Gamestuff: No One Lives Forever 2

No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.’s WayNow that my office is 80% clean (pictures to follow soonish) and I actually feel comfortable spending time in it, I’ve been playing No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.’s WayNo One Lives Forever 2 borrows a bit from the Rambo and Dark Forces school of title generation. The full title of the first game is The Operative: No One Lives Forever, but everything pre-colon has been dropped for the sequel (much like Jedi Knight 2, which dropped the original Dark Forces name from the first two games in that series, or Rambo III which did away with First Blood).. Last night, I wrapped up the final two “chapters” of the game.

No One Lives Forever 2 and its predecessor (both developed by Monolith Productions) are first-person shooters that take place in the late 1960’s and feature Scottish superspy Cate “The Fox” Archer as an operative for the international anti-terrorism organization, UNITY. Thematically, the games are a cross between the FlintOur Man Flint (1966) and In Like Flint (1967), both starring James Coburn as freelance superspy, Derek Flint. and Austin Powers movies, spoofing the superspy genre made popular by Ian Fleming’s James Bond. The humor is brilliant, but doesn’t in any way detract from the core sneak-and-shoot mechanic of the game.

The “sneak” part of the mechanic isn’t quite up to the standards set by games like Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell and Looking Glass Studios’ Thief, but it’s certainly no slouch. In fact, the stealth implementation in NOLF 2 is considerably improved over its predecessor. That said, there are still occasions in which Cate should be hidden from her opponents and can still be spotted, which proves to be rather annoying.

The “shoot” aspect, on the other hand, is very satisfying. Throughout the game, Cate wields melee weapons (Japanese katanas, Indian tulwars and a stun gun disguised as a mascara kit) a variety of handguns, rifles, machine guns and shotguns, a crossbow (my personal favorite ranged weapon, featuring four different flavors of ammunition) and a host of superspy gadgets (most of which are disguised as items Cate might keep in her purse: lipstick, compact, perfume, etc.) and improvised weapons. The array of weapons available is dependent upon the mission but, apart from one or two stealth-heavy missions, The Fox is almost always well-armed and NOLF 2 is a very satisfying FPS.

The locations and opponents are nearly as varied as the weapons; H.A.R.M. (an evil organization whose acronym is never explained) operates around the globe and Cate is sent to Japan, Russia, India, a secret undersea submarine base and even Akron, Ohio to thwart their nefarious schemes. Along the way, the intrepid operative battles countless tommy-gun-toting mimes, female ninjas, H.A.R.M. thugsIn the original NOLF, the Indian H.A.R.M. thugs had some of the funniest dialog, often shouting “Do not be apprehensive about this apprehension!” when pursuing Cate and “Hard rain is falling!” when she shot at them. The thugs (Indian and otherwise) in NOLF 2 say things like “Oh, man! Now I’m bleeding!” when shot or “I’m not taking the blame for this” when they find one of their comrades dead or unconscious. and a few genetically-engineered super-soldiers (shades of Captain America!).

As varied as the locations are, they have one thing in common: they are all very, very pretty. Every stage of No One Lives Forever 2 is a work of art, both visually and aurally. The graphics are crisp and clean, the ambient noise subtle, and the background musicA special edition of The Operative: No One Lives Forever shipped with two CDs: the first contained the game and the second was a soundtrack disc. The soundtrack has a wonderful 1960s “feel”, much like the music from the Austin Powers movies. The soundtracks for NOLF and Homeworld (a real-time space sim) are tied at the top of my list of best video game music (with Medal of Honor: Allied Assault coming in second). sets the mood perfectly (especially the eerie theremin that plays when Cate is in H.A.R.M.’s underwater base).

Beautiful locations, fantastic soundtrack, engaging story and exciting gameplay all combine to make No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.’s Way an excellent gaming experience. Among single-player first-person shooters, I rank it behind only the original Deus Ex for bringing the fun.