Game Over Online ~ No One Lives Forever

GameOver Game Reviews - No One Lives Forever (c) Fox Interactive, Reviewed by - Pseudo Nim

Game & Publisher No One Lives Forever (c) Fox Interactive
System Requirements Windows, Pentium II-300, 64MB Ram, 400MB HDD, 3D Accelerator, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 90%
Date Published Thursday, December 28th, 2000 at 07:26 AM

Divider Left By: Pseudo Nim Divider Right

It is not often these days that a first-person shooter comes out that genuinely entertains the player for longer than a couple of minutes. Soldier of Fortune was like that - though, to be perfectly honest, it was nothing out of the ordinary, except the excellent damage segregation on models. It was just way fun shooting people in the nuts. Besides that, the last good first-person shooter that I remember is… well, I'm sure I can remember one if I think long enough. The point is, it's quite hard to think of good first-person shooters over these last months (even years). Sure, there is Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament: but Quake 3 is a technology demo as far as I'm concerned (I don't like the actual game a lot at all), and Unreal Tournament is purely multiplayer (there is no point playing it single besides honing your skills).

NOLF sets itself far, far from the usual crowd of "here-is-a-plasma-rifle-and-many-aliens-kill-them-all" games. The game's premise lies around a very Bond-esque/Austin Powers-esque theme whereupon you play the role of Cate Archer, a British ex-thief turned superspy, by coincidence of work, lack thereof, or "forced circumstances". You join an organization called UNITY (which reminds me of SOLDIER in Final Fantasy), which, up 'till now, had been exclusively staffed by males, so you have to deal with a healthy dose of chauvinism as well. Nobody thinks you're competent to perform this work, but staff is being cut short by an enemy organization called H.A.R.M., so UNITY can use whatever help they can get.

The first thing you notice about the game is that missions are rarely single-tracked and predictable. You will never see a mission where you have to run through a level, kill everything, collect five keys, unlock five doors, and go to the exit. This kind of gameplay ended around 1994, and everything after that was a bad cliché. In NOLF, missions are varied and challenging: but "challenging" doesn't mean that there are many, many bad guys with AK47s. Challenges lie in other fields: for example, you get greatly rewarded if you manage to utilize stealth as much as possible. As a result, if you pass through a mission without being detected by anybody, you will get a much higher rating than if you just blast through the level. The ingenious part of the game is that it caters to both audiences: you CAN blast through the mission killing everything in sight (except a few missions halfway through the game). Sure, when you are detected, the enemies will do their best to make sure you don't leave the area alive, but if you're up for a fight, you will definitely enjoy it.

There are several items to mention on the subject of mission content, but an interesting one pertains to using the environment around you to your advantage. For example, you can use a cigarette lighter to set trashcans on fire, which will divert security to the room with the fire: this can help you a lot if you need to get by a certain area. Furthermore, you can use coins to distract guards. Notably (according to a message board I looked over) the coins used in the game are British 50pence coins, which did not appear in circulation until the early 1970s - but the game is set around the end of the 1960s. As well, while on the subject of attention to detail, I should note the voice acting in the game: while it is by all means excellent, about half of the times (or more) the pseudo-British accent used sounds incredibly fake. Cate's accent sounds all right (though some Brits seem to be quite unhappy with it), but some of the other "Englishmen's" accents are so apparently American that it hurts the ear to hear them speak. The German accents are usually fairly well done (to an untrained ear, anyway).

A very commendable part of the game is the AI. I haven't played against such a "smart" AI in quite some time. The coolest example that I have seen to date was Unreal's (which I thought was cool at the time, anyway), where enemies would try to dodge your shots by rolling to the side and such. That was very new and funky for the first 10 minutes or so. Then you knew exactly what they would do, and it stopped being fun. In NOLF, enemies also have a fairly predictable set of patterns: roll to the side; run away; flip over furniture and hide behind it; get help; charge head on; and a few others. The coolest part, as far as I'm concerned, is when you attack enemies, and they hide behind furniture, stick just their hand with the gun out and lay down blind suppressing fire. That is just way too cool. The enemies will also often check if their comrades are alive or not by crouching over them and checking their pulse (excellent time for a silenced shot to the head!). Sometimes they even say things like "Uh-oh, this doesn't look good, dead body here!"

