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NOLF Prequal: Contract J.A.C.K.

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  • NOLF Prequal: Contract J.A.C.K.

    VERY nice new game is going to be released by monolith set between No One Lives Forever 1 and 2, putting you in the role of a contract killer working for H.A.R.M.

    IMAGINE WAKING UP to find yourself in outer space, hurtling towards the sun, and no idea how you got there. Not exactly the best way to start your day, right?

    It's all in a day's work for John Jack, killer-for-hire and star of Contract J.A.C.K. -- the upcoming prequel to No One Lives Forever 2 -- and that's exactly how his adventure begins. We met with Craig Hubbard and Ellen Beeman at the offices of Monolith Productions in Seattle, who gave us the scoop on the expansion and the new directions they're exploring within the NOLF series.

    Set in the time between NOLF 1 and NOLF 2, you won't be filling the stylish boots of 60's superspy-ette Cate Archer this time around. In fact, you won't even be working for UNITY or any of the good guys, for that matter. Instead, you play Jack -- "just another contract killer" -- who's been hired by the nefarious H.A.R.M. to help with a little problem. That problem is a rival criminal organization in Italy named Danger Danger (no, not the 80's hair band), whose leader, Ill Pazzo, also happens to be obsessed with emasculating Jack. If nothing else, it's clear the expansion will retain the oddball sense of humor that helped the first two titles win fans over.

    As the game begins, you flash back to events that led to your current predicament, and you'll run into several characters (and a locale or two) from both NOLF titles. You're hired by none other than H.A.R.M.'s Dmitrij Volkov, and you'll also revisit the H.A.R.M. space station destroyed during NOLF 1, a piece of which has landed on the moon with at least one survivor on it. In an earlier preview, we were told that Cate Archer would "feature significantly" in the expansion, although that's about all we know about her role in Contract J.A.C.K. to date. Eventually, the game catches up with Jack as he hurtles towards the moon and continues from there.

    It's clear from just a few minutes with the expansion that Monolith is looking to experiment with the NOLF formula a bit. Although both NOLF titles received heaps of critical acclaim and won numerous awards -- including GameSpy's 2002 PC Game of the Year for NOLF 2 -- the sales never quite matched up (a crime in a world where crap like Enter The Matrix gets rushed out the door and sells a million copies). So, it's not surprising that the expansion has opted for a male hero, more action and less stealth, and a bit of de-emphasis on the campy 60's feel. Jack is in every way the opposite of Archer -- tall, dark and lanky, brooding in a "I'm a gun for hire and I'm really pissed off" sorta way. The humor should still be there, just don't expect to see flower power at every corner.

    We spent the majority of our time exploring a rocket base, and we were able to get some hands-on time and test out the enemy A.I. for ourselves. Even in a relatively unpolished state, the combat is already better than most of the first-person shooters currently on the market. With enemies rushing in from various directions, there was a definite ebb and flow to the action -- peek out, fire a few shots, duck back, reload, repeat. Enemies would rush towards the action, but wouldn't necessarily stand slackjawed out in the open waiting to get shot; they'd take cover during gunfights and attempt to advance at the right moment. And when you run away, they chase you, so be prepared for a fight.

    It's not really surprising that Contract J.A.C.K.'s action already seems to have a leg up on the competition -- the A.I. and combat in NOLF 2 was pretty solid to begin with -- so it should be interesting to see how it holds up as the focus of an entire game. Could this hint at a direction for a possible (and still yet unannounced) NOLF 3? If so, Monolith isn't saying. "We just wanted to do something a little different," says Hubbard.

    Visually, Contract J.A.C.K. looks similar to No One Lives Forever 2. Like many expansions, it seems most of the development work has gone into creating new content instead of overhauling the engine. That's not really a bad thing, as NOLF 2 was an extremely pretty game to begin with, and hardly looks outdated. There are few new weapons planned for the game, including a prototype Cyclone laser rifle, and you'll also be able to control vehicles with weapons mounted on them, inlcuding (of all things) a Vespa with a mounted machine gun.

    Contract J.A.C.K. is planned to be 10 missions long, and will be a standalone product -- you won't need NOLF 2 installed to play. (Although, that stellar title can currently be had for a mere $20, so there's really no excuse not to own it.) Contract J.A.C.K. will also support all of NOLF 2's multiplayer modes, including the recently released Doomsday, and at least one new mode Monolith has yet to reveal. Set to retail around the normal price for an expansion (we're expecting $30), the expansion should offer as much gameplay as many "full" games.

    And while we're looking forward to playing Contract J.A.C.K., we've gotta ask: Monolith, what's the deal with all the abbreviations and acronyms? UNITY. H.A.R.M. Now J.A.C.K.? Doesn't anyone realize that we're just lowly online writers and complicated punctuation makes our puny heads hurt? (At least the name is shorter this time around.) Whatever it's called, we're ready to put our faith in Monolith and go along for the ride, wherever it may take us this October.

    I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
    - John 13:34-35 (NRSV)

  • #2
    Excellent. Between that, DX2, and Half-Life 2, I should get my FPS fix for the next decade.
    "My nation is the world, and my religion is to do good." --Thomas Paine
    "The subject of onanism is inexhaustable." --Sigmund Freud