shooters generally come in two flavors; there are those that serve the frag on,
dewdz crowd and those that cater to the thinking mans group. The
first kind emphasizes blowing stuff up good, quick-twitch muscle groups, and endless
nights of Mountain Dew-powered multiplayer gaming. Think Quake III and Unreal Tournament.
The other emphasizes problem-solving, stealth, and solidif not quite Dickensiansingle
player narratives. Think System Shock II and Thief. Though
both kinds of shooter make excellent games, both of course have their weaknesses. Games
that emphasize running around blowing the bejabbers out of everything can be
mind-numbingly dumb (think George W. Bush), and games that emphasize pondering arcane
puzzles can be mind-numbingly dull (think Al Gore). With No One Lives Forever, Monolith
successfully combines the best points of both types of shooter in one game. And the end
result is terrific, the gaming equivalent of combining chocolate and peanut butter.
No One Lives Forever lives unashamedly in the world
of the 60s spy genre. There are sly tips of the hat everywhere to James Bond movies,
The Avengers, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but the game is clever enough not to take the
genre seriouslyit also plays off great spy spoofs past and present, like Get Smart!
and the Austin Powers movies. You step into this world as Cate Archer, a Scot catburglar
turned spy who works for a benevolent spy consortium named UNITY. And yes, she looks
fabulous.Your problem (and the rest of the worlds problem) is a shadowy organization
named H.A.R.M., which has been setting off a series of mysterious and powerful explosions.
You job is to figure out whos doing this, how theyre doing it, and why.
Its a tough job, and youll
pick up a lot of frequent flier milesNo One Lives Forever takes you to such settings
as Berlin, Morocco, the Alps, the Pacific Northwest, and the tropics. Once in these
locales, youll work your way through a series of scenes--No One Lives
Forever never forgets its cinematic inspiration. Each of these scenes is like an episode
from a Bond movie; youll be presented some sort of sticky situation, and youll
have to find some ingenious way out of it.
ingenious some of the time at least. As I noted above, No One Lives Forever is a splendid
combination of flat-out shooter and first-person stealther. In some missions, going around
with and AK-47 and blowing away everything that moves will just about make everything all
right. But even then, youre going to have to be a little more savvy than usual.
Circle-strafing will just make you dead pronto in this game; to succeed, youll have
to use cover and switch weapons often. Other missions place a premium on avoiding
detection and figuring out puzzles. From reading the message boards, I see one of the most
common complaints about No One Lives Forever comes from hardcore fraggers who cant
take the tedium involved in working through the stealth missions, as if sneaking your way
through a compound full of movie cameras and guard dogs were the equivalent of studying
for an accounting exam. Ok, you guys, stick to Quake III. Im sure Quake IV will be
along soon, and itll be even prettier. Whoo-hoo!
But for anyone with an attention span exceeding how long it takes to read
the last sentence, these scenes are a pure joy. First, they take place in unexpected
settingson a crippled jetliner, on a sinking ship, on a gondola besieged by
helicopters and most of all in the spacious, colorful, outdoors. Secondly, these scenes
have narrative-driven goals that make sensenot just run around until you find
the button that lets you exit, and oh yeah shoot all the crates that look a little
different, because theres stuff in them. (In a real coup for a first-person
shooter, there are no crates in No One Lives Foreveror at least none with stuff in
them.) Finally, the missions are very enjoyable; with few exceptions, the puzzles
themselves strike a nice balancetheyre just difficult enough to get you
thinking, and you can figure them out by thinking.
you in your missions, youll be given a wide variety of gee-whiz spy technology circa
1966. Your lipstick collection, for example, is really a cleverly concealed variety of
hand grenades. Sunglasses serve both to protect your eyes from the sun and as a camera,
mine detector, and infrared vision device. Your barrette? A lock pick. Your lighter? A
welding torch. Even your perfume atomizer dispenses a variety of useful gases. These items
arent just window dressing; to negotiate the game, youll have to use them. The
same principle is at work with the games weapons. Though youll acquire
increasingly powerful weapons as the game moves along, theyll not always be the best
ones for the job. Unlike many other FPSs, in which you blast away with the most
powerful weapon in your arsenal until it runs out of ammo, in No One Lives Forever youll
employ your humble pistol with silencer as much as your 9mm machine gun. And with one
slight exception, there are no uber-weapons in this game. You don't even get a missile
launcher. Again, this makes the "I can shoot my way out of hell itself" approach
much less effective.
In keeping with the
cinematic tone of the game itself, the cutscenes that advance the games narrative
between missions are also very cinematic. They even tend to be a little on the longish
side, a quality that may annoy some action mavens but which is great for exposition and
character development. And character development yet again sets this game apart from
others. Not only is Cate Archer a groovy-looking chick, shes also got a personality
and a set of issues that shes dealing with--vice, say, Laura Croft. Even the
villains in the game are real characters; surprisingly enough, youll probably find
yourself liking one of them, and applauding his not-so-dreadful end. Hell, even guards
have personality in the game. As in Thief,
youll often overhear guards before you see them, and often theyll engage in
hilarious (really, Im not kidding, one of the great things about this game is how
funny it is) conversations about their jobs, families, or the Beatles.
personality is also enriched by its graphics, which are excellent. The Lithtech engine is
here put to its best use since Shogo. The
settings are rendered in brilliant color; No One Lives Forever is no dark and dingy
dungeon crawl. The games graphics reflect the mod attitude of the swingin
early 60s spy thriller, and the games attention to detail is superb. From the
architecture and French-language signs in Morocco to the flyers advertising Beatles shows
in Hamburg (a bit anachronistic, but so what?), the games settings lend the
atmosphere and character necessary for a cinematic suspension of disbelief. The games
characters are also well-modeled and detailed. Guards are never merely generic, they
always look like they belong in Morocco or the Alps or Berlin.
Sound is also
first-rate. As in other stealth games, you'll often hear things before you see them, and
sounds can provide valuable clues. The music is really cool and provides instantly
recognizable 60's spy film ambiance.
While No One Lives
Forevers focus is clearly its single player game, you can also play multiplayer.
While you can choose from over 40 skins and many levels, the only game options are
deathmatch and team deathmatch, and overall multiplayer implementation is merely
One Lives Forever has excellent and detailed graphics, an amusing narrative, a wicked
sense of humor, and tons of personality. More importantly, it has the most well-balanced
and enjoyable gameplay weve ever seen in a shooter. Some have suggested that No One
Lives Forever is the best first-person shooter since Half-Life. Wed suggest its