No One Lives Forever Review
The PS2 has gotten an ample supply of ports from some of the PC's greatest FPS games, and this trend is showing no signs of slowing down, as many more are to follow. Falling into this category is Monolith's No One Lives Forever, which was a huge success on the PC. Following up on that success, Monolith and Sierra hope to deliver this innovative and witty game to those that are more console accustomed. Unfortunately, PC and console games thrive on different aspects and excel in particular categories, and this alone somewhat hinders NOLF's chances at gaining as much success as it did two years back.
From a graphical standpoint, it's no surprise that NOLF seriously lacks in almost every area. A port of a two-year-old PC game, NOLF definitely lacks the genuineness that the PS2 consistently delivers. Cars look primitive and blocky. Ordinary objects, placed in the levels, have generally no detail to make them look convincing. And most of the character models look bizarre which can be considered an understatement. The weaponry, on the other hand, does look roughly good, or at least it does compared to its lackluster surroundings.
If you thought Rockstar's Max Payne included some awkward looking character models, you're in for another odd encounter. The facial detail is fairly sufficient, but they just have such a strange appearance, and the lip-synching is pretty lifeless, as their jaws just move up and down, expressing no emotion or lip movement whatsoever. One guy, for instance, has his eyebrow cocked the entire time he talks. The graphics are pretty pathetic, but given the fact that it's a port from an older PC game, it's really not all that surprising.
Continuity and stability within the framerate are both rarities. It seems that the only time the framerate flows at a steady pace is when you're simply exploring the levels. However, once a fire-fight commences, that's when the framerate takes its dips and dives. The most annoying result from this is the difficulty to aim because when you're moving the cross-hairs, it's continually halted from the framedrops. But other than intense situations, the framerate rarely fluctuates.
In this 1960s spy-themed FPS, you command the lovely Cate Archer, who's currently enrolled in a secret British agency known as U.N.I.T.Y. Cate Archer is disappointed at the lack of missions she's received while with the organization; jobs such as spying on a potential thief or baby-sitting a fellow employee's child aren't quite what Cate had in mind, but they've become a rather mundane routine. Saddened and distraught, Cate's aspiration in the field becomes dampened. Though, little does she know, Cate's next call from her boss is her first major assignment; Archer must run down an evil group called H.A.R.M. and their sinister mastermind. The story, built around a hostile murder, is complexly sewn together, and is one that the young and anxious Archer hopes to unravel.
Each level contains a set number of objectives that you're required to tackle. Along the way, picking up health, weapons, and documents is of the essence. Some of the objectives will vary in difficulty according to which response you choose in the conversations. A cocky response will usually result in a more difficult task while one with modesty will normally dumb down the difficulty. The weapons come in a wide variety and include such weapons as a crossbow with a scope intact, a sniper rifle, a Hampton Carbine, a Petri .38 airweight revolver, an AK47 assault rifle, an M79 grenade launcher, and a few more. In addition to the gaggle of weapons, NOLF also boasts some pretty nifty gadgets. They appear to be everyday objects; though, they aren't. Some of the gadgets that you'll encounter are a hairpin, which conceals a lock pick and a poisonous blade; a camera, which mimics a pair of shades; and even knockout gas, which imitates a perfume bottle.
The levels are pretty large and are sectioned off into scenes. They contain a lot of loops and turns, and are also replete with tons of little nooks and crannies for the bad guys to utilize. Speaking of enemies, Monolith has created quite possibly the smartest artificial intelligence to ever grace a first-person shooter. They use ordinary objects such as tables and garbage to seclude themselves from your fire. All the while, they'll pop up, fire off three or four quick rounds and then immerse themselves back behind the object. Believe it or not, they'll even go as low as taking cover behind nearby hostages. The enemies are smart; there's no doubt about it, and just a brief instance of enemy fire is hard to withstand because they're accurate, quick, and efficient marksmen, which is why stealth-like play is very beneficial and sometimes the only option.
NOLF may lack in some key areas, but its brilliant deliverance in the sound category is just a whole other matter. Robust with humor and passion, Monolith has created a story that delivers a high amount of entertainment. The cut-scenes can get pretty lengthy, and throughout the extensive dialogue, you will actually be able to choose certain responses for Cate to say. As you converse, you're given a number of different responses to parts in the discussion, and they're usually given in a consistent pattern. One response is generally something to be uttered from a cocky, boastful person while another response is normally spoken in a humble and modest manner. With the numerous variables to be explored, this facet of play allows the dialogue to be pretty diverse, and it will usually result in some very witty comments -- both from you and whoever you're talking to -- especially if you opt to smart-mouth the others.
The music throughout the game also fares quite well. The pitch, tone, and beat of the different musical tracks perfectly convey the mood of the story. And while the voice-acting isn't the best, the slew of wise-cracks still help set the mood and add entertainment to the sometimes lengthy conversations.
When a first-person shooter is developed for the PC, the developers have so much freedom with the commands, and they usually create an easy to control game. However, mapping the host of commands onto a controller, and doing it successfully, is a different story. Luckily though, NOLF's controls have been laid out pretty well and are on par for the most part. The shoulder buttons are used to shoot, reload, crouch and jump; the directional-pad is used to scroll through items and weapons; and the face buttons execute the leftover commands, such as opening doors. When aiming, the cross-hairs will automatically lock-on once they're in the vicinity of an enemy's body part. Also, the analog sensitivity and the up/down controls are customizable; unfortunately, nothing else is.
No One Lives Forever was, and still is, a monumental landmark for the PC. It's unfortunate, however, that the PS2 version is more of an average game rather than an outstanding one. The game certainly lacks a lot of polish, and the absence of a multi-player mode really limits its replay value. Monolith's efforts aren't a complete failure because the game is rather fun and entertaining, but given the potential, much is still desired.
4/29/2002 Joseph Comunale