No One Lives Forever is by
all accounts a good game. Anyone who has played the PC version of this first person
shooter, released nearly two years ago, will tell you it has the makings of a classic
franchise: a swinging sixties femme fatale serving her majesty as a covert operative,
taking out the bad guys with style and flair. It has a fantastic sense of adventure, and
an even better sense of humor. Unfortunately, it also has all of the trappings of a
terrible console port: poor use of the hardware, a phenomenally bad control system, and
few frills given to a game that is starting to show its age.
is a classic sixties cat-and-mouse spy tale. UNITY, an international team of super-spy
good guys, is losing most of its male members (no innuendo intended) to a group of
assassins calling themselves H.A.R.M. To infiltrate this evil organization, UNITY has
turned to Cate Archer, the Bond Girl who would rather be Bond. She is a cat burglar turned
secret agent, a model of sixties fashion and feminism. She has a sly wit, sexy smile, and
one hell of a temper. Her mission will take her across the globe, to places like Berlin,
Morocco, the Caribbean, and more, where she will encounter every kind of terrorist, rogue,
and criminal imaginable.
This is where the game shines: story and the personality. Each mission (15 in
all, divided into over 60 levels) takes you to an exotic locale, with unique enemies and
inhabitants. The levels put you in all kinds of dangerous situations. In one you will be
underwater in full S.C.U.B.A. gear. Later, you will have to jump out of a doomed airplane
without a parachute (you must catch an enemy on the way down and take his). One mission
even takes place in outer space. This is great stuff. And it is accompanied by a grand
sense of humor. This game plays off of the conventions of the genre, acting as spoof,
satire, and an intriguing spy yarn. It has that sixties flare, the sexual innuendo, and
the entertainment value of early Bond, The Avengers, and Austin Powers all rolled into
one. The game even delves into the misogynistic atmosphere of the time period, as Cate
Archer becomes a two-fisted advocate against the crusty, old, male establishment.
Of course, any spy would feel naked without his or her personal collection of
weapons, gadgets, and toys. NOLF contains over 30 of them. Most of the gunspistols,
submachine guns, and assault riflescan use three types of ammo: Full Metal Jacket
for penetration, Dum Dum for maximum damage, and Tracer for aiming at night. Some guns can
be equipped with silencers and scopes. Then there are the gadgets, which contain a
repertoire of handy things masquerading as stylish ladys essentials. There are
sunglasses that function as a spy camera, mine detector, and infrared spectrograph. There
are barrettes that become lock-picks, cigarette lighters that hide welding torches,
lipstick grenades, and perfume that acts as a sleeping gas. In a pinch most gadgets can
act as weapons. For instance, the barrette/lock-pick can also be used to stab someone.
Yes, the story, characters, atmosphere, and level designareas wherein
most games failare top-notch. The weapons are impressive. And yet, this port manages
to disappoint in almost every other way imaginable. First, this game delivers the worst
control of any console FPS in recent memory. The set-up is like any other PS2 FPS, using
the left analog stick to move, the right to look and aim, and the various buttons to fire,
switch weapons, use items, et cetera. It is the control response that is the culprit here.
The default sensitivity for the analog sticks is incredibly slow. You can adjust it,
although not in the in-game menu, so with some patience, and a lot of trial and error, you
should be able to make yourself happy. The crazy auto aim is another matter entirely. All
you have to do is get the targeting reticule within ten feet of your foe and it jumps
right onto his or her chest. This makes the sniper levels a joke, as you could practically
make the kills with your eyes closed. Conversely, it makes the stealth missions too
difficult. Again, as soon as your aim gets anywhere near your target, it jumps directly
onto their chests, making a head shot next to impossible. This can be turned off, which in
turn makes the analog sensitivity all the more important, requiring more tweaking. The
game does not support a keyboard and mouse.
The save features are frustrating. There is no quick save; you have to exit the game
completely in order to save your progress. As NOLF is divided into levels, rather than
being a continual story line, it saves your game at the beginning of the last mission you
were on. And the load times are intolerably longmake yourself lunch, check your
mail, go to the bank long.
The AI is none too impressive, either. This is one of those games where most
enemies and NPCs are oblivious. Adversaries do not strategize or evade. They stand there,
getting shot at and returning fire. It is also one of those games where enemies do not so
much sneak up on you as appear out of nowhere. And though all games have pre-scripted
events that progress the story, the events in NOLF are way too obvious. There is a level
early in the game that has a high-ranking official wandering the streets while H.A.R.M.
agents try to assassinate him. This all happens unbeknownst to him, as Cate is hold up in
a sniper position, picking off the enemies before they get to him. At first, the
guys oblivious actions and quips are funny, but after a while it becomes absurd.
People are shot right in front of him, and he doesnt notice. He stumbles over a dead
man with a gunshot to the head, and mistakes him for a drunk. Even this would be fine,
however, if the whole thing wasnt so predictable. The assassins wander out into
plain view from any one of a few selected positions, so that the level performs like Duck
Hunt rather than a spy adventure.
There are other, smaller gameplay issues that get tedious after a while. Things like
ridiculous automatic mission failures. In one level, a merchant is trying to sell a
soldier a monkey. You can hear their conversation as you sneak by, and after a rather
prolonged sales pitch, I decided to just kill the monkey. When I did, the mission was
failed due to "unacceptable simian casualties." Now, this is kind of funny. But
there are many situations like this that are ultimately pretty stupid, especially when you
have to start the mission all over again, after that horrendous load time.
As far as replay value goes, there are a few levels that you may want to go back and
play a few times. There is no multiplayer, however, which is a bit of a faux pas in the
FPS genre, unless you are freaking brilliant, like Deus Ex. This game is not.
The graphics are terrible. I dont think this is a matter of merely being
outdated. The character models are blocky and stiff, the textures practically
non-existent, and the special effects poor, but it is more than that. There are clipping
and collision problems, flicker, aliasing, constant slow down, you name it. Important
things disappear and reappear. Some of the characters have heads that are almost
misshapen. All of this adds up to a lack of care taken with the porting process.
The sound, on the other hand, is quite good. This is especially true of the music,
which is prefect. The theme song is a dramatic, soulful rendition worthy of any Bond film.
The actors are pretty good as well, always finding just the right time to overact. It is
hamming it up taken to an artistic level.
In the end, NOLF is a good game that has been done a terrible injustice. One only has
to look at the Gamecube version of Resident Evil to see what a little bit of love can do
for revamping a classic to a console port. That game is beautiful. The graphics are
nothing short of stunning. They even went in and tweaked the gameplay and added different
puzzles. They made it so good that even the people who had abandoned the series have to
play it. I used to rant on and on about how Capcom was a lazy, money-grubbing monster that
released nothing but sequels and clones of Street Fighter. After playing the PS2 ports of
Half-Life and NOLF, Sierra has become the monster. These are two of the most popular PC
games ever made. They are the games that defined todays first person shooters, and
paved the way for console games like HALO and Red Faction. Yet when Sierra finally decided
to port them over to a capable console like the PS2, they showed neither the games, nor
the fans any love whatsoever. Their graphics are outdated, their performance lackluster.
Think of what these games could have been with a little bit of polish, some refined
controls, and serviceable multiplayer modes! They could have been just as good today as
they were then, maybe better. As it is, No One Lives Forever is the kind of game that you
want to love, but just cant. Only diehard FPS fans will be able to overlook the
myriad of problems plaguing this title. Better to wait for the sequel, and pray that it is
simultaneously developed for the console, while it is still relevant.