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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

Sierra / Fox Interactive

 

Developer

Monolith

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q3 2002

 

 

- Marvelous art design

- Great use of theme

- Challenging, varied level design

- Impressive character models

 

 

- Wimpy multiplayer mode

 

 

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No One Lives Forever 2:

A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way

Score: 9.5 / 10

 

There is so much to love about No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way (NOLF2) that it is hard to know where to start. Every convention of the FPS genre is done to perfection, tweaked, and then turned on its ear. Only the multi-player options of the game disappoint. Still, if the game featured no multiplayer options at all, it does so many things right that it would still be in the running for Game of the Year. In fact, Iíll go on record with my early vote now ó NOLF2 is the single best game of the year on the PC and few of the upcoming big name titles have even the slimmest chance of knocking the game off that lofty perch. It is simply that good.

 

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The goodness commences right out of the box. NOLF2 features brilliant use of the powerful new build of the Lithtech engine. Being released so close to the stunning Unreal Tournament 2003 and with Doom 3 screens and movies floating about, NOLF2 certainly isnít going to cause any jaws to drop. Still the game features impressive texturing, lighting, and particle effects to go along with a sparkling frame rate and deep draw distances. Most noticeable, however, are the expressive faces on the characters. This is a huge step up from what we have seen before in an FPS. The characters simply look alive. No cartoony proportioning or creepy, soulless eyes. What we get are characters that show a wide range of emotion on their faces and seem absolutely believable.

 

These characters inhabit the same world as the first No One Lives Foreveróa world straight out of a 60ís British spy film with a obvious nod toward the campier B-movie films in the genre and a heaping helping of James Bond homage. The setting remains as hip, mod, and spiffy as it was in NOLF. Still very present is the sly humor. In fact, that sense of humor is the main thing that keeps me coming back to 

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the series. The game doesnít take itself too seriously, though it is obvious that the gameís designers took every step in the process very seriously. The in-engine cut scenes especially feature some hilarious dialogue and cheeky character interaction. They are a pleasure to watch. I canít help but wish that other companies would put so much thought to their cut scenes and interstitial footage.

 

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Of course, in the end, all of the above praise is simply about the gameís chromeóthe shiny bits that catch the eye of the casual gamer. Luckily, the game play is tight, varied, and incredibly fun. The focus here is on non-stop action, stealth, attack tactics, and the occasional bloodbath.

 

Early levels throw hundreds of fast, annoying female ninjas at you that are intent on turning our heroine into little bits of flesh. Even with the game set on "easy", it can be hard to beat these levels simply by plowing through killing everything in sight. On "difficult" this is very, very hard to pull offóif not impossible. So, the player is forced to approach the levels with a combination of stealth and aggressiveness, and quite a bit of smarts. Even these early levels in Japan were enough to convince me NOLF2 was going to be an above-average FPS. It was the second set of levels, set in Russia that really drove home the point that NOLF2 is a masterpiece.

 

[Warning: Minor Spoiler Ahead] So, after hiding in dark recesses, sniping the heads of seemingly cloned female ninjaís and gathering important Intel in Japan, our heroine finds herself in the snow in Russia. The player gets to fight his way deep in to the level using pretty much brute force alone (not a lot of stealth called for in these levels) and plant explosives in many key area. Then, the player must storm his or her way out of the area while the previously planted explosives bring down key elements of the enemies infra-structure. This would be cool on foot, but in NOLF2 the coolness is upped by the fact that the protagonist spends most of the level on a snowmobile. The snowmobile itself factors in to the point where I knew for sure I was playing a gem of a FPS. A couple of areas in to the level, it seems Kate reaches a dead end. Her pocket welder wonít cut through the thick, chain fence. There seems to be no way to pick the lock on the gate. The map offers no clues to the solution other that showing the player what direction he or she may be going. I spent about ten minutes heading back the way I came in and looking for a route I might have missed the first time I encounter the dead end. When I came back to the area, I saw immediately how to solve my problem. The solution is very action-movie, very Bond, and very cool. In the middle of performing the stunt that serves as the puzzle solver for that particular obstacle, I realized just how great NOLF2 could potentially be. At least ten set pieces from that point in the game to the end actually improved on that moment. Needless to say, I was sold.

 

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And I remain so. The game is long, a feature necessary these days to achieve greatness when a game doesnít have much of a multi-player mode to speak of. Each level seems to throw something different at the player, and most feature multiple paths to clearing the level. Unlike every other FPS I have played since the original Half-life, I never for a moment felt that I was trudging through some boring shootout in order to get to the next cool part. NOLF2 is pretty, innovative, ultra-cool, funny, and challenging. It is nearly everything I look for in an FPS and it out "Bonds" any of the licensed James Bond games by a large margin (the gadgets especially are a sight that would bring a tear to Qís eyes).

 

If you are reading this and donít have NOLF2, go out and get it immediately. Unless you completely despise the FPS genre, it will be money well spent.

 

- Tolen Dante

(November 2, 2002)

 

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