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No One Lives Forever 2

/ Jan 5th, 2003 No Comments

You can’t really review No One Lives Forever 2 without bringing Mike Myers into the equation, if an Austin Powers game was made (I will ignore that ‘kart’ game out of sheer spite and contempt) then this is exactly what it would be like. Albeit with more phallic shaped jokes. In-case you are unaware of the first game, you play as sexy 60’s super-spy Cate Archer from a 1st person perspective. The original split peoples opinions right down the middle, but I can’t see this sequel doing the same at all, it is in fact Deus Ex with a sense of humour and some lava lamps. This is a good thing.My initial enthusiasm for the games unique setting was dampened by a dreary start, a very dull mission in Japan, but look at this as a tutorial and it doesn’t seem quite so bad. From here on though, everything is just about as good as gaming gets in my opinion. Easily the strongest aspect of the game is the story and scripting, the 60’s setting also keeps things fresh, the only game I can remember to be set during this period was that rather un-necessary GTA add-on from a few years ago.

I will be honest, I don’t always complete a game when I review it, I simply don’t have time, NOLF 2 though left with no option but to finish it. I wanted to know what my next covert-op would entail and what was happening in the main plot. This revolves around crime organization H.A.R.M. and it’s secret weapon, ‘Project Omega’, a weapon that Cat has to un-mask and destroy. The mission variety is excellent and for me was a real driving force behind my desire to play, you will find yourself anywhere from Siberia to a secret Underwater Base, one mission might see you sneak through a military base, another will have you bombing a bridge and making a getaway on a skidoo.

On your journey you meet many brilliant characters, the pick probably being the bull-headed, warmongering American general who tries to turn everything into a reason to nuke Russia. The HARM boss is also worthy of a mention, typically an Englishman, the voice acting is fabulous, particularly in the scenes where he is on the phone to his mother, sounding particularly disinterested in her nagging. The game is dotted with jokes and strong, memorable characters you may only meet for a few seconds, but I won’t ruin it for you.

I was a little wary of the humour though as I thought it might make the game feel a bit silly and childish, but it just makes the game all the more compelling. Despite the overall light-hearted flavour, when you get down to completing objectives things can get very tense. The whole super-spy theme is held up by Cates gadgets, a compact mirror that turns into a code breaker, canisters of laughing gas, mascara that turns into an electric shock prod and not to mention the ‘angry kitty’…

Now is probably a good time to explain my Deus Ex comparison…the great thing about Deus Ex was the flexibility of your tactics and strategy, NOLF2 allows for a similar style. It’s perfectly possible to go for all out stealth, even a non-lethal approach is possible…or you could just steam in with an AK. Through the levels you will also find clues hidden in files, some mission critical, some just for fun, some tell a story and some help you avoid some security. Achieving your objectives earns you points which you can put into a number of categories, advancing Cates abilities in areas such as sniping accuracy.

Thankfully, one aspect which is a lot different to Deus Ex is the enemy AI, these guys are really, really clever. It is generally a lot simpler, and more fun, to try and keep quiet and sneak around, but the HARM guards are not easy to shake. They are very aware of their environment, leave a door open, switch a light off, walk to close to a window or knock over a bottle and they will become alarmed and investigate, continue to spook them and they will actively hunt you down. On one mission in a Siberian Base I made the mistake of leaving the door to the canteen I was hiding in open…that combined with my footprints in the snow led a guard away from his patrol area to check things. I hid in the shadows of the kitchen and watched as he checked things out, when he was satisfied no one was there he spotted a bottle of vodka and had a drink! None of this was scripted at all.

So far, so good, I must make a criticism…something that caused me immense frustration. A couple of the levels suffer from excessive re-spawning of enemies and they are slightly spoiled for this. The Siberian Base is unbelievably frustrating if you want to take a stealthy approach…I don’t want to spend half an hour checking out guards positions, carefully sniping them when they are alone and then hiding the body in the shadows only to go back and find another guard has magically appeared in the room I just cleared! Thankfully though, as I say, this only really is a problem on a couple of missions but is none-the-less annoying as hell, and for that I knock a point off the Gameplay score.

Back on the plus side is the games overall presentation, the music and graphics are excellent, some of the music has been recorded by a full band is pure 60’s kitsch and sounds great here. The character models are given a cartoon look to them rather than a realistic one and they are superbly detailed, they are animated well too, particularly in the cut-scenes where you can see the benefits of their facial animations. Environments are similarly lush; the level where a fight takes place in the middle of a tornado is one of the most spectacular settings I’ve ever seen. There is also an excellent configuration tool, you set up the details as you see fit and then the game runs a quick demo scene, from this you are told if you have your settings too high or too low. A nice innovation…

There is some multiplayer innovation too with some specially written co-operative missions…but they don’t tend to have much in the way of co-operation going on, players tend to just run-off and do things on their own. But still, it’s a nice idea and would work better in a LAN or with friends than on the net with random players.

No One Lives Forever 2 is a definite game of the year contender, I certainly haven’t had as much fun playing a game for quite a while, I’d happily sit this on the same shelf as Half Life and Deus Ex.

OVERALL RATING: 90%

Jamie Wharton

Jamie Wharton

Jamie Wharton was based out of Europe before disappearing off the face of the Earth. His contributions in the early days of Gaming Illustrated's history, however, shall never be forgotten.
Jamie Wharton

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