No One Lives Forever: The Operative Review

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Publisher: Fox Interactive
Developer: Monolith

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium II 300 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 8 MB 3D video card, 4x CD-ROM

Cate Archer is The Operative. Saved from a life of crime by U.N.I.T.Y., a secret international organization dedicated to saving the world from evildoers bent on world domination, Archer is an intelligent, skilled and stunningly attractive super-spy. Firmly entrenched in the male-dominated world of 1960's espionage, Archer is determined to prove her worth and competence to an organization reluctant to trust a woman's "emotional inconstancy" in the field.

A leak within U.N.I.T.Y has led to the assassination of over half the organization's active duty roster. An international criminal conspiracy called H.A.R.M. is tied to the deaths through the one-eyed assassin and conspirator Dmitri Volkov. H.A.R.M. is developing a unique explosive with which they plan to threaten the world, and practicing puppetry so they can deliver their ultimatum in the most humiliating manner possible. These circumstances provide Cate Archer a long-awaited opportunity to demonstrate her superior ability as a field agent.

In this first-person shooter set in the campy genre of 1960's spy-drama, Cate must follow the trail of international terrorism across three continents and earth orbit using a variety of period weaponry and fantastic gadgetry. Weapons range from a Shepherd Arms P38 9mm pistol to the Super Atomic Laser Weapon and Cate has an array of spy hardware that fits as well in a James Bond flick as in the Get Smart television series. No One Lives Forever has an extensive, story-driven, single-player mode as well as a multiplayer mode.

Kyle Ackerman

No One Lives Forever brings an unusual combination of deep plot and light-heartedness to the first-person shooter genre, simultaneously capturing the tones of all types of cold war spy dramas. Briefings at U.N.I.T.Y headquarters convey the gravity of H.A.R.M.'s megalomaniacal schemes with all the earth-shattering self-importance of 007's adventures. At the same time, the villains and gadgets embody the light-heartedness of shows like The Avengers. Cate Archer's lock-picking, poisoned barrette and deadly lipstick explosive complement her more conventional weaponry. The leaders of H.A.R.M. are criminal masterminds, but also caricatures of evil, including: a tone-deaf, German opera diva; a one-eyed, mustachioed Russian assassin; and a pugnacious Scotsman with a conscience. The plot is delivered in dialogue-rich cut-scenes, the occasional intelligence item, and overheard conversations. (As much as the cut-scenes add to the plot and lend a change of pace, they can also be skipped by the plot-weary with a quick hit of the space bar.) No One Lives Forever even manages to bring a strong female lead to a typically male-dominated genre. Her Emma-Peal-outfits in no way mask her tenacious character and feminist dialogue.

No One Lives Forever presents a richly detailed environment that runs smoothly at a variety of graphical resolutions and serves to greatly enhance gameplay. The settings run from a Moroccan landscape, to a sunken freighter, to an orbital station, all filled with appropriate architectural detail. Guards and bystanders engage in conversations that are sometimes long and detailed. Some of these dialogues further the plot, while others are simply the everyday exchanges between underpaid employees of an international terrorist organization with inadequate benefits. These amusing, tangential conversations make Cate Archer's world seem like a real place populated with living, breathing people who just happen to have found an unconventional day job with H.A.R.M. This is what the conversations in Max Payne were trying to achieve, and it is executed with voice acting that usually quite good. The music is catchy and enhances the 60s spy-flick feel – even the opening credits, in which Cate Archer shimmies, Bond-girl-style, to the theme song.

Archer's enemies are challenging – they act intelligently, dodging and using available cover. They track noises, investigate disturbances, tend their fallen comrades and alert their compatriots when possible. This unusually complex behavior creates an aura of real immersion better than haphazardly slaying anything that moves. Stealth is a viable option, often preferable to outright assault with automatic weapons, and is sometimes required to maintain Cate's cover. In a closer approximation of reality than some games achieve, cameras and spotlights are to be avoided. Simply shooting and disabling security devices is more likely to bring unwanted attention than to avoid it.

If the game has failings, they are that the "boss battles," in which Cate faces the arch-villains of H.A.R.M. are somewhat tedious, and the multiplayer is lackluster. The boss battles are few and far between, and luckily, are so overwhelmed by the quality of the rest of gameplay that they are inconsequential. Multiplayer shooting matches lack the plot that makes the game so engrossing. Multiplayer usually devolves into a slugfest, since stealth is impossible in that mode.

No One Lives Forever was worth the full retail price at release, and is certainly worth the discounted price available today. One can only wonder why this game was not a success at release.











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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on September 4, 2001 2:19 PM.

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