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No One Lives Forever (PC) artwork

No One Lives Forever (PC) review


"I remember reading through all the early coverage for No One Lives Forever and thinking to myself that the game looked absolutely moronic. The colors were bright and vibrant, with orange and white latex replacing traditional Marine uniforms and space suits, and, worst of all; it was a first-person shooter that starred a girl, which was completely shocking! Instead of being dark, foreboding, and filled with evil minions under the control of Satan or a similar evil-doer, the levels were ins..."



I remember reading through all the early coverage for No One Lives Forever and thinking to myself that the game looked absolutely moronic. The colors were bright and vibrant, with orange and white latex replacing traditional Marine uniforms and space suits, and, worst of all; it was a first-person shooter that starred a girl, which was completely shocking! Instead of being dark, foreboding, and filled with evil minions under the control of Satan or a similar evil-doer, the levels were instead tropical, occupied by goofy spies with cheesy accents and laid-back tourists with frilly shirts. I absolutely did not believe that Monolith, the developers of this game, could make a respectable first-person shooter without including the genre conventions that had dominated the market up until No One Lives Forever was released.

Okay guys, we all make mistakes. You can forgive me, right?


No One Lives Forever stars Cate Archer, a '60s super-spy for the UNITY organization (a sleuthing operation that has seen better days). There’s a rat on the inside and that rat is telling the evil organization HARM where to go if it wants to eliminate UNITY operatives. While the bureaucrats running the show from behind mahogany desks try to find out who’s guilty of treason on their end, it’s Cate’s job to eliminate any members of HARM that stand in her way and to get some much deserved revenge for her fallen comrades. Her mission will have her hopping across the globe, utilizing all the latest spy gadgets (including grenades that take the form of lipstick and sunglasses that double as a spy camera) in her attempt to get to the bottom of this deadly mystery.

In the way that Monkey Island injected a unique humor into the adventure genre that was still pretty new and original, No One Lives Forever is packed to the brim with humor right from the start of the game. In just the second part of the first mission, a gun-touting member of HARM is cornered by a monkey salesman trying to auction off his furry primate for the low price of twenty American dollars. The henchman refuses the offer and walks away, leaving the man and the monkey to themselves. After popping the henchman in the head, you may be inclined to do the same to the monkey, but one of the parameters for this mission is to avoid simian causalities: busting some shots off into the monkey's cute little coconut shaped head quickly brings you to a game over screen.

Little things like that situation really make this game great (and when you find the same gentleman trying to pawn off his monkey to yet another unwilling customer, you'll laugh even harder). As an FPS, it’s probably not the most advanced one on the market, but in sheer atmosphere, this game trumps nearly every release on the shelf. Cate goes from area to area in a linear fashion, killing goons with her guns or melee attacks, just like all the heroes of so many other FPS games have. The straight-forwardness is a downfall for sure, but clever “top-secret” documents and briefcases are scattered about the levels, rewarding you with funny looks into the private lives of spies. One letter I found in a bedroom was from a spy to his wife, confessing that he was a spy, that he had a wife in Russia, and that he’s “sorry to have misled her.” These little hidden items make the game feel a bit less linear than it really is.

As for the AI, I’ll openly admit that it isn’t the best, but once again the themes and the humor will make you overlook any failings. Your enemies won’t go running for cover, choosing the much smarter tactic of standing in front of you (or running right at you), though they occasionally will roll off to one side or another to avoid your shots. But, when a goon yells to one of his friends to “look out for the bullets!” and other quips in broken English as you fire on them, you’ll genuinely crack a smile and forget that he’s pretty incompetent. This humor is so goofy and seemingly out of place in the FPS universe that it turns an otherwise fairly standard game into a benchmark for where the genre can go. The shooting in the game is broken up a by a few sneaking missions which make you really feel like a spy and provide a pretty big challenge.

The henchmen all look alike (and all the other insignificant characters for that matter) with UNITY spies dressed in the same exact trench coats and hats. As for the henchmen themselves, they dress according to the weather and the environment: in the snow, they'll be bundled up in white snowsuits; in the early stages in Morocco they'll all wear white suit jackets and caps. You might consider this a setback, but I think this may have been for two reasons. One, in most spy movies, a lot of the goons wear costumes that look alike, so this may have been a reference to that. Two, this game is five years old, so the technology wasn’t quite developed enough to support an army of henchmen, but even with this failing, No One Lives Forever is pretty respectable looking, even by today’s high standards.

The resolution is maxed at 1024x768, which is low compared to more recent shooters, but the textures are pretty decent and there are some nice inclusions, such as squirts of blood when your enemies are shot that will stain nearby walls. I absolutely loved the main theme music, which could be used in nearly any spy film. The voice-over work, including the lip-syncing for the character models, is absolutely top-notch and better than some recent games that I’ve played (Devastation instantly comes to mind…).

Sure, No One Lives Forever may have its share of problems, but you’ll excuse nearly every one of them because the game is just so original. I can’t name another game in this genre that attempts to inject this much humor into the gameplay that never falls flat. No One Lives Forever just has such a great identity that it maintains from the start to the finish (which should take you about fifteen or so hours). It isn’t perfect, but it’s a damn fine game that is a worthy addition to your collection if you even consider yourself just a casual fan of the first-person shooter genre.

Rating: 9/10

asherdeus's avatar
Community review by asherdeus (November 09, 2005)

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