Codename Nina: Global Terrorism Strike Force.
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  • ValuSoft
  • ValuSoft
  • Action - Shooter - First Person (example - Quake)
  • August 2003
  • 1
  • hard drive
  • 1
  • $20.00
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8  |  Codename: NINA Review
pixelSHREDDER , 9/14/2003 6:12:59 PM
If you've ever found yourself wandering down the aisles of your local CompUSA (and who hasn't), you've probably come across a few "bargian" games; cheaper (and therefore "crappier") versions of the $50 name-brand titles in the next aisle. But if you looked a little closer, you may come across Codename: NINA, a fun and addictive (but still wallet-friendly) stealth-FPS.

Of course, to really get anything out of this game, you need to set your sights a bit lower than Rouge Spear or Splinter Cell. For half the price of big-name software, some things naturally had to be toned down. Graphics, for instance. And a huge amount of missions, extra goodies, and multiplayer...out the window. But that's not why you spent your hard-earned Jackson on NINA, is it? If it is, you better have saved that reciept. But those willing to overlook a severe lack of perks and extras in favor of a simple, straight-forward game, are in for a treat.


Game Play
Codename: NINA is a weapons-based FPS centered around espionage, stealth, and shooting the living hell out of a swarm of terrorists who only know a sprinkle of English- "Hey!" "Arghh!" and, of course, "HOOaaugh...". Nina, the game's namesake, is a highly-trained spy doing the dirty work of a secret government agency. Her current mission involves taking out a terrorist group bent on taking over the world...or something like that. The game doesn't exactly break new ground with its storyline, and the depressingly lame voices is enough to tune out anyone. But the plot isn't what drives the story; it's all about the action, the strategy, and..reading other peoples' minds. Nina, for some reason, has paranormal abilities that allow her to read her enemies' minds to find new information. It's a gimmick that isn't really used to its potential, as you can only read certain targets' minds (killing them results in a mission failure) so there's really no guesswork involved.

But while most of the other aspects of this game are just as linear, there are the occasional liberties given to Nina. Your strategy for killing enemies may depend on your preferred approach. Are you the type to go into a battle in masochistic style, jumping through a hail of bullets, guns ablaze? Or are you the kind of spy that stalks their prey from the shadows, silently takes him out, then waits for another guard to rush to the scene only to have his brains shot through? The choice is up to you; this is one of the game's bright spots. Yet, despite being standard-fare in many other stealth games, this style of gameplay is really emphasized in NINA; and somehow, it's more fun that way.

The controls are simple enough for most, and are easy to pick up in the first mission. And there is a small, but varied selection of weapons that handle realistically enough. It's just a huge shame Nina can't carry any grenades of other explosives- with so many hallways filled with clusters of bad guys, there'd be a lot of fun to be had blowing them all up. The game also creates a mostly-balanced mix of action and problem-solving. Some of the puzzles are actually pretty well-designed, though the basis of most of the game is a standard "shoot first, ask questions (or read minds) later" style. But the occasional changes of pace adds some fun. However, sometimes the lower-end graphics can tinge the gameplay; in one level where Nina has to find and press several buttons scattered in the level to open up passageways, one button in particular is almost impossible to spot. But small complaints aside, there aren't any major bugs or other placement issues- in fact, the save point, item and weapon placement are excellent.

Graphics
The graphics are where this game really cuts corners for value's sake. Even when all the graphical tweaks are set to their maximum, they still seem slightly lackng- they have the general quality of a multiplayer map found in the original Unreal Tournament. However, this allows for great speeds with virtually no slowdown at all, and only a few very minor breakup glitches- a fair trade-off. It's just too bad there wasn't any multiplayer mode included, as NINA's level designs would allow for some sweet deathmatch-style fragging.

Sound
The sound isn't spectacular- it definitely has its ups and downs. The sound effects for weapons, explosions and other random noises are fine, and the background noises are good, too, sometimes even helping to guide Nina; but for some reason there's almost no music to be heard, even when the music volume bar is all the way up. This bores down the game a bit, but the gameplay keeps things moving well enough so it isn't missed too much. The biggest downer here, though, would have to be the god-awful voice acting. Every character in the game talks with an accent that's a bizarre mix of British, Russian, and English (sometimes a character's accent will change right in the middle of a sentence), and it's both depressing and annoying from the very first line of dialogue in the first level. Aside from that, there really isn't that much voicework at all. The guards are limited to about 3 words of dialogue, if you count "hoooauugh.." as a synonym for "ouch". But the spicy language and Nina's snide dialogue, though ill-performed it may be, is a nice touch.

Innovations
There isn't to speak of in the way of real genre-movers, but one thing that deserves mentioning is the amount of overall fun in NINA's 9 short missions. For some reason, though the game is short and relatively simple, it's also somewhat addictive, and playing it feels like playing a condensed version of a "real" game; obviously, this is the one of the main ideas behind all "bargain" games, but Nina pulls it off very well. It's almost like a demo; it leaves you wanting more. This is hard to find in "bargain" titles, so it's worth noting.

But probably the best little perk, and one of the best rewards for being tolerant of the lower-end production values, are the lightning-fast loading times. If you need to waste 200 lives trying to fight through those enemy guards on the sixth floor, 99 percent of that time will be spent actually fighting.

Replay Value
Well, once you've gotten through the game once, there is literally nothing left to do. No extra modes, no secret endings...and tragically, no multiplayer. Tragic, because many of the game's levels look like they came right out of CounterStrike; with the game's weapons, items, maybe throw in some grenades...there really could've been something there. Oh well. Basically, play through this game, then uninstall it; there's nothing left to see here.


Overall, despite this game's shortcomings, it pretty much balances out to a short but sweet romp that makes a good, cost-effective Saturday-killer. If you're looking for a quick fix for a cheap price, and are willing to sacrifice extras, and goodies and a high production value in favor of gameplay that'll keep you busy for a little while, then Codename: NINA should fill that void perfectly.


Ratings (out of 10)

Gameplay: 8
Graphics: 6
Sound: 7
Replay Value: Low
Fun Factor: 8

Overall Rating:
8/10

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