Written by  :  Sam Hardy (82)
Written on  :  Apr 27, 2002
Platform  :  Windows

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Very shagadelic....

The Good

STORY: Set in the "swinging 60's" After seven U.N.I.T.Y agents are killed the company is forced to send in newbie Cate Archer - a thief turned spy. After a H.A.R.M agent kills Cate’s mentor in Morocco - Cate must unravel the mystery of H.A.R.M and stop their evil plans. This game takes a lot of it's story locals from the Bond film Moonraker - such as the space station, fall from the plane - and the hidden space launching facility in the jungle. Most of the levels have scenes in them - these are little "breaks" that split up a level - there are usually four or five of them in a level.

MENU LAYOUT Nothing much stands still in this menu layout - and despite moving backgrounds - they are not that distracting and blend in wonderfully with the 60's colour theme. All items are accessed with ease - a description of what is what is listed below.

GRAPHICS The Lithtech 2.5 engine has it's good and bad points. While it's not as detailed as the Quake 3 engine - it still holds a very good skeletal animation - with blending in it. This allows for very good character animations - I'll get back to that. Despite the rather obviously jagged edged graphics it still holds enough substance to shine in lots of points - like lighting. Everything is set in a 60's theme - so that means "Plastic Fantastic" as well as eye scorching coloured couches - fake flowers galore - and lots of stuff in pink and orange. This works very well and it's so tacky and kitsch that it's cool. The textures are very well done - nice and crisp with lots of detail. The characters - while a little rough on the edges - have lots of charm to them - from the large fat Opera singer to the fez wearing bad guys - all of the characters are memorable. Other effects - like snow is very well done - and it looks like you ARE in snow. Also you leave prints in the snow as well. Other great effects also include the mini welder from your Zippo lighter and the Super Atomic Laser. Overall the graphics in the game do it justice - while everything may not be as smooth as other games - you can sure bet you won't find as many colours in the other games.

SOUND The whole game is full of sound - from tape to tape reels buzzing in the background, to camera hums and footsteps. The voice acting on this game is top notch and adds to the atmosphere. One great thing about this game is the dynamic music. Start creeping around and there's a faint soundtrack ambience playing - get into some action and you are propelled into an authentic 60's action soundtrack - and it works. Overall the sound is brilliant and creates a wonderful atmosphere to the game.

LEVEL DESIGN This game houses one of the best level designs ever. The levels feel like you are in a bustling Arabic city - with lots of detail like rugs - pillows and powerlines strewing the area. There are a lot of open areas - and a good portion of the game is played outdoors. All of the levels feel like you are in the intended area - from a plane that's being ripped to shreds - to a sinking cargo ship all is done in wonderful detail. Never did I feel like I was going to one room from another - there was a pretty free world to explore.

GAMEPLAY This game can cater for many people’s tastes. If you prefer sneaking around past all the guards - then do so. Or if heavy gun action is your mood - you can also do that as well. The missions are very varied and fun to play - I was never stuck in a level -, as most of them are pretty linear. One of the more memorable missions involved you escaping from a sinking cargo ship - water slowly fills the land and the walls buckle in. Other great missions also included you free falling out of a plane in order to chase a guy with a parachute below you - ala James Bond and Jaws from Moonraker. There's even a mission on a space station - with its sectors titled weird names like "Security Sector Raspberry". The A.I in this game is something to be reckoned with - these guys are smart. If they hear a noise - see a flashlight - your footsteps in the snow or see a dead comrade - they get very suspicious and start doing a search for you. They also duck for cover behind any obstacle they can find - or make one by kicking a table over and hiding behind it while firing suppressing fire over their head. They also call for others to come and help attack you. While the gore in this game is only limited to a few small spatters of blood on the wall - there is still impact areas on the person. This means a shot in the head will bring them down instantly - while an arm shot will make them stagger back - sometimes with their finger on the trigger causing their gun to fire randomly about the place. Another great feature is that they will react to their environment - either falling off, over or down things like a flight of stars, ramps or railings. All this is not scripted and depends on how they are killed. There is a large arsenal of weapons to choose from - ranging your P-38 pistol to a one hit-kill laser gun all of the weapons are nice and chunky giving them a good solid feel to them. The lasers have little whirly things on them - giving them a kitchy 60's look to them. Most of the guns have alternative ammo in them - from dumdum rounds that encourage bleeding to Cyanide tipped bullets that if you are hit by one - you see phsycadellic goats floating and bleating around. Other weapons also include a crossbow that can impale people on the wall - can you say wall decor? Along with your weapons you get quite a few zany gismos and gadgets that may have rather silly look to them - yet they have a serious use to them. For example your hair clip can double as a lock pick and a poisoned blade. Others include explosive lipstick and a belt buckle grappling hook - there are many more that I had not mentioned that are all very cool. One thing that really makes this game is the humour. There is a running gag that involves code phrases - which revolve around pick up lines. The little conversations about the code names are very funny. The missions themselves have a very funny range of conversations spoken by guards and NPC's - from discussing what 60's spy TV show is the best to how bad some girls hair looks. One very funny moment was when you overheard someone going on about how much he loved this woman -upon entering the room you found a guy and a goat standing on either side of a crate that has candles and filled wine glasses. Stealth is also a very interesting way to play - from avoiding cameras and floodlights - you can shoot them. From stalking people - to sneaking around setting fire to bins to set off fire alarms. Also they have borrowed the floor element from thief - so if you face a greater chance of being caught if you walk on metal than carpet. And it's quite challenging too. Another thing that makes this game great is the little interludes where you can test upcoming gadgets in a Q-branch like lab. This works wonderfully because it gives you a good idea how they all work without having to guess. Oh and there a few missions involving you riding on a motor bike and snowtruck. The single player is full of wonderful intense and exciting moments - brilliant level maps - and the get hit - stay hit policy gives it a more realistic edge. This is one of the greatest games I've ever played - it's right up there with Half-Life.

Multiplayer was a bit of a disappointment - none of the stealth and sneakiness from the single player game existed - there were the two vehicles in the game to help traverse the levels. This adds a innovative touch to the game - but with it's severe lack of gameplay modes it fails to make a mark.

The Bad

While this is a great game - there are a few niggles. One I found most of the levels to be too dark - this may have been the designer's decision to force you to use the flashlight - but there were too many dark areas - and no brightness adjust for the game. I also experienced some lockups - this was related to the game's engine, as well as getting stuck in a level's architecture and being unable to move and being forced to reload. The game was a bit too short and the ending was a little too sudden and taken at a rush.

Also the multiplayer was a real sham - nothing new.

The Bottom Line

Get this game! There are none like it and it blends the best of all the great shooters like, Theif, Goldeneye 64 and Half-Life all into one giving you one of the best gameing experences ever.