No One Lives Forever 2
Building upon last year’s success, No One Lives Forever 2 is a game that comes out of the very same mold that made the original such a hit. This means campy 60’s spy humor, plenty of gadgets and a lot of hot hot Cate Archer action. The sequel to Fox and Monolith’s surprise hit improves upon nearly every aspect of the game and it is immediately inherent from the moment you boot up the game till the game’s wading moments, this is an excellent title that does not fail to live up to expectations.
Unlike the Bond movies that the series parodies, the beginning sequence actually ties in the to the rest of the game. Assuming the role of superspy Cate Archer, players are placed in the midst of 1960’s Japan. After sneaking and fighting your way through a village full of ninjas, you’ll encounter a brand new foe, a sexy ninja who’s role in H.A.R.M. seems rather uncertain. The confrontation ends with Cate being wounded and thus our tale begins.
Players who are looking for a great first person shooter need look no further. Most of the aspects that made the original so great make a return appearance here. That means you’ll be able to eavesdrop on humorous conversations, play around with excellent spy gadgets and kick tons of Un-American ass. You’ll also have odd toys to play around with such as a robotic kitty that looks cute on its exterior, but contains enough explosives to rip a pack of Russians to shreds.
Much like the first entry in the series, the levels are a blast to play. They tend to combine elements from other genres to form a hell of an entertaining time. Sometimes you’ll have to use stealth, and other times brute force. Enemies that actually have a brain and objectives that fit into the context of the storyline. Throw in a few puzzles that (gasp!) actually make sense and you have a first person shooter that outdoes the competition in nearly every possible way. No One Lives Forever 2 provides the best single player FPS experience of any game this year, period.
The intelligent enemies from the first game make a return here. The AI seems to have been refined since I last saw it, while the AI in NOLF would do some brilliant things such as hiding behind obstacles and firing around them, they seemed to be running on set scripts. Now the scripting seems to be much more random and intuitive to the game. Throughout the duration of a gunfight, an enemy could pop out and charge me at any time. They even use some squad-based tactics in that they’ll try to flank you from time to time. Of course there are a few errors in the AI but it’s definitely some of the best to appear in a FPS this year.
Another brilliant design choice comes in the missions, each of them are structured so well that I would not mind revisiting them all over again. Usually FPS have only one or two moments that may be worth revisiting, but in NOLF2’s case, it’s the entire game. This is one game that just doesn’t get old and manages to remain fresh no matter how many times I’ve played it. I’m currently on my third run through the game, it’s that damn fun.
As Cate, you’ll travel to many diverse locations. You’ll see the mountains of Russia, the villages of Japan, a trailer park in Ohio and of course, the enemy’s secret hideout, complete with exorbitant amounts of metallic siding. All of these are excellently rendered and feature objects and enemies that really fit with the locales. For instance, you’ll see tons of sweater-wearing baddies in the Russian environment and Ninjas in Japan. Enemy variety is excellent, including the aforementioned Ninjas as well as the usual stereotypical fodder (think of the bad guys in Austin Powers) and even some crazy ones, like the incredibly hilarious gun-toting mimes.
Each of the weapons are incredibly fun to use. Most of the weapons make a return from the original and they’ve brought a few new friends. My personal favorite is the robotic kitty. It’s a proximity mine cleverly disguised as a cute little kitty. Pressing a button on its ass will reveal a retractable antenna, leave it in a spot and watch an unsuspecting villain get blown to bits. Then there is a bear trap that can be used to snare unsuspecting baddies and of course, there's the classic bananna peel. All you have to do is place it on the ground and wait for the hilarity to ensue. In addition to these weapons, you’ll have usual spy gadgets such as decoders, lock picks, stun guns and portable torches. Pistols, machine guns and a sniper rifle round out the rest of the armory.
Monolith has decided to throw some RPG elements into the fray. As you progress, you'll earn points that can be used to upgrade Cate's skills. You'll be able to increase health, stealth, ammo capacity and much much more. Points are earned by completing objectives, sub-objectives and finding small clues that are scattered throughout the environments. This is actually a pretty nice addition, though not quite on par with what Eidos did with Deus Ex, it still adds another layer to an already pretty deep game.
