No-One Lives Forever (NOLF) is a first-person shooter game for the PC that follows the adventures of Cate Archer, a thief turned international spy who works for an organisation called UNITY.
Both games feature an immersive storyline and impressive gameplay. Addiction is almost certainly guaranteed. The story starts as several of UNITY's operatives are being bumped off by a mysterious man with an eye-patch. The camera then jumps to Cate Archer's bathroom where she is interrupted from her shower1 by a call from her friend Bruno. They meet in a bar and she agrees to work for UNITY. Next stop: the training missions.
UNITY vs HARM
Basically, UNITY are the good guys - modelled on the UK Ministry of Defence of the 1960s - and HARM are the bad guys, a little like the SPECTRE organisation from the Bond films, except that they are much less well-organised. One running joke throughout the game is that neither acronym is ever explained. This leads to references in the notes, files and other intelligence you can collect during a mission, which bear phrases such as:
Let's not forget what HARM stands for.
NOLF: The Operative
The first game in the series was a technical masterpiece. Technically, the game is a first-person shooter, but this belittles its other features. There are usually several ways to complete a mission, including:
- All guns blazing
- Silent assassination
In all levels there are cameras and guards who, if they spot you, will raise the alarm. The alarm alerts any guards in the area to your presence and in the stealth levels, this fails the mission.
NOLF won awards for the engine2 that ran it, Monolith. This revolutionary game engine allowed incredible animation of characters, detailed and realistic environments, and direct cutting between cut-scenes3 and gameplay.
NOLF2: A Spy in HARM's Way
With most game sequels there is a certain expectation from the hardcore followers. A Spy in HARM's Way exceeded all their wildest dreams. In one reviewer's words:
It blew our socks off!
NOLF2 carried on the story from the first game. HARM have become more of a danger and have decided that Cate Archer must die. HARM are attempting to start World War Three, through a complicated but believable plan.
The sequel travels to even more exotic locations than the first game, including Japan, where you can battle it out with a katana4 or shuriken throwing stars.
Unlike other sequel games, the player does not have to know the plot from the first game, but it helps.
There are many aspects to the NOLF and NOLF2 environments that contribute enormously.
Both games offer a wide range of well-designed weapons, most based on real weapons. These include:
- Sniper rifle
- Near-silent carbine rifle
- Several pistols, with or without silencer
- Tommy gun
- Harpoon gun
Other useful items include a banana5, lock-pick, lighter that doubles as mini-welder, suitcase that converts into a rocket-launcher, piton and rope-firing belt-buckle, and infra-red glasses.
One of the aspects that made the game so much fun was the humour present in it. This was on many levels: obvious physical humour, running gags and in-jokes.
It can be quite entertaining just to walk around and listen to the guards' conversations. They discuss subjects such as the health and benefits plans of being a henchman, events that happened to someone they know that sound suspiciously like a Bond film, and whether or not they should investigate that strange sound. The conversations can also give you useful clues to completing a mission, such as where certain items are located and which cameras are currently broken.
In each level there are certain items of intelligence that Cate can pick up. These include letters, memos, files, tapes and camera film. They can be found on tables and noticeboards, or may require a quick rummage through drawers and filing cabinets. Some items are required to complete a mission, whereas others only increase your score and some are only there to make you laugh, such as the following memo:
It has come to my attention that someone in the organisation has been pilfering paperclips. I don't have to remind you that this organisation will not tolerate such behaviour.
Kindly stop it immediately.
Both games also feature a 1960s-style music track during the game. It reacts to player actions, so it's soft and quiet during sneaking bits, then blends into action music when the player starts shooting, before returning to quiet music for more sneaking about.
Non-Playable Characters (NPCs)
Most of the characters you encounter in the game are guards or civilians. Although the player's interaction with guards is limited to 'shoot them, knock them out and search their pockets', they interact with each other in conversation.
Henchman 1: Where'd you transfer from?
Henchman 2: I just joined. Used to be with Evil Corp.
Henchman 1: Oh yeah, I heard about that super-laser accident.
Henchman 2: Yeah, I used to work in that building. I'm glad I wasn't there when it happened.
Henchman 1: I hate it on this space-station.
Henchman 2: Really? I quite like it.
Henchman 1: Are you kidding? The thing's a death trap. We've had three fatalities this week! I'd like to get my hands on the guy who designed this thing and throw him out an airlock.
Henchman 2: You're too late. We had a 'going away' ceremony for him at airlock two last week.
Henchman 1: What? Why wasn't I invited?
Henchman 2: Sorry, invitation only.
All the guards are also completely inept and useless. Some will stay and fight you, others will run away. They react to dead comrades lying on the floor and get scared. There is also a limit to the range they can hear, so a shot fired in one area may not alert the guards in another.
There are also many NPC allies that can either help you fight, provide intelligence or whom you must protect. There are a wide range of humorous and entertaining personalities, ranging from the shy Doctor Shenck, the cool CIA agent, the gung-ho general, the UNITY directors and the very butch Magnus Armstrong.
Austin Powers Meets 007
There are many level settings that are spoofs of either Bond films or Austin Powers films. They include:
- A volcano
- A tropical island with a spacecraft launch facility
- A space station
- An underground lair
- Falling out of an aircraft without a parachute
- Collapsing bridge over shark-infested water
- Underwater shipwreck
Plus many comical situations:
- Chasing a midget mime on a tricycle with a tommy gun
- Inside a caravan that's caught inside a tornado
- Working for HARM as a double agent
- HARM's secret underground lair, complete with fake lava
Not satisfied with creating a superb single player game, NOLF and NOLF2 are also excellent multi-player games6. They offer a good range of levels and mission types. The only problem can be the difficulty of finding anyone else to play against.
The multi-player version blends the detailed and beautifully-created environments of the game with the challenge of fighting against, or alongside, real people playing somewhere else.