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PS2 Review : 'The Operative: No One Lives Forever'

by The Cookie Snatcher on May 24, 2002 @ 4:02 p.m. PDT

Assume the role of Cate Archer, a beautiful but deadly Operative working for UNITY - a super secret organization fighting to free the world from the clutches of H.A.R.M. From tense subterfuge to in-your-face combat, No One Lives Forever ups the ante for plot-driven, 1960's-influenced spy action with killer weapons, vivid international locales and deadly arch villains. Equipped with an arsenal of powerful weapons and spy gadgets, you must rely on your quick wit and stealth to protect humanity from twisted madmen bent upon world domination. Did the game get stuck in the 60's ? Or did we wish we were born in the 60's? Find out!


Platform: PS2
Genre: FPS
Publisher: Sierra Studios
Developer: Monolith Productions
Release Date: 4/17/2002

No One Lives Forever is a game that PC enthusiasts worldwide have been evangelizing since the day of its release, and rightly so. This is one of the first FPSes that took the genre to a new, original height. Witty dialogue and creative game play dynamics help this game to stand out from the barrage of sub-par shooter games, even to this day. Plus its got the hot hot hottie mc'hottie Cate Archer to satisfy every googly eyed geek-boy this side of Lara Croft.

Bringing this game to the PS2 was decidedly a good idea since otherwise it would have been laid to pasture in the eternal realm of obscurity. I'm glad that NOLF is being given extra exposure with its console release on the PS2, it deserves another round of applause -- BUT the overall experience is hindered by a small handful of shortcomings. The fact that you are unable to save wherever you want is the main problem with this port, luckily the levels are broken into smaller segments in an attempt to ease the situation. But despite Sierra's dim-witted modifications to the game it still retains the essence of the original PC version. Newcomers to the game will find a lot to like about NOLF in which case comparisons to the PC version may be irrelevant.

The plot of the game puts you in the role of Cate Archer, an international super-spy who works for an anti-terrorist organization called UNITY. The story begins with the unearthing of a terrorist group that little is known about, the only thing anybody knows for sure about them is their name; HARM. Missions that you successfully complete will allow you access to more and more information about HARM and their intentions.

Every character in the game has a unique personality and the dialogue that transpires is some of the funniest moments found in any video game. Cate Archer is a sleek and stylish woman who knows how to get things done, although she does have a tendency to get in harms way more often then she would like thanks to her trash-talkin' tongue.

Visually NOLF is outdated and boring, nearly 2 years ago this game may have been adequate but post-Halo this game doesn't stand a chance. Architecturally the levels are well thought out and fun to play in but there isn't much in the way of graphical detail. Common objects like crates and fences and used far too often and result in the game looking bland and uninspired. Character models are blocky and suffer from poor polygon construction but the lip-sync job is surprisingly spot-on. Frame rate seems to stay constant throughout.

Voice acting is particularly good in this game with each character sounding authentic and appropriate. The large assortment of comical, off-the-wall characters in the game makes the fact that the voice-actors did justice to their digital counterparts all the more surprising. However, the excellent job with the voice-overs is only one-half of the equation, the dialogue in the game is also very clever and entertaining. Nearly every cut scene boasts at least one memorable play on words. Since both these audio aspects line up perfectly with each other it makes eaves dropping on conversations something that is fun to do, enemy guards will often go on about the ramifications of being a product of your surroundings to throaty disputes over the quality of a monkey, all in an enjoyable and humorous manner. Sound effects are fitting for the most part but they are nothing spectacular. Music in the game consists of under-played percussion instruments and horns that have a somewhat retro feel to the orchestrations.

Controlling Ms. Archer is done through the traditional FPS styli' using the patented Lithtech engine. But unlike most run-and-gun shooters NOLF takes this genre to interesting and original places, in one sequence you'll be free-falling from thousands of feet above without a parachute, when is the last time you seen an FPS that could do that? Also, there is very little crate pushing and lever pulling and in the instances where your required to activate a control panel or push a button it feels natural and logical as opposed to other FPS games that use these additions to simply extend the life of the game. Each mission will put you in a different scenario and effectively keeps the action fresh by mixing up the game play dynamics. Each set of levels that you complete will result in a trip to the advanced gadget research center (AKA Santa's Workshop) where you'll be given one or two cool new gadgets to use in the following missions. In all, there are around 60 levels that comprise 19 missions, including 4 bonus levels that were not found in the PC version. However, these bonus levels do little to rectify the fact that you no longer have the ability to a quick-save feature. Some of the game's 60 levels are rather long and having to replay them from the beginning can get very jarring, unfortunately the majority of the time you spend with this game will be replaying the same level over and over again.

It is not uncommon to get stuck in a tight place due to shoddy collision detection. The Lithtech engine is far too outdated to be used in this day and age if you ask me, and the clipping problem is just exacerbated by the fact that you are unable to save whenever you want. You'll find yourself restarting entire missions left and right due to one little screw up, this is bad, very bad. It is a shame that a game this creative and original is hampered by such trivial annoyances, NOLF PS2 should be at least as good as the PC version but sadly, that is not the case. I don't want to overstate the fact but these things must be pointed out, its still a fun game but its just not as good as the nearly 2 year old original version -- but its still fun.

The exclusive bonus levels blend into the game by ways of a rather clever transition which entails Cate Archer passed out after being knocked silly by Sergeant Magnus Armstrong, you play out her unconscious remembrances that include scenarios that took place 9 years prior to Archer's current time when the lass was but a wee cat burglar. These additions that are exclusive to the PS2 version are not very action packed however and it feels like a sloppy VR mission which is fine and good if you like the stealth aspect of the game but not so great if your more of a trigger happy dandy like myself.

The main downfall with this game is the fact that it takes far too long to progress in a timely manner due to the fact that saving the game is only possible at the beginning of each level. There are also a few other modifications to the game that make NOLF less then it could be, like the lack of cool gadgets that are nowhere to be found in this version (body removal powder for example). The bonus levels are a nice addition but when it comes down to it the PS2 port of this game is actually inferior to the aging PC version.

Score: 6.8/10

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