This game is technically sound, proving that Lithtech's Jupiter engine is indeed ready to play with the big boys. This is a beautiful game and you’ll know it right from the onset. The beginning of the game places you by a beautifully rendered stream, complete with reflections and ripples. Then you’ll notice some intricately rendered environments, complete with shards of grass and advanced architecture. This is of course before you see the player models and realize that they have the best looking faces of any FPS. Next thing you know, it’ll hit you that this is perhaps one of the most beautiful games to ever grace a PC screen, and that’s before you’ve even played the game for five minutes.
I had a problem with some of Lithtech’s previous engines in that I felt they seemed underdeveloped. They had some nice touches but the models and player movement just seemed too un-natural for my tastes. Thankfully this new Jupiter engine has removed all of my doubts that Lithtech is infact capable of producing an engine that can rival that of Quake III and Unreal Tournament’s. This thing is capable of performing some truly awesome things, shooting out a light doesn’t just merely cause the light to fade. You’ll see the lamp sway and the bulb become shattered in a realistic fashion. See an enemy near a wall? Fire a dart at them and pin them to the wall. Remove the darts from them and watch their lifeless bodies tumble to the floor. Models still look a little blocky but the texturing work in NOLF2 is so well done that you just might not notice it. The faces in particularly just look amazing, rivaling Mafia for the best looking character faces in the industry. Animations could still use a little work though, they’re still a little too jerky and un-natural for my tastes.
NOLF2’s audio portions are especially well done and feature some of the best effects in the business. The music fits in well with the campy 60’s theme and would not be much out of place in an Austin Powers flick. Sound effects are pretty clear although a few of them seem to be recycled from last year’s game. That’s not a downer though, because as you probably know, NOLF had some excellent sound effects. The spoken lines are perhaps the best of the genre. Each of the lines are delivered naturally and are of Hollywood caliber. This is a game where you’ll want to crank up the sound effects, they’re a treat that should not be missed.
Perhaps the weakest aspect of this game is its performance, it’s not immediately noticeable but the further you progress the more steadily your frame rates drop. I had excellent performance at the onset of the title only to see it drop down to the mid teens and low 20’s towards the tail end of my experience. To put into perspective, the game recommends you have a P4 2.0 Ghz with a Geforce 4 or higher to play the game with all the details maxed out. At times the game really chugged and I felt like I was watching a moving slideshow, this is definitely a title that can bring a mid-range computer to its knees. If you’re looking into this game then you should definitely make sure you have the rig to handle it. Then again, this is as good as an excuse to upgrade as any.
As much as I love the missions, sometimes I got the feeling that they just weren’t outlined clearly enough. The game will generally give you a list of objectives, hand you a map and let you go at it. On my first run through the game I spent quite some time trying to figure out exactly how to accomplish the objectives. Sometimes the missions just boil down to running around and right clicking on every piece of the environment in hopes of advancing forward. Sometimes you’ll have to activate a trigger in order to progress in a level and most times, it’s spurned forth by reading a letter or finding a small piece of evidence. At times the hunt for the next plot device really becomes old and irritating. Multiplay is also a bit weak, especially when you consider the competition. It won’t soon be winning any accolades for it’s multiplayer aspects but when you’ve got a single player storyline this good, who needs multiplayer?
What do you get when you purchase NOLF2? You get an excellent game that just oozes shine and polish. This is perhaps one the most well-designed and well produced games of the last three years, it’s an excellent package that really should not be missed by any fan of the genre. Even if you’re remotely considering picking this one up just do yourself a favor and get it, it’s a decision that you won’t soon find yourself regretting.
Are you stuck? Gaming Nexus recommends Prima Guides' excellent No One Lives Forever 2 strategy guide. With walkthrus of each of the game's levels and tips and stragies, you'll be a superspy in no time!
An excellent title that lives up to expectations, No One Lives Forever 2 is a great game that is hip, beautiful and absolutely brilliant. Game that not only looks and sounds great, but is also fun to play, the bar has been raised for First Person Shooters.
Rating: 9.2 Excellent
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile