thank you very much) whose job it is to come in after Cate does all the dirty work, and either clean up after her, or extract her from a rather sticky situation. The multiplayer code could do with a tweak or three, as it is frequently laggy, even with a high-speed connection, but it is easily dealt with if you turn down the game's detail level.
There's very little to say about this game that hasn't already been said a million times - this game is a fun spy game that doesn't take itself too seriously, chock-full of eye candy and humor, while simultaneously bringing an engaging storyline filled with great characters...and mimes. (I hate mimes.) A worthy successor, this is an FPS that you need to go buy now. Yes, you.
8.9 Very Good
Nice visuals, great debut for Jupiter engine, Mmmm... Cate;
Steep system req's, multiplayer lags a bit, game starts slow through first few levels.
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