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Publisher: MacPlay    Genre: Action
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: G3 @ 350 MHz    RAM: 128 MB    Hard Disk: 900 MB

No One Lives Forever
January 3, 2003 | Michael Yanovich

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First-person shooters. I love 'em. I can't get enough of them. As soon as I solve one, I can't wait to play the next one, and I roam around cyberspace in multiplayer mode wasting everything that moves until the next release falls into my clammy little hands. It's not the only gaming genre I love -- I’ve got my share of RPGs, strategy games, simulations, whatever. It's just that FPS games are so good when I need some quick stress relief.

Needless to say, I was very excited when No One Lives Forever (NOLF) arrived in the mail, as I had just sliced my way through scores of stormtroopers all the way to the end of Jedi Knight II. My journey was shifting from deep space to deep cover as I donned the traditional 60’s spy garb -- a psychedelically colored miniskirt and knee-length boots -- to control the hottest babe with a gun since Lara Croft and Konoko duked it out in the latest installment of Celebrity Boxing.

That’s when I learned that, in the case of NOLF, FPS does not stand for “first-person shooter”... but rather “first-person sneaker.”

That’s not a bad thing. It’s just a different thing, and depending on your personal tastes that one word variation will ultimately determine whether or not you will like this game.

Set-Up and Story
I can see the pitch meeting now. “We want to make a new game. It’ll be the kind of game you get when Austin Powers’ mojo goes for a skinny dip in James Bond’s martini.”

What, you want details? Oh, all right. You play Cate Archer, a thief turned secret agent who has to prove herself to her superiors when they think that a woman simply can’t do the job as well as a man can. Problem is, all of a sudden all these male agents are turning up dead. Seems a group of bad guys who call their organization H.A.R.M. have their sights on several of your partners.

Now, as I admitted to Lucian (a fellow IMG guy) once, I don’t care about game plots... with few exceptions. If the entire story is, “Your spaceship crashed here, you’ve got to get out. Here’s 20 levels...” well, I’m OK with that, as long as the gameplay is riveting on its own. On the other side of the spectrum are games like Metal Gear Solid that actually expect you to care enough about the “WHY” that you’re willing to sit through -- get this -- 45 minutes+ of uninterrupted storytelling at a stretch, with 10 minutes of gameplay in between. To me, that’s a game with its priorities desperately inverted.

But sometimes, a game gets it just right. There’s enough of a story to keep you interested in what is going on without burdening you with heaps of boring details. Luckily, NOLF falls into this category. The story is compelling, fairly succinct, and at times very funny. There’s the occasional mid-mission movie mode that is a bit overblown -- I had to sit through a 10 minute scene the other day that had me yawning for about half of it -- but overall the scenes are short and to the point. This is especially important because the cutscenes are not pre-rendered works of art, but rather in-engine dramas that look identical to the rest of the game. And believe me, three people in a room talking for 10 minutes straight is just as boring in a game as it is in a movie, especially when they are just standing around a desk doing absolutely nothing other than flapping their lips.

Humor is prevalent throughout the game, though mixed with moments of sobering information. Like when a puppet is used to deliver the message that 1,300 innocent civilians were massacred in a terrorist bomb explosion. But overall, laughter tends to rule. Sneak up on any number of unsuspecting guards and you can hear large snippets of their conversations. One man might complain about being forced to try sushi on a date, while another guard rambles on about the poor pay scale and lack of overtime in modern criminal organizations. And when Cate meets her contacts, the code phrases they exchange are almost always the cheesiest sexually-charged pickup lines you’ve ever heard, which frequently causes Cate’s contacts to apologize profusely for having to utter such degenerative remarks. This is legitimately funny stuff and I frequently catch myself laughing loudly at these exchanges.


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