As a matter of fact, dialogue between enemy units is a whole subject of praise in itself. If you sneak up on enemies, you will hear dialogues between them once in a while. Sometimes they sound sort of washed out boring, but at other times, the humour really shines. Some of the dialogues I've encountered included one guy attempting to establish a causality relationship between drinking beer and criminal behaviour; people making plans for the weekend (cut short by me, regrettably); one guy telling another guy about a third guy who screwed up his dinner plans so much that he lost both his wife and his mistress… and so forth. It's fun. A lot of fun. The cutscenes (all engine-rendered - no pre-rendered movies at all) are often very funny, as well; even when matters are dire, there is a dose of sarcasm or irony stuck in every other sentence.

As you progress through the game, you will require use of many items to help you on your way. (That is to say, if you play properly, unlike me). You are equipped by your base's "Santa's Workshop", with a tinny-sounding guy that sounds much like Q. you get lipsticks that explode, perfume bottles that shoot out stun/acid/sleep gas, cigarette lighters with built-in mini-welders, sunglasses with built-in zoom cameras and so forth. Some of these items are mandatory (such as sunglasses, which you will use for taking evidence pictures), and some are not (such as lipsticks and perfume bottles), which allows you to build a strategy of your own to go through the game.

Of course, none of this would be complete without a descriptions of what you actually kill people with. I mean, notwithstanding all the nice elements, this is still a first-person shooter at heart, and you need something more definite than a lipstick to defend yourself from armed thugs. There are quite a few weapons in the game: you have a 9mm Parabellum with an optional silencer, a 9mm SMG, an AK47 with an optional sniper scope (does that make any sense? I'm not sure, but I never thought SMGs were precise enough to be able to snipe with); a carbine with a sniper scope and a silencer; a Geldmacher SVD sniper rifle with a sniper scope and an optional night vision scope (did they even have these in 1967?); a grenade launcher (conveniently disguised as a briefcase); a crossbow; and another weird weapon which fires single-fire HE (high explosive) shots. It's not as powerful as a grenade launcher, but it does a lot of damage. There are two other weapons which I found out about via cheat codes, which are … ah… entertaining, so to say.

While on the subject of cheat codes, props to the designers of the game - I suppose they enjoyed this movie as much as I did when putting the cheat codes into the game. On a side note, does anybody know who Dr. Dentz is that the game makes reference to?

There are some grudges about the game, of course. For starters, the LithTech 2.5 engine isn't quite as earth-shattering as LithTech was back when Shogo was made. As a result, textures aren't very sharp, and trying to read wall signs from up close is very often futile. Also, it's quite annoying that you can't destroy the environment. I miss Crusader: No Remorse… I want to be able to destroy phones, desk lamps, desks, doors, book cases, everything! Shogo had that, and I loved wiping out rooms. It was a great ammo waster. The other grudge that I had about the game (but the patch, fortunately, fixed it) was that enemies could hear your silenced shots from many miles away, thus completely defeating the purpose of a silenced rifle. That has been fixed, so now you can enjoy stealthy destruction with no obstructions. However, the AI will still glitch up occasionally, in very strange ways: normally, when you shoot somebody in sight of someone else, they will come for you (that makes sense). But it has happened to me that I shot a guy standing right in front of another guy, yet he just stood there (until I shot him). Strange.

Another very cool thing about the game is the music. Though I prefer the menu music to the actual game music (same as in Crusader: No Remorse, for example, or Deus Ex, or a few other games), music throughout the game is very unique and suited to the situation, not to mention dynamic - it changes depending on whether you are crawling quietly through air ducts avoiding line of sight of enemies, or whether you are running around with guns drawn, drawing blood.

With all that said, I can whole-heartedly recommend NOLF as an outstanding title well worthy of a gamer's overtaxed, overstressed wallet. It's not often that a game comes around (in today's crazy games market) that is (a) entertaining, (b) actually keeps you glued to the screen for a while and (c) lets you kill lots of people while at it. All that with a unique style, plenty of chicks, and an attitude to boot. This is definitely one of the better games this year, and further establishes Monolith (at least in my view) as a consistently good game creator. Now make a Shogo 2!!!!


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