No One Lives Forever 2, by MacPlay
Posted: 8-Oct-2004

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: MacPlay Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: GAMES

Description
The much anticipated sequel to No One Lives Forever has arrived. No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way is a humorous story-driven first person shooter featuring the return of UNITY operative Cate Archer. As Cate you must investigate a super-secret Soviet project that, if successful, could bring about a third world war. Armed with conventional and experimental weaponary and gadgets, you'll explore exotic locales, and contend with deadly agents determined to take Cate out of the spy trade once and for all.

Some familiar characters return to the sequel, as well as new characters introduced. The sequel also sports some new weapons and gadgets, and is powered by the new LithTech Jupiter System to provide much improved graphics.

Features

  • Mulitple Play Modes: Charge in with guns blazing or focus on stealth to evade and outsmart your enemy.
  • Includes over 40 action-packed single-player levels.
  • Mission-based cooperative multiplayer - up to 4 players work together as a team.
  • Travel to exotic locales as diverse as India, Japan, Siberia and Ohio, and immerse yourself in secret-agent intrigue.
  • Square off against despicable new villains like elusive Ninjas, wiley Mimes and ruthless Soviets, and encounter some familiar foes as well.
  • Co-op: Two agents that get to help the crazy Cate Archer in different map scenarios.
  • Death Match: You against everyone else. No teams.
  • Team Death Match: A team against another team
  • Doomsday: Two teams. There are three pieces of a "Doomsday" device through-out the map. Find and pick-up parts of the device and bring it back to your base. All three pieces assemble the device. Once built, the "Doomsday" device pops the other team and you win the shindig.


Game Play
With fond lingering memories of No One Lives Forever (NOLF), I was excited to jump into the sequel. One of the first things I noticed when I started playing No One Lives Forever 2 (NOLF2) is that the graphics were far superior to the original. Along with the graphics improvements, however, came a much hungrier engine, deeming it nearly unplayable on my 867Mhz G4 Quicksilver (the same machine that I played NOLF). I did manage to make it playable on the Quicksilver by dropping resolution and other game features, but I decided I wanted to play the game in all of its graphical glory, so I moved the installation to a 1.2 Ghz iMac. I hit a snag in trying to move the game from the Quicksilver to the iMac, as the game provided no way to transfer the saved games. With no way to port my saved games, I had to start from the beginning again.

The game played great on the iMac, although there were some lagging spots starting somewhere in Chapter 8. All in all, it ran decently well on the 1.2Ghz machine. As in NOLF, NOLF2 sports a lot of fun cut scenes that define the storyline as your progress through each level. The animations were quite detailed, but even better is that when game play resumed, the same quality provided in the cut scenes is available in real-time as you play the game. The game provided amazing details to the characters, from facial expression to body expressions. Shooting precision was evident in that your shots are animated in the body areas they hit. The game provided some interesting twists on targeting, such as when you hit an enemy close to a wall with your crossbow, the target gets pinned up against the wall. Often times, with multiple enemies in the area, when one enemy goes down, another enemy may walk over to them, bend over and talk to them (shouting things like "Wake up"). Once they realize their comrade is not sleeping, the sirens go off and a swarm of bad guys come out of the woodwork. This is where stealth comes into play, as the better you are at hiding and sniping, the less you have to contend with hordes of enemies at the same time.

I also appreciated that there was a much better mix of cut scenes versus game play. In NOLF, there were so many cut scenes, I felt like I was watching a movie, and allowed to participate every once in awhile. In NOLF2 there is a much better mix, with the emphasis on gameplay. Also removed are visits to Santa's workshop where you got to practice with new gadgetries. Some gamers may be delighted since it means more fluid game play without the constant distraction of training; others may have preferred the "break". Personally, I don't feel strongly one way or the other. I noticed the absence, but I didn't really miss it, so I am leaning towards preferring the game without it.

The theme of NOLF2 is very similar to NOLF, but with a new story, new enemies, new gadgets, and new locations to explore. One of my favorite aspects of game series such as this is the ability to explore other countries, and getting a good feel of the landscape, complete with foreign accents (it's like traveling without having to pay, and no jet lag). Like the original, NOLF2 is set in the late 1960's, about a year after Cate's first mission in NOLF. She still works for the same dudes, and there is a welcome return of one of her Scottish comrades, Magnus Armstrong. He was one of my favorite characters in NOLF, so I was pleased to see him return, and enjoyed the love-hate relationship between Magnus and Cate (reminescent of a bickering brother and sister team). In NOLF2, you are trying to thwart a plan called "Project Omega", and one of the H.A.R.M. "bad guys" from NOLF returns in a wheelchair and full body cast, and he's out for revenge. In addition to Project Omega, assassins are hired to kill Cate, sending female ninjas under the leadership of an enslaved Isako (think Lucy Liu in "Kill Bill", but with a lot more Ninja skills). You end up really liking Isako, hoping throughout the game that she'll turn to the side of good.

