Monolith's No One Lives Forever games are easily some of the most creative first-person action games in recent years, combining interesting settings and multifaceted gameplay with a distinct brand of humor that pokes fun at 1960s spy movies. Last fall's No One Lives Forever 2 continued the adventures of superspy Cate Archer and added new gameplay elements, such as more-refined stealth mechanics and an RPG-like skill system. The soon-to-be-announced next game in the series will move in a very different direction. Contract J.A.C.K.--a stand-alone game that fits into the series as a prequel to NOLF2--will have more action, less stealth, and more-robust multiplayer gameplay.
Contract J.A.C.K. puts you in the role of John Jack. His occupation is spelled out in the title's acronym: "Just Another Contract Killer." Hired by Volkov, H.A.R.M.'s chief assassin, Jack has to work to stop an Italian criminal organization that plans to take H.A.R.M. down. Along the way, he'll get to use some new weapons, including the Bacalov Corrector, the prototype Cyclone Laser Rifle, and powerful C4 charges. The game will be about as long as a regular expansion pack, but it won't require either of the previous games in the series to play. We recently spoke with Monolith's Craig Hubbard, the lead game designer on the project, to get more details on the new lead character, the new gameplay elements, and the significant multiplayer additions coming in the game.
GameSpot: We've heard you won't play as Cate Archer this time around. Who's the new main character?
Craig Hubbard: The protagonist's real name is John Jack (instead of just one cliché action hero name, he has two!), but people call him Contract Jack because he's sort of a freelance "problem solver" of questionable moral standing.
GS: How are you setting up the new premise? How was Jack hired?
CH: The first couple of missions involve Jack's recruitment. Let's just say that H.A.R.M.'s interview process doesn't involve job résumés and multiple-choice questions.
GS: Should we expect to see some returning characters? What's Cate doing in the meantime?
CH: Dmitrij Volkov plays a big role in this game. We're also reintroducing one of our favorite minor characters from NOLF2, albeit in a slightly different capacity. Cate makes a brief cameo.
GS: In the previous games, H.A.R.M. and its comic goons were the source of much of the humor. Can we expect the same comic tone in the new game, even though the perspective has changed?
CH: There's still plenty of humor, but the style isn't as campy. The tone has been compared to Pulp Fiction.
GS: The No One Lives Forever games have featured a combination of gameplay elements, including combat and stealth. Do you have a particular gameplay emphasis planned for the expansion?
CH: Jack is a guy you call to clean up problems, so he's not exactly subtle. He doesn't sneak around or spy on people. He also doesn't use gadgets to overcome obstacles he could just as easily blow up. As a result, the game is more reminiscent of the action and spectacle of NOLF than the sneaking and subtlety of NOLF2.
GS: How will playing as a bad guy impact the gameplay?
CH: For one thing, you'll use a lot more bullets. The basic premise is that Volkov sends you to investigate an Italian criminal syndicate that seems to be making a play for the big time at H.A.R.M.'s expense. Most of your dealings will be with them, so it's sort of a bad-guys-against-bad-guys kind of game.
GS: Will Jack have some new H.A.R.M.-provided weapons and items as his disposal?
CH: In addition to a few new weapons, we've brought back one of our favorites from NOLF that didn't get into the sequel. There are also two new weapon-equipped vehicles.
GS: Are there any new elements that you're looking to introduce to the characteristic NOLF single-player experience?
CH: Aside from adding weapons to player-controlled vehicles, we've primarily focused on refining the combat, making it more gratifying and challenging. The entertainment value of this title will be derived mostly from being in interesting new situations and facing off against dangerous new adversaries.
GS: The previous games have taken the action to some over-the-top settings. What are a few of the key locations in the new game?
CH: You'll travel to such exotic locales as Czechoslovakia, Italy, and outer space.
GS: We've heard that the game will be stand-alone but won't be as long as the previous games. How long do you expect the single-player adventure to be?
CH: It's fairly typical expansion-pack length--about five hours for an experienced action gamer. Plus there's the multiplayer, of course.
GS: NOLF2 originally had just co-op multiplayer, but a number of competitive options have been released since the game's release. Do you expect to include the existing multiplayer modes and maybe add some new ones? Are there new multiplayer maps in the works?
CH: We're including the competitive modes from NOLF2, as well as a heavily modified version of the unsupported demolition mode we included as a sample with the mod tools. Updated versions of some of the NOLF2 maps will be included, as will some new levels.
GS: How long has the game been in the works at Monolith? How large a team is working on it?
CH: Most of the NOLF2 team has been involved in the development of this game, which began production at the beginning of the year.
GS: When do you expect to release the game?
CH: The game is slated for release by the end of the year.
GS: Thanks for your time, Craig.