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The Operative: No One Lives Forever (Windows)

90
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.1
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Terrence Bosky (5235)
Written on  :  Apr 13, 2001
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars

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Summary

A groovy, spy game where you get to wear tight outfits and shoot bad people.

The Good

NOLF is a very fun, highly engaging first person shooter. Essentially, NOLF is a Bond parody, much in the same vein as Austin Powers, Casino Royale, Flint etc. The main character, Cate Archer, is a spy in training who is thrust into the thick of things early on. Accompanied by some fellow agents, well supplied by Santa (NOLF's version of Bond's Q), and directed by Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith, Archer uncovers a plot that threatens the world. Would you expect anything less?

Actually the plot is about as silly as a Jackie Chan movie although there are some interesting twists. What makes this a great game is, that like a Jackie Chan movie, there are some incredible action scenes. You will freefall out of an airplane and engage enemies midair, scuba dive through a sunken ship that implodes around you, and duel with some of the wackiest terrorists ever imagines.

Also incredible is the enemy AI. Enemies will assault in groups, run for cover, flip over tables, and change weapons depending on range. Even better dead'uns tumble down stairs and fall over balconies, some even become shark bait.

Graphically this game has its limitations, but there is great music and sound effects. Some areas are populated by civilians, which lends an element of risk to getting into firefights. One great feature is the ability to pick up intelligence during missions in the form of briefcases, microfilm, etc. This is a seldom required activity but does increase your spy rating and is both humorous and fleshes out the storyline. One particular piece of intelligence makes a sequence much easier.

Finally, similar to Thief or Deus Ex, stealthy players can eavesdrop on conversations. This would be a high point for the game, as many are hilarious. Guards will philosophize on the banality of evil, compare notes with other criminal organizations, wonder why so many crates are around, and so on.

The Bad

If this game has one major failing, it would be how the developers chose to advance the story. Most gamers have a love/hate relationship with cutscenes. In the early days of gaming, cutscenes almost acted as rewards for completing a particular level. They were of much higher quality than the rest of the game and often used impressive special effects. Now with the graphics quality being what it is, cutscenes are no longer that impressive and some gamers would rather have the story advanced through gameplay. Okay how does this relate to NOLF? NOLF not only uses cutscenes but some are unbearably long. Minutes go by, and eventually I felt like I was no longer playing a game but watching a movie. Ever worse, one particular cutscene thrusts you back into gameplay with a enemy at pointblank range.

So that's the major failing, minor gripes: intelligence items add flavor to the gameplay but you are unable to review them after you pick them up you cannot use weapons or equipment on vehicles- while largely not that important, there is a sequence when it is almost necessary at the end of the game I would have liked the option to see combined mission stats, etc and the ability to replay certain levels and finally, while stealth is encouraged enemies seem to have bat-like hearing; the ability to lean around corners would have helped.

I do believe later patches correct some of my minor gripes.

The Bottom Line

One of the best games I've played in a long time. Great level design and varied objectives keep this game exciting till the end. Hope there'll be more!