No One Lives Forever (PC) review
"Austin Powers might have been responsible for some good things, such as No One Lives Forever, a unique FPS that took the kitschy 60s aesthetic and blue humor and went for broke. After the dippy opening credits, complete with psychedelic light show and vocal theme music, we see heroine Cate Archer negotiating the hallways of UNITY HQ in a sinfully short bright orange miniskirt. She's out of her element before she even arrives in the office of Mr. Smith for her daily tongue-lashing. ..."
Austin Powers might have been responsible for some good things, such as No One Lives Forever, a unique FPS that took the kitschy 60s aesthetic and blue humor and went for broke. After the dippy opening credits, complete with psychedelic light show and vocal theme music, we see heroine Cate Archer negotiating the hallways of UNITY HQ in a sinfully short bright orange miniskirt. She's out of her element before she even arrives in the office of Mr. Smith for her daily tongue-lashing. The dialogue, even from the very beginning, is pithy and often hilarious. You can even select sarcastic replies in branching dialogue trees. In the corridors outside, some of the awkward desk jockies attempt to make small talk as you whisk right on by. Nefarious HARM operatives have been eliminating UNITY agents at an alarming rate, so newbie Archer is called in to pick up the slack ... and try not to be HARMed herself.
The first major setpiece is a comic revelation. You've been in this situation before if you've played any FPS with a sniper rifle in it. Cover the VIP, protect him from armed gunmen. In this case, your silenced rifle is covering a drunk and belligerent US Senator as he stumbles and weaves around and around this one city block. Meanwhile, the assassins are streaming out of the woodwork, first showing up on shanty roofs, then emboldening and appearing on the sidewalk directly in front of our poor drunkard with submachine guns at the ready. Your bullet hits one directly above the ear and the HARM operative issues a red mist and goes ragdoll on the pavement. "Ooop! Therrrre ya gooo!" says the Senator before burping and laughing hysterically. By the level's end, he's knee-deep in the dead and still has no idea what's going on. Ah, to be shitfaced at 2 in the afternoon.
In a sudden twist, the mission does not pan out as expected. Cate hits the streets of Tangiers with her barrette lockpick, lipstick grenades, and of course a silenced pistol with multiple ammo types. This comes in handy when the streets turn against you and you're fighting off waves of agents screaming phrases in broken English. Instead of wasting all your precious hollowpoints you can use phosphorous rounds to burn bad guys alive! Between killings you can scour the areas for forgotten notes or folders hidden in desk drawers. You may stumble upon a useful piece of intel, but 90% of the time it's something useless but funny. In a snowbound Russian outpost, you'll find various drafts of a memo regarding the conservation of supplies; its final version mandates two and a half coffee breaks per guard shift and a maximum of two squares of toilet paper to be used per lavatory visit -- under punishment of death by firing squad. When you're done laughing at the Commies you can hop on your snowmobile and run over a few of them!
UNITY's missions are not very imaginative. At every turn you're infiltrating some heavily guarded installation or another. When you're assigned a vacuous chauvanist male partner (who may or may not be a vacuum cleaner salesman from Ohio), the dialogue loses some of its charm and the obvious sex jokes come to the fore. Things do light up when NOLF switches to what's going on with the two villains, a German soprano and a hard-drinking Scot named Armstrong. Their back-and-forth sniping and discussions on henchman shortages would put Neil Simon to shame. Too bad they serve no purpose higher than comic relief and the bulk of the game is sneaking and shooting. When you're in Berlin (on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain), you can use the distraction caused by a club's bouncer and an irate patron waiting in line to sneak in a back window. They're shouting horrible things at each other in German -- take notes and use this new profanity to your advantage. Use your charm to make it into the basement, retrieve sensitive information, blast guys, leave.
The gameplay formula remains unbroken to the end although there are many funny but irrelevant details to come across. Late in the game when you're traversing an ancient Amazon ruin-cum-rocket-launching-pad, you hear what sounds like a marraige proposal through a closed door. Open the door and discover the HARM scientist on one knee, in deep congress with ... a goat. Witness the two randy scientists making out inside the decompression chamber. Flip the switch
and watch them literally "become one". Turn on the rockets early and incinerate the poor fools still doing last-minute repairs on the boosters. The period details and subversive humor make this game great, and then the routine shooting action brings NOLF back down to mediocrity. A jaw-dropping level inside the kitschiest space station ever is a reminder of how good the rest of the game should have been. HARM cosmonauts wear gaudy Day-Glo jumpsuits and the women are dressed like the space stewardesses in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Navigate the corridors (in zero-G!) towards "Security Sector Periwinkle" and marvel at the view of marble-like Earth through the Plexiglass. NOLF still looks great for a game made seven years ago, and it certainly looks better than Soldier of Fortune. Developers Monolith have had a long history of making attractive, yet gimmicky and hollow shooters. This was just the start of an unfortunate downhill trajectory.
Community review by johnny_cairo (November 04, 2007)
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