The Operative: No One Lives Forever

aka: NOLF, Nikto Ne Zhivjot Vechno, No One Lives Forever, Wu Ren Yong Sheng
Moby ID: 2617
Windows Specs
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Description official descriptions

Some time in the 1960s, a former thief Cate Archer is the only female agent in the service of U.N.I.T.Y.; a worldwide secret espionage agency. Having been relegated to menial tasks over the years, Cate is finally given a chance to prove herself when a terrorist organization called H.A.R.M. starts to knock off active field agents. Under the qualification of being available as a trained agent, Cate is given the authority to track down and investigate these H.A.R.M. activities. In missions around the globe, Agent Archer will find herself sniping assassins, stealing documents, and doing a host of other suitably sneaky, often deadly espionage tasks.

No Ones Lives Forever is a first-person shooter with stealth elements, often focusing on remaining undetected and obtaining intelligence data. The game combines stylistic elements of James Bond espionage stories and games (such as GoldenEye 007) with a humorous attitude. Cate will need to use her weaponry and gadgets to get the drop on enemy agents. Among the gadgets available are photographic sunglasses, a lockpicking barrette, body remover powder, a cigarette lighter which can be used for wielding, lipstick explosives, and a robotic poodle for distracting guard dogs.

Emphasizing sneakiness, the game not only gives extra points for not being seen, it also features alarms that cannot be shut off and guards that don't return to their docile ways once alerted to the protagonist's presence. Enemies follow AI routines such as knocking tables over and ducking for cover. However, in most levels stealthy approach is not mandatory: theoretically the player may almost always opt for dealing with the situation aggressively, having Cate shoot first and ask questions later, gleefully blazing through the levels. However, while the mission will get completed, Agent Archer will receive a lower score for taking the non-subtle approach. In addition, by acquiring intelligence items Cate will obtain various bonuses to her health, armor, ammo capacity, damage, or accuracy.

The game's artwork and music reflect the 1960s setting, from the loud outfits to the beatnik rhythms in the bars. In a homage to spy movies and series of that time period, there are plot twists, shootouts, close calls, set pieces, confrontations against villains, and a few over-the-top action scenes.


  • Никто Не Живёт Вечно - Russian spelling
  • 无人永生 - Simplified Chinese spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

163 People (76 developers, 87 thanks) · View all

Additional Thanks to
  • MCA
  • 1500 Records
  • Avalon
  • Panasonic
  • Language Institute
  • ATI
  • NVidia
  • GameSpy
Recording Studio
  • Asylum Studios
Associate Producer
Fox Quality Assurance Supervisor
Fox Quality Assurance Lead
Fox Test Team
[ full credits ]



Average score: 88% (based on 53 ratings)


Average score: 4.1 out of 5 (based on 138 ratings with 10 reviews)

Incredibly fun (and funny) Austin Powers inspired 60s spy shooter.

The Good

This game takes the story driven shooter, and removes its traditional serious edge, leaving a very well put together, entertaining game. NOLF is the story of Cate Archer, former cat burglar turned secret agent. As Ms. Archer, you go up against the Bond-esque organization of super-villainy known as H.A.R.M. in an attempt to stop them from blowing up important world leaders.

As far as gameplay in shooters go, this one is pretty standard, which is not to say bad. It follows a tried and true formula and does it well. Where NOLF really excels is in its extensive use of humor. When you sneak up on a pair of enemies talking, you can eavesdrop on their conversations. These conversations range anywhere from the humorously mundane to the absolutely hilarious. You will find yourself replaying levels just to hear conversations you may have missed.

Aside from a great single player game, I think that the multiplayer is one of the best death match games around. It has cool weapons, even cooler character models, and great maps, especially the outdoor ones. It was easier to find a busy server when the game was released than it is today, but it still makes for an enjoyable experience.

**The Bad**

I really liked almost everything about this game. I will say that the stealth missions can be a bit trying and tedious. Then again, I almost never like being forced to sneak around if I don't want to. It's a shooter, not a sneaker.

