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Publisher: MacPlay    Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.2.6    CPU: G4 @ 700 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

No One Lives Forever 2
October 9, 2003 | Michael Yanovich

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Want to learn how to fly a plane? Go get a flight simulator. Interested in training for military duty? America’s Army is ready for download. Up for huge scale guild warfare? I’d aim for Shadowbane. But if your idea of fun includes robotic exploding kittens, rocket launchers that conveniently fit in your ultra-hip purse and hiding behind dumpsters while you wear a miniskirt, then the only game in town is finally here. Released for the Mac a scant ten months after the first game in the series, No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.’s Way (NOLF2) is the reason I love game sequels. Sequels give game designers a chance to see what worked in the previous iteration, and -- just as importantly -- what areas of a game need rethinking, something NOLF2’s designers clearly spent a lot of time doing. To put it bluntly, NOLF was a fantastic game, and NOLF2 is simply... even better!

It all starts with the story. If you’ve read my past reviews, you may already know that I generally don’t care about stories in video games. I don’t care WHY I have to pick up the feather to get the key to open the chest to buy the potion to fix my broken nose... as long as the gameplay is fun! But just like its predecessor, NOLF2’s storyline is significantly more entertaining than it deserves to be. It’s well thought out, riveting, extremely funny, and it’s just the right length. No more boring 10-minute long cutscenes. The scenes here are, without exception, just the right duration and will keep you glued to the screen in anticipation of what will happen next.

Once again, you play super agent Cate Archer, an undercover spy working to keep the world safe during the height of the cold war. For you younger readers out there, think 1960’s, your parents were hippies, rock and roll was still great, and the Soviet Union and U.S. were locked in a race to see who could build the most nuclear missiles, a heavy subject the game manages to make lighthearted and fun in a very “Dr. Strangelove” manner. I’ll also add the obligatory “Austin Powers” reference here, because the film trilogy’s influence is so undeniable that even the game’s intro music starts with a blatant ripoff of -- excuse me... homage to -- Quincy Jones’ classic “bum. bum bum. bum bum.” rhythm. (And... cue the flutes!)

Now that your hind quarters are seat-swaying to the groovy tune that just started in your head, I’ll skip any plot spoilers by moving on to the next section. If you want to know how to mix nuclear missiles, espionage and comedy into a videogame you’ll just have to play the game yourself, and as you’re about to read... that’s not such a bad chore.

Graphics and Performance
I have no idea how good this game looks. No, really... not a clue. See, I was playing on an 800mhz iMac, and while it’s technically above the minimum system requirements, it’s just BARELY above them. That means I had to play the game with the graphics stripped to their bare minimums. Luckily, NOLF 2 offers a new pre-game feature. Set your graphics options then press the ‘test’ key and the game will run through a cut-scene using your new settings. Afterwards, the system will tell you if you need to turn more options off, or if the game will play smoothly as-is.

Well, with every single option turned to “off” or “low quality” my machine was still not able to perform to the game’s testing standards, and the system told me that I’d need to lower other options. So I played the game with every single “make it pretty” button turned to the off position. Now, I don’t believe in lowering a game’s score just because my machine can’t play it. As I’ve said before, not being able to run Halo on a Mac Plus doesn’t make Halo a bad game.

Now for the good news. Even with all the options turned off, NOLF 2 looked pretty darned impressive. The cutscenes, which use the game engine (that is, they are not pre-rendered high resolution cutscenes) have astonishing character animation. Arms and torsos and heads move with the subtlety and nuance that reveal much about the characters. One of the big boss honchos staggers around with drunken grace (he’s almost never without a martini in hand) while stealthy ninjas move... uh... like stealthy ninjas. Did I mention the mimes? Yeah. They move like mimes.


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