No One Lives Forever

Review by Old Rooster
June 2002

"La Femme Cate"

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.

"I'll Try to Surpass Your Expectations" —Cate Archer

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.

Filmed in Lithscope

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.

"Watch Your Tongue ..."

... 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.

Santa's Workshop

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!

"From Fox and Monolith, with Love"

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! The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Monolith Studios
Publisher: Fox Interactive
Release Date: November 2000

Available for: PlayStation 2 Windows Macintosh 

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System Requirements

PC:
PII 300 (PIII 500 recommended)
64 MB RAM (128 MB recommended)
8 MB video RAM (32 MB recommended)

Mac:
Power Macintosh G3 350 (Power Macintosh G4 400 recommended)
Mac OS 8.6, 9.2.2 (Mac OS X 10.1.4 or later recommended)
128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended)
3D video card with 8 MB memory (16 MB recommended)
900 MB free disk space

Where to Find It



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(Note from the Rooster: The Game of the Year Edition (GOTY) is essentially the same game, with a strategy guide included, so if there's a big price difference, go for the original.)

 
   
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