By hsvlad 1 Comments
No.0015 No One Lives Forever 2 : A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way
No One Lives Forever 2 (NOLF 2) came out just a few months after the last Austin Powers film and I'm sure capitalised on that quite a bit as they are very similar in tone. You play as Cate Archer, a super spy working for the UNITY intelligence organisation. Set in 1969-ish, it resembles the more ridiculous and self aware moments of the Roger Moore bond films. Tasking you with infiltrating a Japanese village to photograph a meeting that is defended by a clan of all female ninjas. Later you must defend yourself from a troupe of Mime assassins. The whole thing doesn't take itself very seriously and if are ok with that, its a seriously fun and surprisingly deep stealth focused FPS.
Considering it came out in 2002, the game looks really great for its age. That is partly due to a slightly stylised presentation but the textures are also very well detailed and sharp. Some games from this era suffer a bit if they tried to make extensive use of early pixel shader tech but NOLF 2 is largely free of it, relying on its artistic prowess instead. The gameplay suffer from the occasional forced stealth, instant failure/reset section but for the most part you're free to choose whether you want to sneak or shoot your way to the objective. If you choose the stealthy approach you'll have a surprising wealth of options. In suitably dark areas an icon will appear letting you know that you are concealed and an enemy will have to knock into you in order for them to discover your location. However you can make dark areas by switching off lights, shooting out the bulbs or even unscrewing them if you can get close enough. You'll also get into the habit of trying to open every draw or cupboard you find as they often contain ammunition, grenades or documents. The documents usually relate to your mission but some are simply there to flesh out the insane and ridiculous world . They will also relate to one another, essentially creating conversations and those you find in Soviet Russia are particularly hilarious.
There are a few wrinkles showing however. Aside from the previously mentioned forced stealth sections there are a few problems when it comes to letting the player know where to go next. You get a compass but often no map and even then it wont display your position on it. This wouldn't be such a terrible thing if it weren't for the fact that some of the maps are really quite big and open. The mission in Siberia is particularly bad when it comes to this, which is a shame because its also one the the funniest parts of the game. There is also a weird disconnect between the equipment you are given and the objectives required of you. In the early missions you are given a taser which can be used to knock people out, there are also tranquilizer darts for your utility pistol and sleeping gas grenades. You then have to complete a mission in India where the police think you have killed someone and are looking for you for the duration, but you have none of that equipment. You have a pistol but will fail the mission if you kill any of them. The result is that you spend most of that mission running away from them until they stop looking for you. It breaks the immersion that manages to build quite effectively in other missions, despite the ludicrousness of the world you're playing in. That can partially be accredited to the fantastic dynamic music system.
All in all, I was impressed by how well NOLF 2 held up, especially its visuals. I would recommend anyone who enjoys the sillier Bond films to give it a try. And note that when I say silly I mean Roger Moore silly, not Pierce Brosnan stupid (excluding Goldeneye and maybe Tomorrow Never Dies) . If nothing else I now want to go and play the first game which I don't think I ever finished or perhaps the prequel, Contract J.A.C.K. which I've never played. I would love to see a sequel, but I don't know if the period would fit quite as well these days. Perhaps if they parodied Jason Bourne and Danial Craig's James Bond it would work. Anyway, if you haven't played it, give it a go. I doubt you'll be disappointed!