Some of the game's settings include Japan, India, Antarctica and a secret underwater H.A.R.M. facility. There's even a setting that takes place in Akron, Ohio, complete with a twister flinging a house into the air - one that you happen to be in while you are fighting Isako. The levels were a lot of fun, and provided a lot of challenges. I enjoyed having to sneak around "spy-style" in foreign lands, but I also liked that if you were revealed, you weren't automatically killed. As mentioned earlier, being revealed triggers a horde of enemies, and while it intensifies the battle, it is possible to complete levels "Rambo-style". In fact, most levels gave you the choice between Rambo-style and spy-style, or a combination of the two. Usually a horde only occurs in one area of the map, and once they're put down, things calm down again. Also, while you're in spy-mode, you can usually approach a pairing of enemies and listen in on amusing conversations. NOLF2 if filled with humerous antecdotes and conversations.

The game interface was relatively simple to use. You get a certain number and type of weapons per chapter, sometimes you start off with the weapon, and sometimes you gather it along the way. Switching weapons is pretty easy, which is a good thing when you are in combat. Also, there are special tools you use for various functions throughout the game (such as planting bombs, etc.), and when you are done with the tool, the game automatically switches you back to a weapon. Overall, it's an improvement over the interface in NOLF. Saving and loading games is also made easy with F6 and F9 keys. Saving is always a good idea so that you don't have to re-do tedious or difficult tasks (and the game has a number of both). The only problem with the saved games is that there is no way to move the games to another computer.

Overall, I enjoyed the pace of the game. It starts out slow and builds up. At times it builds up to a point of intensity where the game actually bogs down on my 1.2 Ghz iMac, but those lag points typically only lasted for a short while. There were a few tedious points in the game (although not nearly as many as were in the original NOLF). For instance, towards the beginning of the game, after you exit a mansion in Ohio, you are welcomed with a swarm of ninjas that are quite overwhelming at first (especially since you have very little ammo). I died several times before I was able to determine the best strategy to survive. Running away did not work, nor did Rambo-style fighting. The other tedious point that comes to mind is towards the end of the game when you are trying to kill one of the arch enemies, the midget. It basically boils down to a game of "smack-the-mole", but with fat mime troops shooting at you constantly with machine guns. That sequence was probably the most frustrating and unenjoyable scene in the whole game. Someone who appreciates the "smack-the-mole" genre may feel differently.

With the exception of those few tedious moments, however, the game thrilled me from beginning to end. It's filled with interesting plot twists and challenges, and enemies and comrades with memorable character. The mime enemies mentioned above were hysterical to fight against. They moved in purposefully distracting and silly ways, and then they'd fire at you while you were frozen in your amusement (not to mention that it's uncommon to see so many overweight mimes). They reminded me of an enemy troop you would expect to see in a Batman type movie. The AI of NOLF2 (like it's predecessor) is implemented really well. Your enemies are clever, coming after you when you are too noisy or clumsy, and often calling in reinforcements or setting off alarms. Some will do a tuck and roll to avoid your shots, as well as duck behind objects. It was challenging to just the right degree. There are a lot of scenes that come to mind in terms of challenges and novelty, but I don't want to give too much more away. Suffice it to say that there are a lot of unique and fun adventures in store for Cate. In fact, I had so much fun that I was honestly disappointed when the game ended. I really wanted to go more places, spend more time with Magnus and Isako, and adventure and explore some more. The original NOLF took me much longer to complete, and felt to be just the right length. NOLF2 seemed to end too soon.

NOLF2 also comes with multi-player support, but I experienced the same problem trying to find other players as I did with NOLF. Basically, I was unable to find anyone to play against during my review. The different types of multiplayer games sound intriguing, but I think most people will want to play this game for the single player action and story.

Summary
If you ever thought it would be fun to try out the life of a secret agent, or if you just enjoy a good first person shooter with a well integrated story, you will most certainly enjoy MacPlay's No One Lives Forever action series. If you've already played the first one, you will enjoy the sequel, No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.s Way, even more. If you haven't played the first one, it's very easy to jump into the sequel and get caught up. NOLF2 provides a fantastic story line, interesting and entertaining characters, exciting adventures to exotic lands, and great challenges. It's interface has greatly improved over NOLF, it sports far superior graphics detailing body and facial expressions, and has a much better mix of cut-scenes with game play action. It's more CPU hungry than it's predecessor, and still has the occasional tedious battle scenes, but overall the game is thoroughly enjoyable. In fact, my biggest beef is that I wanted it to last longer. For anyone looking for a fun action adventure game with a lot of memorable characters, I highly recommend playing No One Lives Forever 2.


Pros:

  • Great new story, still with fun 60's atmosphere
  • Good variety of levels with many interesting twists
  • Entertaining and well integrated storyline
  • Interesting characters, both friends and enemies
  • Awesome 3D graphics (great body and facial expressions)

Cons:

  • CPU hungry
  • Unable to copy saved games from one machine to another
  • Some challenges are unreasonably tedious
  • Felt too short (wanted it to go longer)


Overall Rating:

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice