Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 11/19/02 | Genre: First Person Shooter
First-person shooters seem to be a dime a dozen on the PC platform. For every Half-Life there seems to be about ten variations of Deer Hunter. Decent single-player, first-person shooters don't come out very often but, thankfully, Fox Interactive has given us one more reason to have faith in the genre with their new game, No One Lives Forever.
Taking a cue from Austin Powers, No One Lives Forever is a 60's-era spy story that doesn't take itself very seriously. The story starts out with multiple spies from U.N.I.T.Y. being methodically killed off in the line of duty. Someone is exposing these spies to the criminal organization H.A.R.M. but, with the active roster of operatives at U.N.I.T.Y. at an all time low, there is little that can be done to actively investigate the situation. Enter Cate Archer, U.N.I.T.Y.'s last hope to stopping the evil forces of H.A.R.M. Considering the prejudice she endures due to her shady past and being a woman; she's also U.N.I.T.Y.'s last resort in the matter. Initially, Cate will find herself doing routine operative mission such as protecting a bumbling diplomat from an assassination attempt but later missions will involve sneaking into enemy headquarters, investigating a sunken ship and even orbiting space stations. No One Lives Forever is built upon Monolith's Lithtech 2.5 engine and, for the most part, it does the job very well. The code doesn't look quite as advanced as the Quake 3: Arena engine but it's definitely a step up from the plethora of Quake 2-based games that seem to populate the FPS genre.
No One Lives Forever seems to mix relatively low polygon objects with incredibly detailed character models. Trashcans, ashtrays, bathroom sinks, army trucks, etc, all look blocky using very few polygons. In contrast, character and weapon models seem to have very detailed shapes due to more polygon use and definitely benefit from having more detailed textures applied to them. The AK-47 has a nice wood grain texture applied to it with reflective metal parts. Characters like Cate seem to have few sharp edges that would indicate polygon seams and even have fully 3D mouth movements when speaking and eyelashes that are actually projected from the eyelids. Though such a strange mismatch of detailed characters and relatively plain real world objects seems like it would be distracting, it actually works far better in the end. Items that the player will spend the most time watching, such as the characters in cut scenes or holding weapons in hand are given the most attention while items that are there just to populate an area are given passable detail. The best thing about the engine is that although it looks quite nice -- featuring some rather nice texturing effects and highly detailed characters -- it still runs quite well even on this reviewer's modest PC.
Just as in the Austin Powers movies, the music in No One Lives Forever is inspired by music that appeared in 60's era spy movies and TV shows. The music certainly does fit the game but there isn't anything particularly memorable about it either. One thing that is worthy of mention is the great voice work that has been done here. The voices are very convincing and never seem to be forced or overacted. These people sound like real actors and not testers picked at the last minute of development like other games do. Another thing worth mentioning is the accents. Unlike Danger Girl or Perfect Dark, which featured either very faint accents or very forced Sean Connery knockoffs, the accents in No One Lives Forever sound real and not improvised. Voices for Cate, Bruno, Angus, and others give their characters strong personalities and work quite well.
If you've played any number of FPS titles on the PC, then the gameplay in No One Lives Forever won't come as too much of a shock. The game is easily designated as a first-person shooter but much like GoldenEye and Deus Ex on PC, openly gunning down enemies may not be the most effective way to dispatch enemies. True to the main character's profession, stealth and quiet takedowns prove to be a far better way than with guns blazing. Silent, quiet weapons like a sniper rifle, silenced pistol and spear guns -- as well as secret gadgets -- help with the task. Some of the gadgets are fairly simple such as body remover, which dissolves dead bodies so they can't be discovered by enemy patrols or the quarter, which isn't a gadget at all but simply a quarter. (Quarters can be used to distract guards, so they're not entirely useless.) A few of the gadgets are quite clever, such as the lighter that can also turn into a welding torch or the belt buckle that also doubles as a grappling hook. There are also infrared and mine detector sunglasses that come in quite handy. Once you collect these weapons and gadgets in the game, they're added to the load out screen at the beginning of a mission. Cate can only carry so much, so it's important to pick weapons and gadgets that will be of best use in each mission. Along with the weapons and gadgets to aid our heroine on various tasks, there are also top-secret documents that are scattered all around the game. You can accomplish objectives without them but they do add some exploration to the game as well as a bit of replay value.
Even though No One Lives Forever has stealth elements, it shouldn't alienate action fans in the least. Some stealth missions are somewhat difficult to accomplish without making a peep, as occasionally enemies seem to have superhuman hearing but, overall, much like Thief and Deus Ex, the stealth elements give this the game some legs when it could have been just another paint-by-numbers FPS. And, like Half-Life, there are scripted events that make the game world feel more alive and realistic. The story is quite good too and the humor is top-notch, which is due in large part to the excellent voice acting and dialogue. I would even go as far as to say that No One Lives Forever parodies 60's style spy flicks far better than Mike Myers did in his Austin Powers movie. It's true; I had far more laughs and giggles listening to the dialog and puns that populate No One Lives Forever than I did the entire Austin Powers movie. The multiplayer modes aren't exactly exciting but the excellent single player missions more than make up for it. Fans of Thief and Deus Ex will immediately feel comfortable with the gameplay here, since stealth is encouraged but not nearly as deadly as it was in those games. Even if Cate is discovered, you can still fight your way out of trouble and accomplish the mission.
No One Lives Forever may not get the notoriety that Half-Life did but it's certainly in the same caliber of quality. Now that the price has been discounted at many retail outlets, don't miss your chance to play one of the best FPS games to be released in recent years.