Content of the article: "No One Lives Forever lived up to the expectations!"
Developed by Monolith, the creators of legendary titles such as Blood and F.E.A.R. (and some far less reputable ones… cough cough… Blood 2… cough cough!), the No One Lives Forever series are games that for one reason or another I have never played before, despite being well aware of their reputation and cultural status since their release. The fact that the games are in copyrights hell and aren’t available for purchase digitally didn’t help matters, but thankfully I was recently made aware of the NOLF Revival project, that takes these games that by all intents and purposes are now abandonware and makes them available for download, patched up and ready for modern OSs. The only extra I installed was the Modernizer patch for better wide-screen support and some quality of life fixes.
The Operative: No One Lives Forever is a linear(ish) fps with stealth elements with clear inspirations from James Bond and Austin Powers among others, a parody of spy movies and 1960s pop culture that oozes charm and personality like few others I played before.
The protagonist is Cate Archer, a female spy in the making determined to carve her way into a business dominated by men where she is constantly confronted with misogyny and condescension, to which she is always quick to respond with immense wit and snark. Her mission is to stop the evil plan by terrorist organization H.A.R.M. and its cast of cartoony and stereotypical villains that could give Dr. Evil a run for his money.
In the same fashion of those films from which it takes inspiration, NOLF will provide you with an arsenal of implausible gadgets, such as a barrette with hidden lockpick and poisoned needle, sunglasses with hidden camera, or a perfume spray that actually contains sleeping gas. The abundance of such gadgets led me initially to believe that NOLF was more of a stealth game, but I was wrong, the gameplay is that of a traditional first person shooter with some stealth elements and the game seem to lean more toward the former, with a few exceptions. The gameplay overall is still pretty good, but it is after all an old game and the controls show their age, so ymmv.
My biggest issues with NOLF are the buggy-as-hell enemy AI that’ll spot you through walls or hear you moving from across the map, and some cutscenes that drag for way too long, but thankfully that tends to only happen during briefings between missions so the pace of the game isn’t disrupted too much.
Despite all of that the game is fun as hell and the story is filled with funny and quotable moments. NOLF doesn’t take itself too seriously and is all the better for it. Everything from the art style, to the music, the voice acting, the locations and the writing comes together into an amazing and fun experience. If there ever was any doubt that style trumps graphics, this game will settle the matter quickly and definitely.
No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy In H.A.R.M.’s Way is a direct sequel and sees Cate Archer once again trying to uncover and put a wrench into H.A.R.M.’s plans. New characters and some returning ones make up a cast that is possibly even more colorful than its predecessor.
The main improvements that NOLF2 brings to the table are the more detailed graphics and some much needed gameplay overhaul. The gameplay now sports a skill system that will allow you to improve Cate’s proficiency in different areas according to your style of play. Stealth is much better this time around with new mechanics and better enemy AI that will allow you to lean more into that style of play, should you choose to do so. NOLF2 is however still an fps at its heart and especially the later levels become veritable shooting galleries, so I’d say the game is about 50/50 in terms of stealth to shooter ratio. The shooting is tighter, there's more environmental interactivity and a number of quality of life improvements can be seen in all areas, which make the game feel more streamlined.
Some changes I liked far less, however. In the first one there was a loadout selector before starting a mission, which in NOLF2 is gone and for no better reason than to impose arbitrary restrictions on the player. For example, Cate starts several missions lacking the needed tools to progress and has to look for them, but that often makes little sense when you then find them in packages placed in the map by your own agency (did they infiltrate the super secret enemy base just to leave a few gadgets for you to find later?). Also, why is the lockpick a simple multitool now? What happened to the barrette? Why is the blow torch an actual blow torch instead of being concealed in the lighter like before? Half the gadgets don't have the same fun factor as before.
The story also presents some issues. In general, while it sports better animated cutscenes and new interesting characters and locations, the general feeling it gave me was of a more disjointed and less interesting narrative. A lot of the cutscenes seem to be cut short and severely lacking in sound design, with a negative impact on the overall flow. Also Cate has a different voice actor now and I'm not songs on the new one. I’ll be honest I wasn’t nearly as invested in the narrative as I was with the first game.
In conclusion, NOLF2 has the better gameplay overall, but a far less interesting story. I'll still highly recommended it though.
Contract J.A.C.K. is a spin-off that takes place between the events of NOLF and NOLF2, and unlike those games, this one throws stealth out of the way and is 100% old school run-n-gun shooter formula. I never heard of this game before I saw it on the Revival page, and I soon found out why.
This game is as generic as they come, the poster child for unremarkable videogames, a boring endless shooting gallery of moronic enemies that make a beeline to be the first to place their face in front of your barrel. The shooting feels nice, but it's wasted on boredom-inducing design.
I gave up on it in less than half an hour. Everything that was good about the series is thrown out. Gone are the humour, the style, the compelling story, etc… All that remains is recycled assets and worthless content. Avoid.
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