RETRO – No one lives forever? What a cliché! Yet, it’s a very different phrase coming from the mouth of a seductive and energetic lady, the attractive green-eyed and desirably full-lipped Cate Archer.
At first glance, the heroine of Fox Interactive’s action game looks like she stepped out of the pages of a 1960s fashion magazine like Life or Paris Match. Except for the modelling profession, the era is correct: Miss Archer is a James Bond-esque top-secret agent. You know, the kind who is so ‘secret’ that almost the entire male population of the world is at her feet. From admiration or simply dead.
You Only Live Twice
The year is 1967. The James Bond film You Only Live Twice, starring Sean Connery, is released in Western cinemas. It was also the year chosen by Fox Interactive for the story of their game No One Lives Forever. The date and the similarity in the title are, of course, not coincidental: NOLF is most reminiscent of the adventures of Agent 007. There are also many nods to TV series such as The Man from Uncle or The Avengers. A remake of the latter was also made starring Uma Thurman, who bears a striking resemblance to the aristocratic Miss Archer.
My name is Archer. Cate Archer
Cate had two options: become an undercover agent or serve her time. Of course, her choice was clear, and we were treated to another spy-action movie motif: this time free after the French Nikita. This charming but determined lady has not always been a secret agent in the chippy-chippy business of saving the world: she was once a master thief by trade, but was once caught and only avoided jail thanks to the intervention of UNITY agent Bruno Lawrie. Her aristocratic appearance is no coincidence: her father was a real English lord, but he put a bullet in his head in a scandal when Cate was only 13. Her mother was no longer alive, so she was sent to an orphanage, from where she ran away a few weeks later. Nothing is known about the period between her escape and her capture as an adult…
Snobbery, elegance, sadism and wry English humour…
…has been the hallmark of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and film adaptations, and it’s no different with No One Lives Forever the Cate Archer adventure. Except for the female hero, the game at first glance is reminiscent of Soldiers of Fortune, Sint, or other ‘human-centric’ (i.e. not monster/dinosaur/alien-killing), special-agent-esque first-person shooters. Although the game is not as bloody as its illustrious predecessors due to its ironic nature, fans of the style will not be disappointed with NOLF: completing a single map will leave behind neat little mountains of corpses (which, moreover, do not “evaporate” in the same idiotic and disbelieving way as in most shooters)
Fortunately, the game is not all killing: besides the action sequences, NOLF draws a lot from the more tactical games like Thief or Codename Hitman 47, with their “stealth”, “deliberate”, cold-blooded killing. Since you’re playing a secret agent with a taste for covert operations and not a Duke Nukem, it’s advisable to sneak into most locations and take out your would-be victims as quietly as possible so that their companions don’t immediately fall for us. This tactic is not yet necessary on some tracks (Morocco), but breaking into a research base in East Berlin, for example, can be a real pain if half the garrison is alerted…
The cameras are shot, right? (Nope…)
Speaking of alerts: I suppose many of you are used to the idea that all you have to do to remove the threat of an alarm is to shoot out the security cameras, from the two episodes of “Crusader” (“No Remorse” and “No Regret”) or other action games set in enemy bases. Well, kiss it goodbye! In No One Lives Forever, you’ll not only be alerted if the little device spots you but also if you shoot it to pieces! I was annoyed by this restriction when playing with the demo. Still, then I thought about how much more realistic it is: the security guard is not just scratching his ears when a camera bursts on his monitor!
The solution is simply to sneak past it at lightning speed: because the device’s motion sensor is quite responsive, with the right speed, you can avoid a small army of HARM agents rushing at your neck and making the alarm go off as you complete the rest of the course.
You have to use many similar tricks to complete the missions with enough elegance during the game to get the “super-spy” instead of the “amateur” rating!
Tuesday in Morocco, Wednesday in East Berlin, Thursday at the bottom of the sea…
Speaking of missions, we can’t complain about their variety either! Most of them take place in locations and situations familiar from James Bond spy films: We have to fight a HARM agent who is trying to kill a politician in a hotel in Morocco, rescue a German scientist from a military base on the more dangerous side of the “wall” in Celtic Berlin, and even dive into the belly of a sunken ship to retrieve the captain’s logbook while fighting ravenous sharks and enemy diving agents in diving suits. Occasionally, you’ll also see classic James Bond movie hair-raising scenes – in even more challenging conditions! Remember the part in Moonraker when Roger Moore, playing James Bond, is thrown out of a plane door, and our super-agent has to catch the enemy as he falls, rip off his parachute and force it down before he hits the ground? Now we’re going to do the same thing, but we’ll also have to shoot the floating enemy jumping towards us in the ether! Well, what can I say? I was swearing like a sailor during this part…
For Queen and Country!
Beyond the gameplay, perhaps the most significant difference compared to standard shooters like Soldier of Fortune is that the story is much more elaborate and a much more integral part of the game as a whole. Here, we are finally presented with briefing mosaics describing missions and a constantly evolving story on the ground: we lose friends, allies, secret meetings, etc. The graphic designers have really gone the extra mile: thanks to Cate’s 3D model made of 1700 polygons, not only is her movement more lifelike than Lara Croft’s rubber women, but her face has been given a truly human beauty. We can always admire Miss Archer’s charm and elegance during the dialogue.
+ James Bond-like, yet original story
+ Clever mix of Thief-style stealth and Soldier of Fortune-style killing gameplay
+ Professional graphics
– … with minor flaws
– rare but annoying bugs
– too difficult in places
Publisher: FOX Interactive
Developer: Monolith Productions
Release date: 2000