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So, the Monolith Team (The people behind F.E.A.R) decided to make a sequel to a fantastic game set in the middle of 1960's spy warfare.
They updated everything: the graphics, the controls, the voices, the characters, the weapons, the skill system, the intelligence recovery system, the vehicles, the locations, the AI, the enemies, the humour ... do I really need to keep going? Oh okay then: the story, the gadgets, the music, the sound ... they even added a light RPG element to upgrade things like your health or aim by completing objectives.
So, we have this fantastic sequel which blows the original out of the water game wise and what does it get? Very low sales and some kind of memory repellent which makes people forget about it.
Since discovering this game a few months ago, due to modern games boring the hell out of me, I stumbled on this lovely game called No One Lives Forever and it's sequel. They were very cheap so I went for it and snatched up both. They are now some of my favorite games ever. By mentioning the game and its heroine on several places across the internet, I got at least 7 responses which were all in a similar vain to:
"Oh I forgot about that, it was a fantastic game, reinstalling!"
What boggles me though, is why such a fantastic FPS was forgotten, so I decided to have a look into the factors of this.
1. Oh... it's an FPS
It isn't a big name and never managed to establish itself. It was mature, classy and funny, not 'Space marine goes gun-ho on some aliens' or 'WW2 Nazi's are evil lol'. This immediately put it as a disadvantage. It's 2002 remember.
2. Spy Sappin' Mah Sentry
It's the 1960's and there's a spy causing havoc for an evil organization. James Bond? Wrong! Cate Archer, Superspy. She isn't just a female copy/paste of Mr. Bond though, she is in fact, so much more. In the First game, Cate gets a chance to show her boss that women can do things too (Admittedly, she only gets this chance because the best spies get killed off one by one) but she does more than adequate, she reveals the organization H.A.R.M and stops them from destroying the world. So if you just glanced at it, it looks like another take on 007.
3. Sequels, get your sequels, right here!
So, you walk into a shop, "oh that looks like an interesting game, oh its a sequel, I never played the first so I wont bother." I am disappointed.
Never mind the fact that the plot doesn't carry directly over to the sequel (NOLF was a complete game without a sequel in mind, something pre-planned trilogy games are lacking with these days). But all the characters from the first make an appearance and all the previous fans are happy too. It's a shame it got so overlooked.
4. A Spy in H.A.R.M's way.
This clever subtitle goes over everyone's head, unless they played the first. Cate Archer is indeed in H.A.R.M's (an evil organization) way. In fact, a big sign blocks your path in the first NOLF, which says "You are now in H.A.R.M's Way" and it has a big smiley face on it. It then pushes you into the water below you with some blood-thirsty sharks. Not only does Cate stand firmly in their way, she also reveals some moles in her own organization, UNITY.
5. Long Tag Line is Looooooooooooong.
A little bit: No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy In H.A.R.M.'s Way. Nothing short like Halo 3, Splinter Cell or Killzone.
6. The Main Character is a Woman.
Yes she is. Is she slightly sexualised? Yes, it's the Sixties and she's a woman. If she wants to look good saving the world, then let her. If you think otherwise, you like men (no disrespect to those who do).
Why should it be remembered?
I will now list some things which are in the games:
Jumping out of an exploding Jet Plane without a parachute and stealing someone else's in mid air.
Wrestling with a Big Scottish man who has a sense of honour to let you go.
Listening to some guards have a conversation about why they had to get artificial lava in the volcano lair (There are tons of moments like this).
Chasing a mime on a tricycle through the streets of India.
Fighting a Ninja in the middle of a tornado. The house you take cover in gets sucked up. You continue fighting said ninja 100ft above ground in the middle of said tornado. (While I'm on the topic of Ninja's, Cate hides from and takes on an entire town of them).
Running away from guards who got shaped into cubes as they bounce after you and try and bite you.
[This one happened to me accidentally] Shooting a guard with a sleeping dart, getting spotted by another guard on his rounds, shooting him, that body getting spotted by a security camera. 5 minutes later, picking up around 23 bodies and dumping them in some mess-hall, then making sure they were all dead before continuing. One was sleeping and starts the whole thing over again.
Now you can't tell me that games these days have such fantastic scenarios.
So, the most brilliant thing about this game, is that you can tackle every situation any way you like, whether it is stealth or guns blazing or a freaky mixture of gadgets, guns and stealth and wits. All options have their own advantages and disadvantages. You get to play it your way.
Bonus Objectives are placed to help you out too, but you don't have to do what the game tells you. One of the Bonus objectives is to secure an escape route by blowing up a gate. I forgot about it and instead shot my way out. Whatever works right?
So you may have heard all of this before in crazy PR campaigns, but here it's real. In fact, it is such a pivotal part of the game that you won't find any PR statement saying its the best thing since sliced bread, it's just there.
No One Lives Forever 2 never takes itself too seriously, but you still feel like it's real. It suspends your disbelief perfectly. Even the evil mastermind (Getting phone calls from his mother all the time) seems real, as do all of the other characters. The game and story may trip every cliche in the book, but you never notice. You have something which keeps you happy. Do you want to know what it is?
You have fun.
These games are fun. I feel that in the strive for realism, there is hardly any blending anymore. It's either serious or over the top child's play. No one Lives Forever 2 blends it perfectly. You don't have to think it's serious, you don't have to think it's hilarious, it gives you the freedom to make your own mind up.
And that is why No one Lives Forever 2: A Spy in Harms Way should not be forgotten. Ever. Even though it already has.