Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: June 6, 2002
Back at the end of 2000, Monolith made some serious waves in the industry with their release of No One Lives Forever, a spy thriller that put the entire genre on its ear by creating the computing equivalent of an Austin Powers film. A brilliant satire of espionage and intrigue, this game was well known and much loved by press and fans alike for its fresh and innovative approach to the first person shooter. Fast forward to 2002 and we find a slightly revamped and mostly ported version of No One Lives Forever sneaking its way onto the PS2 for more internationally mysterious action. How well can a FPS game that`s over a year old really hold up against this latest generation of PS2 titles? That`s precisely the question before us today.
Not everyone will be familiar with the story of the Operative, one miss Kate Archer, so it bears retelling. Orphaned at a young age, our heroine bounced from boarding house to boarding house until boredom and curiosity drove her to a life of crime, certainly, but more specifically one of cat burgulary. A Robin Hood in the world of modern insurance systems, Kate`s carreer invariably led her to prefer challenging, wealthy marks over poor needy folks. One such mark, however, proved not so gullible and Bruno Lowry, secret agent with UNITY and gentleman spy of the highest calibre, followed and tracked young Kate as she tried to pick his pocket. Drafting the aspiring cat burglar, Lowry supports Kate`s promotion as an Operative in UNITY, where she almost immediately runs into a glass ceiling.
No One Lives Forever, you see, is set in a different time from today`s ultra-modern spy thrillers like Metal Gear Solid 2, instead of nano and micro tech, Kate Archer`s world takes place in the swinging sixties. This, of course, let Monolith send up the old boys network, overly stereotyped henchmen and fast lifestyle of the early Bond films and their ilk. Having run across her fair share of sexism, Kate is finally brought into active duty after a mysterious, one-eyed killer begins systematically wiping out UNITY operatives. With the ranks thinning with alarming swiftness, Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones — the top brass of UNITY — make the hard decision to let a woman “do a man`s work.”
What ensues is a smart FPS that balances action and stealth in a method rarely used: failing to sneak carries penalties, but not crippling ones. This means that you can essentially choose your own path. A silenced Beretta might get you past the one guard you`ll need to evade if you remain silent, but a fully automatic submachine gun will just as easily pass the ten guards you`ve alerted with indescriminate use of explosives.
In addition to henchmen a-plenty, your progress through the fifteen missions on which UNITY will send Kate will be blocked by cameras, motion detectors, laser sensors and spotlights. Each of these may be avoided in a variety of ways, though simply moving smart to avoid the camera`s field of view and dodging clear of the sensors and searchlights will prove the most efficient. As an international agent, Kate will have access to all manner of advanced gadgeteering. Early in the game you`ll be walked through the training course for UNITY field agents, where you`ll meet your affable host, Santa. In the ages-old tradition of spy flicks everywhere, the technologist on staff is an eccentric fellow with an odd sense of humor and a tendency to craft items that alternately blow up for no reason or threaten the life of one of the hapless elves who work under him in the “Toyshop.”
Under Santa`s guidance, you`ll find all manner of special devices to be equipped and used in the field. A simple hair barette contains a small poison-coated blade and a lock pick, while Kate`s sunglasses can be used as a spy camera but also modified to detect mines and laser tripwires. In addition to these exotic items, you`ll also find the classic tools of the techno-spy such as electronic lockpicks, camera footage loopers and sleeping gas perfume. At the other end of the spectrum, you`ll run across some creative options, such as the bunny slippers: bold fashion statement, yes, but also quite adept at stifling Kate`s footsteps for situations when stealth is of the essence.