Retrospective: No One Lives Forever

Posted by Alex Jordan on

Yes, Monolith, F.E.A.R. is pretty good and you've got this whole Japanese horror thing down pat, I guess. And I admire your commitment to this franchise, but The Ring came out seven Goddamn years ago, so can we drop the scary-schoolgirl obsession and return to No One Lives Forever? Please?

Cate Archer, star of No One Lives Forever

I know pining for one favorite franchise over another franchise reeks of hypocrisy, but bear with me.

NOLF was not perfect by any means. It's too long, it really needed the leaning and hide-in-shadow mechanics that the sequel developed, and the forced-stealth, non-lethal sections are fairly obnoxious.

Fortunately, it's still one of the best games of all time. The gunplay is exciting, the environments are as colorful and varied as a James Bond flick, the characters are well-developed, and it's funny as hell.

Additionally, whereas a show like The Venture Bros. takes a firmly tongue-in-cheek approach to 1960's era spy fiction tropes (and decor), NOLF gladly wraps itself up in these trappings and runs with it. The game only pokes the lightest of fun at '60s fluff like Bond and the original Mission: Impossible series, using smart, witty writing to move the story along and juice the jokes instead of mocking the past.

Furthermore, I bitch about the shortcomings of Infinity Wards' set pieces in the Modern Warfare series because NOLF did them first, and better. Whereas CoD4 or MW2 threw set pieces at you like an ADHD-riddled child with a to-do list, NOLF scultped entire levels and experiences around novel concepts. There's an entertaining section of NOLF where you creep around a lovely days-of-yore passenger train chugging through the Pacific Northwest, attempting to avoid enemy spies and the conductor (no ticket!). There's another where you're on an enemy space station, its sections earnestly color-coded by the enemy bureacracy. NOLF even did snowmobiles first, probably before the Infinity Ward graphic designers were out of high school.

C'mon, Monolith! Why haven't you returned to this franchise? It's fun, witty, and colorful, and a new entry would make for a great respite from the unremitting gritty/realism-fest that is the modern lineup of first person shooters. It's also a brilliant stealth shooter, and could easily reclaim the mantle from Rainbow Six, which went to Las motherfucking Vegas for its latest installments.

Evil Genius is queued up on my hard drive for a playthrough while I'm home for Christmas, but I'm sorely tempted to step back into the heels of Cate Archer.