No One Lives Forever is a first-person spy adventure that takes place in a world that we'd all recognize, even if it never really existed. Settings and storylines are reminiscent of early James Bond films, with a healthy dose of Get Smart and Austin Powers thrown in for good measure. In designing the game world for No One Lives Forever, effort was devoted to finding the proper balance of 1960s post-modern kitsch and full-on, gut wrenching action.
Think of the easy charm and deadly influence of the beautiful Modesty Blaise. Consider the quick wit and quiet precision of the Avengers' Emma Peel. Confident, understated, highly dangerous, and loaded with sex appeal, these heroines were surely an inspiration for Cate Archer, "the Operative" in No One Lives Forever.
In the role of Cate Archer, the player will need to make her way through many diverse 3D environments, populated by wary guards and unique enemy bosses. As a top operative of the super-secret international anti-terrorist group UNITY, Cate has lots of weapons and gadgets at her disposal. She can gain access to 30 different weapons in all, many of which have four or five different settings or modes of fire. Cate's spy gadgets include a cigarette lighter that doubles as a welding torch, several shades of exploding lipstick, and even a robotic poodle.
Hopefully this will be enough, as Cate will need all the help she can get as she investigates the latest catastrophe to hit UNITY. It seems that nearly half of the active UNITY operatives have been eliminated in just one short week and rival underground organization H.A.R.M. is bound to be involved somehow. This could mean a face-to-face confrontation with infamous H.A.R.M. operatives like Armstrong, the boxing Scotsman, or Inga, the neurotic, tone-deaf opera diva. This could mean trouble for Cate Archer.
No One Lives Forever is the first game written to run on the LithTech 2.5 3D engine. The game features realistic AI, with enemies that listen for footsteps, notice footprints, and call for back-up in a heartbeat. Even "normal" citizens on the street behave rationally and react specifically to certain situations. The in-game music changes according to the action and cinematic scenes blend smoothly from gameplay, in an attempt to provide the player with an engrossing, unified experience.
With a 1960s heroine, wonderful story, varied action, incredible scenes and acting, Fox Interactive and Monolith have brought us one of the finest action/adventures ever - No One Lives Forever. Although this is a review of the PC release, the recently released PS2 version is apparently much the same in terms of content. Further, Fox will be issuing NOLF 2 in October. Hopefully, this review will serve to whet your appetite for both releases.
Reminiscent of my once-favorite USA Network series, La Femme Nikita, Cate Archer is a thief turned "operative," aiding the forces of good (UNITY). "I hope we're not inconveniencing you too awfully with matters of international security," drolly suggests the head of UNITY. "Of course, you can always go back to burglary." With agents being killed off by the forces of H.A.R.M., Cate and her mentor Bruno are pressed into service to save the day, and the world.
Through 15 broad missions and some 60 levels, Cate travels the globe, with locations ranging from Germany to Morocco to England, the Caribbean, the Pacific Northwest, sewers and outer space. Her activities and actions include free-fall from a burning plane, snowmobile and cliffside motorcycle riding, SCUBA diving, flat-out gunplay, and - Cate's specialty - stealth.
With this straight-faced rejoinder to the Director's chauvinism ("We wouldn't normally trust a job of this sensitivity to a woman"), Cate inadvertently suggests a theme for the entire game - one that applies in spades, from my perspective.
With a compact but quite complete 34-page, jewel case-sized manual, effortless installation (300+ MB and 800+ MB options), and a "Bondian" beginning, NOLF has to entertain and envelop even the most jaded gamer. Four difficulty selections are offered, Easy to Superspy, which are adjustable during the game. Quick, manual and auto saves are available, with graphics, controls, and sound all configurable to your tastes and system.
Your first assignment is a tutorial, nicely done, with other tutorials spread throughout the game. This is a brilliant move given the complexity of weapons and actions available. Importantly, moving quietly (sneaking) is emphasized.
