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SummaryA shooter of exceptional quality
The GoodThere is really no other fps out there that can compete with NOLF in terms of quality. Sure, such game may offer better multiplayer modes, such other better graphics, etc. etc. but no other shooter game offers such a carefully polished and beautifully crafted experience as this one.
Throughout 60 fully detailed missions you'll be taken in a gameplay ride that combines superb shooter action, a solid sneaking angle, a light pseudo-rpg system (get shot a lot and your health gets boosted, go around sneaking and you become better at it later on, etc.), a well made spy feel that has you collecting intelligence items and using gadgets that later open up new areas in old missions, and exceptional action set-pieces like sniping sequences, snowmobile and motorcycle sequences.
The action itself is fantastic, with dozens of realistic weapons and an impressive set of enemy animations, your opponents fall from buildings, roll down stairs, and react to every shot and situation (like discovering a dead buddy) with a series of great motion-captured animations that take the whole experience to a new level, I never realized how dull other games where in the animation department until I checked this one out! And the AI is really impressive too, enemies attack with their brains most of the time, and they remain alert whenever they detect a disturbance.
The levels are incredibly well designed with a real posh 60's feel that lampoons the decade and it's cultural icons, furthermore on a game this long, it's important to avoid the Halo syndrome and provide a lot of variety, and NOLF delivers to a degree that none of the missions ever manage to feel old or repetitive. Express trains, space stations, terrorists facilities, underground headquarters, jungle outposts, executive buildings, cargo freighters and more await you in this game, and there's even a level where you free-fall off a plane and try to snag a parachute in mid-air!!
Of course, all those missions would be merely acceptable if they were just thrown loosely at you, but the game ties them up in a cohesive and entertaining storyline that has a unique comedy edge. One may initially think that it takes the Austin Powers route, but instead of focusing on gags and token catchphrases the story takes a more ironic route and wins by it's use non-obvious humor and it's dead-on take of the 60's super-spy movie genre. In fact, half the fun of NOLF's story is the fact that it could actually have been (save for some over-the-top touches) an actual 60's super-spy movie!!
Of course no review of NOLF would be complete without a nod to what has to be the game's crown achievement: Writing. This game has the best comedy writing in any game ever bar none. Each conversation in the game is funny in a truly smart way, with characters that trail off and start talking about seemingly mundane things and turn them into excellent comedy bits (sort of like a super-spy version of Seinfeld). The conversations you overhear during the game can go from guards asking each other about the medical plans of their terrorist organizations, the problems they have with their wifes at home, or discuss more serious issues such as how good was "Our man Flint" or if alcohol leads to a life in crime. In a word: priceless.
The BadThere are very few flaws in NOLF, but I feel I have to point them for the sake of objectivity: First of all, while the writing may be wonderful not so is the editing if you will. Most cutscenes are of the "talking heads" type, and this is not an oversight since they are made with the game engine.
The other thing I could mention is that there isn't a proper graduation in the way equipment is given to you, you aren't properly eased into their use and as a result you will find that you just won't use a lot of those things... like the robotic poodle. How many people out there actually used it? Or what about the exploding lipstick? Did you actually judge when to take the timed, proximity, or impact detonators??
The Bottom LineDo you like great shooters? Then pick this one up, because it's the grand-daddy of them all. In a genre so prostituted and overpopulated like the fps genre it's very hard to tell one that manages to be a jewel of a game and also raise over it's competition as "the one" but this one does. Does that mean that it's the best shooter ever? That's not for me to say, but I can assure you that no other fps has the level of quality and dedication this one has, and it is one hell of a game!
And don't fear it because of it's swinging-60's feel! Most people missed out on this masterpiece because of that ignorant prejudice!