Ahhh... the '60's, a time where funky colours, hippy daisies and skin-tight outfits were the norm comes No One Lives Forever. The stealthy FPS is a genre that has been played time and time again ... new graphics engines, better storylines, blah blah... new improvements are always being made but the games are just the same. Goto point A, find key card, goto point B and insert in door to finish the level. Whoopee, that was a blast. Can NOLF breath new life back into the FPS?
You play an English vixen, in a rainbow-coloured cat suit who goes by the name of Cate Archer, "The Operative"
. You work for a British Secret Government organization called Unity. Your mission? Take down the terrorist agency called H.A.R.M., who has notoriously been taking out almost half of your best agents. Being the '60's, women aren't on the same plateau that men were on and thus Cate [although she is one of / if not the best agent] has to continually prove herself to the snobby male supervisors.
You have two options while playing this game. First, be a Rambo and blast your way through the levels, ripping apart every bad guy you see. Second, you can play it stealthy and take out each enemy one by one without anyone realizing what is happening until it's too late. The latter is the preferred method in NOLF, hence the "stealthy FPS" moniker. This is something that I really like about this game; much like Deus Ex. Although yes, you could run around blowing everything up - you're going to run out of ammo sooner or later and you're just creating more of a hassle for yourself in the process; attracting more guards, setting off alarms, etc. NOLF is played much the same way, though, not nearly as serious or strict.
Aiding the gameplay are film-style, widescreen cut scenes that not only show off the perfect lip-synching of the Lithtech 2.5 engine but also helps grasp the situation and add comic relief. Much like Deus Ex, you often have the ability to select your response to the questions being asked in this dialogue. You can play it like the teacher's pet and suck up to your superiors, or have that edgy, teenage-esque attitude. However, the one flaw I can probably lay on NOLF without guilt would be that these cut scenes often get very tiresome in length. Don't get me wrong, you have the option of skipping every one but often they provide you with hints and other mission objectives.
Using the new Lithtech 2.5 engine, the game is absolutely gorgeous! Taking a look at metallic objects in the game, they shine and glimmer, depending on your position in the level and how the light hits them. A more technical explanation would be environment mapping and directional illumination for accurate model lighting.
The average model in the game are made up of just shy of 2000 polys; Cate being around 1700. Needless to say, the game shines (literally).
Skeletal animation is superb, allowing for truly realistic movement. If you shoot a guy in the left shoulder, he'll get thrown back in that direction; similar to whiplash (if you've ever been so unfortunate as to have experienced it). Apparently, there are 18 damage zones on each model which react differently to various types of guns, explosions and damage. Lip-synching is another great example of this - all of this is done perfectly and right on cue. Think ... the opposite of Deus Ex. In addition to this, people actually blink! Though it's no where near the facial animations of the Unreal 2 engine (you have to see the technology demo to know what I'm talking about), the facial animations in NOLF are quite spectacular.
Sound is also very well done and planned out. You have music accompanying you throughout the levels and musical cues hint at upcoming baddies or danger. Similar to the Tomb Raider series, but ... better. Voice acting is very impressive, to say the least. What's more, enemies and allies alike often carry on conversations of their own and it pays to eaves drop. Not only will they more often than not tell you things about the mission, the game and it's objectives a lot of the time they're very funny to listen to! Comedy is added to this game at not so much an overpowering effect (to spoil the mood) but rather in a subtle "ahhh... I get it!" way.
Mission design and layout are terrific. Throughout the entire game not once did I get stumped and want to stop playing. Every mission is different and very well planned out. Sometimes you'll be in a bell tower taking our baddies from a distance, protecting an Ambassador and others you'll be sneaking about a snow-ridden ski lift taking out hordes of baddies at a time. Maps are full of objects and eye candy to shoot, hide behind or just gawk at.
Multiplayer is good, but it's not as good as it could've been. This game was obviously designed around single player, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. You've got the normal DM and TDM and variations of CTF. Most weapons are present in multiplayer and the few maps that are present are very well designed; almost single player quality. You also have the ability to be just about anyone you want in the game, character wise. It's no Tribes, but it's still fun.
All in all, this game just rocks. People who loved the Austin Powers movies will adore this game for it's comical wit and FPS fans will love it for it's excellent design. Aside from the somewhat lengthy cutscenes, it's very hard to fault NOLF.
No One Lives Forever Website