|I can remember the days of the Total Entertainment Network (TEN) when I and a few of my buddies would log on to the free service and lay the smack down on each other in a variety of first-person shooters including Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior. There was one game that we kept coming back for more of and that was Blood, a Monolith-developed masterpiece that was the first to combine genuine humor and a very cool first-person experience. Blood 2 didn’t quite live up to the prospects of the original, but a Monolith game has never really been bad in my book. |
Now they have the sequel to the critically acclaimed No One Lives Forever out on store shelves; is it possible that the company could triumph once again? Oh yes it is, so very possible.
For those of you unfamiliar with the game, you take the role of Cate Archer, a UNITY agent who is trying, once again, to stop H.A.R.M. from doing their latest dirty deed. Think of “Get Smart” and KAOS, always trying to get the upper hand. You are joined by the returning cast of characters from the original as well as some new guys.
The first thing you are going to notice when playing NOLF2, especially coming off of Soldier of Fortune II or Star Trek: Elite Force, is that the game doesn’t take itself seriously, much like an Austin Powers movie. The humor is present from the very instant you start the game. The first level puts you into a town full of female ninjas. Since being stealthy is now part of the game, you can hide in places where baddies can’t find you and listen to their conversations. At one point two women are talking about going on a date, and the older one is giving advice about feeding her husband poison everyday so that he comes back every night for the antidote. You then kill them both, but they were funny for one time in their lives.
As I mentioned earlier, stealth is a bigger part of the game. An icon that appears in the center of the screen that lets you know when you are in the shadows far enough to hide. A progress indicator will go across the screen and when it is fully charged, you will be hidden. Be aware that any sudden movement or the firing of your weapon will give away your location instantly. There will be times during the game when you are expected not to kill your opponents, but sneak past them. Another cool feature that relates to being unseen is the ability to pick up your enemies’ bodies and hoard them like a Georgia memorial home owner. Then proceed to search them for riches. Guards will notice fallen comrades and attempt to revive them, which is a neat feature, but usually they will just stand over their bodies and continue to talk to them, unaware of the surrounding danger until you put a crossbow bolt in their back.
Those with deep roots in RPGs will be happy to know that NOLF2 features a small dose of skill points that you collect and earn over the course of the game. These allow you to increase the number of moves and such you can perform -- this feature undoubtedly a throwback from the excellent Deus EX.
NOLF2 will have you doing different objects through the course of the game’s 40 missions. Some are optional, but they will award you with skill points and other goodies; the others are your primary mission objectives, which are pretty standard for a FPS: Find this door, find the key for the door, find the guard with the key to the door. The daunting, monotonous task of collection is clearly wasted on console gamers, and to their irritation, it has also been adapted by several PC games. Nothing is overly difficult, but if you are missing one object and have traversed through a level back and forth, the frustration level could be rising.
As mentioned in my earlier preview of the game, NOLF2 is based upon the Lithtech engine which has generally been known as “that other engine” when compared to the Quake and Unreal engines. When Monolith developed the original technology for Blood 2, and later spun it off as a separate company, there was a three-horse race to have the best looking engine available. While playing Unreal Tournament 2003 has somewhat shown me that the new engine powering that game is powerful, NOLF2’s Lithtech technology produces some of the most beautiful scenery you have ever seen in a video game. The Jupiter engine is truly a marvel at displaying both outdoor and indoor environments, and the amazing architecture constructed by the game’s designers only adds to the eye candy that would send anyone playing Quake III Arena into convulsions.
Voices are adequately done through the game’s cut scenes and during gameplay. The high production values are evident because of this. The music is also what you would expect. The campy 1960s-era music (just think Austin Powers again) blaring through your computer speakers is more than enough to get you in the mood to play the game.
For those who finish with the single player aspect, a small multiplayer portion has been added if you feel like jumping online and seeing what you can do. While this mode is only a variation of the single player game, you play cooperatively through the same missions; the landscape will be changed to reflect what you have done through the single player mission, not your typical multiplayer options, but this isn’t your typical first person shooter. Still, the limited amount of online options does inhibit the replay value of the game once you are done the first time through.
In the end, I really enjoyed playing No One Lives Forever 2, and while I wasn’t really in to the first game -- mainly because I never really had a chance to play it -- I have heard nothing but good things about it. Rightfully so, the developer pedigree of Monolith is one of the highest in the industry. Even with a few less-than-stellar games that they put out, I still have nothing but the up-most respect for those guys for one reason: They put together an engrossing first person shooter that is high on the action, elevated on thought and, most importantly, it made me laugh. There is nothing more to say.