The in-game interface is logical and clear. "Intelligence" items and situational weapons arise during your travels and usually need to be picked up and soon utilized. Firing, object activation, reloading and zooming may all be done with the mouse. Subtle onscreen indicators show weapon choice. Nicely done.
A little humor in the credits (humor is a dominant theme in NOLF) reflects the presence of LithTech 2.5, Monolith's vaunted rival to the likes of the engines driving Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament. Although seeming a bit "blocky" in comparison to those, I came away very impressed and could certainly "live forever" with this product if I had to. Colors are as rich and vibrant as the box art suggests, with facial animations, especially eyebrows and lips, giving definable personalities to the game. Outdoor environments are huge; models are beautifully done; enemies are highly animated and can appear in droves without choking your system. NOLF not only runs well, as expected, on my new Pentium 4 1.8 GHz, but also ran beautifully at 800x600 on my "ancient" PIII 450.
... Cate is warned, after referring to the primary villain, Dimitri Volkov, as a "right bastard." Scripting and voice acting are as good as any I've heard in an action/adventure title. Humor is ever-present; acting is superb; sounds of weapons and the environment are right on; and the musical score will evoke fond memories of 60s spy thrillers. The entire ambience leads one to feel like a deeply involved participant in an interactive thriller. Sound and music are a hallmark of this title. Leave them on all the time.
Not to be outdone by the likes of "Q," UNITY provides our Cate with an inventive array of weapons and devices, including lipstick grenades, cigarette lighters that weld, a barrette that opens locks and becomes a knife, zooming sunglasses that detect mines and lasers, perfumed sleeping gas, body decay powder (yuck!), and, of course, an array of pistols, carbines and rifles. There's even a briefcase rocket launcher! All that's missing is a fully equipped Aston Martin.
As Cate wends her way through the 60 levels, however, we find that stealth and misdirection are required as often as shooting and blowing things up. These aspects were the most enjoyable for me and will be, I'm sure, for our adventure-minded community, sometimes providing opportunities to overhear some of the hilarious conversations of the bad guys, often characterized by amusing inside jokes. What the Monkey Island series does for humor in adventuring, NOLF does for comedy in "actioning."
Using a combination of stealth, timing, gunplay and thinking, Cate follows an intricate and highly varied path. NOLF is a real page-turner. It's the least redundant (boring) action game I've ever encountered - a far cry from the likes of Rune, for example. In terms of weapons/devices, locations, goals and possible actions, you're always kept on your toes, never quite knowing what's around the next corner.
Multiplayer is present (team or single deathmatch via Gamespy), but the primary thrust and enjoyment of NOLF comes with the rich and long single-player storyline, which offers multiple choices (sneaking versus shooting) along the way but is also not very replayable, given its scriptedness. Nevertheless, single play alone is more than worth the price of admission, with the frequent cutscenes, and great ending, providing reinforcement for your cloak-and-daggering. In terms of story and involvement in the game world, it just doesn't get much better than this!
Superb craftsmanship, inventive scripting, wonderful acting, brilliant enemy AI, and sumptuous graphics are all placed in a huge, varied, and intensely colorful 60s setting by a team clearly bestowing care and love on their work and product. No One Lives Forever is one of the best action/adventures ever, joining the ranks of Half-Life, Thief, and Deus Ex as an equal. Cate is the grooviest heroine of the new millennium. My only regret was that the fun and wild ride ended. That's why NOLF 2: The Spy in H.A.R.M.S. Way, due out in October, is one of my most highly anticipated titles. Try the original (it's in the bargain bin at many stores), and I'm sure you'll join my enthusiasm for Cate's World.
What I Liked the Most
It's a huge, varied and involving game; there are multiple types of weapons and devices; the music and voice acting are superlative.
What I Liked the Least
The game can be difficult at times; it ends!
People who downloaded No One Lives Forever have also downloaded:
No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way, Soldier of Fortune, Max Payne, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Soldier of Fortune 2: Double Helix, Contract J.A.C.K., Half-Life, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne
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