previews\ Sep 4, 2002 at 8:00 pm

No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.

The last time we seen UNITY super spy Cate Archer, she was barely acknowledged as a spy in a 1960s male-dominated British spy network but she showed them all by single-handedly upsetting the plans of a deadly terrorist organization known as H.A.R.M. and defeating the terrorist leader Dmitrij Volkov.  Hmm, not bad for an ex-thief.


Now, once again, gamers get to step into Agent Archer’s go-go boots and take on the agents of H.A.R.M and its continuing threat of world domination.  Thankfully the good people at Sierra Entertainment were generous enough to let us preview an early build of the first four chapters so let’s take a look, shall we?


As far as first-person shooters were concerned, the first game featured a charming sense of humor that is rarely seen in this genre.  In fact, much of the game was a tongue-in-cheek homage to classic spy flicks like early James Bond or Man from FLINT and this rarity--along with the intense action sequences--is what made this game a stand-out.  And so, in following with this scheme, the second outing also features another helping of zany humor.


There are many moments in the game where you come across guards in mid-conversation about their grandmothers or other hilarious topics about “the workplace.”  You’ll be nicely surprised how witty the humor in the game is and how it is also incorporated in the cut scenes. Agent Archer also has a number of gadgets that seem like novelty gags but trust me, they aren’t.  However, we’ll get into that a bit later.


From the looks of things, the enemy AI in this game has been modified to the point that they are much more challenging than the first outing.  Enemy guards are easily alerted by your presence if you fire a round in their vicinity or if they come across the body of one of their own. They will carefully stalk you rather than blindly run off to look for you.  Gamers will find that there are a number of different ways to engage the enemy . . . including using stealth by picking up and moving dead guards you killed to a safe location or sneaking up to them and killing them with a silent weapon.


Weapons range from your trusty silencer to much noisier machine guns and even a really sharp samurai sword in a stealthy mission in Japan.  You can lurk into some dark corner, hidden out of visual range (you’ll know you’re doing it right because an icon will pop up when you’re truly concealed).  And what NOLF game isn’t complete without the unique spy gadgets such as a taser that moonlights as a cigarette lighter (or is it the other way around?) and lipstick that can snap photos.


The game’s mission structure is similar to the first game--there are plenty of mission objectives and exotic locales such as heading out to Japan or Calcutta.  And the action is spectacular--although some of the bugs that need to be worked out can crop up from time to time and delay the kill. Enemies just don’t scream in pain, slump down and dissolve anymore.  Now they cry out in pain and drop dead while some drop to the ground and twitch and move until they finally die.


There are also H.A.R.M villains that even Austin Powers would appreciate. In the original game you went up against such an unusual assortment of bad guys (remember neurotic opera diva Inge Wagner who was dressed like a milkmaid?), expect to find other weird baddies as you progress through the game’s other chapters and the interesting story unfolds.


The graphics are quite something else too.  Right away you’ll notice the vast improvement on the graphics and the level of detail is wonderful.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of the lovely Agent Archer and the scrupulous details of her attire (shirt collars, for example, have the neat little fold that sticks out rather than looking pasted on). And the environments are equally stunning!


The game we saw and played looked surprisingly complete and even running it on a medium speed the game was low on the usual hiccups, stutters and bugs.  If this build is any indication of what the completed product is going to be like then sign us up--we’d be more than happy to be put in harm’s way. 


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