**The Bottom Line**

NOLF is a really nice change of pace from the standard sci-fi or wartime themed FPS. It's fun, relatively challenging, nice to look at, and funny to boot. Anyone looking for a refreshing addition to the slew of 'me-too' shooters out there should definitely pick up this game. It's groovy, baby!

Windows · by Entorphane (337) · 2002

Just like an old James Bond movie (86/100)

The Good
Ok, let me get this out of the way first: the level "Unexpected Turbulence" is one of the coolest levels I have ever played in any shooter to date. If you played the game, you know what I mean; if you did not, I will not spoil it more than I already have. This level probably raises the game rating some 3 or 4 points all by itself...

In general, this is a very good "spy action movie" shooter. The hero kills lots of bad guys, saves lots of innocent people, has tons of weapons and gadgets to use and looks good during the whole process (but, in this case, the hero is a woman, as you probably knew). Some of the action sequences are quite unbelievable and the bad guys are very much over the top, bordering goofy. All in all, reread this paragraph and you will realize that the game is just like an old James Bond movie.

Gameplay sometimes favors stealth over force, what keeps you thinking about how to deal with the different levels. The huge number of weapons and gadgets are wisely introduced during the game a few at a time in pre-mission briefings. AI is fairly good: enemies look for cover (sometimes a bit too much) and often run for help or try to sound alarms instead of taking you by themselves.

The graphics are fine for the game. They are a bit too clean, mostly, but the same can be said for some other outstanding games (like Half-Life). When textures are really necessary (grassy ground, mountains, etc.), they look good enough. The environments do have quite some variation: snowy Europe, tropical landscapes, urban sights, underwater searches, etc.

Sound is mostly excellent: the music is very 60s and the tempo follows the action very nicely. Sound effects are good and varied. Voice talent is also good enough (not stellar), but the scripts are really good. In particular, many unimportant characters have in-level conversations that I almost always stopped to listen (sometimes this stop would even make my mission harder...) -- these dialogues ranged from vaguely amusing to very funny. One of them sounds just like I do when teaching Statistics and got me laughing aloud ("Correlation is NOT causation!").

The Bad
As mentioned above, voice acting could be better. Also, the cutscenes that are done with the game engine itself are well scripted, but the movements of the models during such cutscenes could be improved -- there is a lot of repetition and not a lot of expression from the model faces.

Some nitpicking: while it is nice that the music speeds up and gets louder whenever action is going on on the screen, sometimes it would be TOO loud. I often lowered music volume just so I could hear what was going on during the action... but then the music would be VERY feeble out of the action. I guess this little annoyance actually comes from the fact that I LIKED the music and I wanted to hear it, but it would be nice to have two controls for music volume: "action" mode and "non-action" mode.

I was somehow expecting more from story and environments... On the other hand, it is probably just me -- I have just played "Wheel of Time", and the story and world there are so interesting that N.O.L.F. probably lost a couple of marks there.

But, really, I really did not like the plot ending. Too much happens in too little time, and it feels contrived... This was probably done intentionally, but I wished they had held it a bit. Even James Bond movies are not THAT goofy at the end.

The Bottom Line
A good shooter with character and plot.

Windows · by Thexder0 (1931) · 2002

Right on, man. Hip cats'll dig the groovy vibe of this game.

The Good
First things first, daddyo. How 'bout we deep six the annoying hippie jargon, ok? Ok, that's better. The thing is, NOLF makes you want to talk like that. While it's nowhere near that far over the top in practice--for one thing, its take is British, not American--it just exudes '60's style to the point that you want to lose yourself in the spirit of the era. You might say that NOLF is to the '60's what Interstate '76 was to the '70's, only more so.

It is perhaps no accident that NOLF was published by Fox Interactive, which has one foot in the movie industry. Those connections really show here, as the writing, the animation work, the sound effects, the music--everything--is top notch all the way. The player really becomes British secret agent Cate Archer, and is made to feel as if he or she is actually starring in a '60's era Bond-style action movie, complete with hilarious side plots and dialogue. Indeed, half the fun of playing, even though you're nominally the main character, is listening to what the "nobodies"--the extras--around you are saying. This is not throw-away stuff. It's really, really good and really, really funny. As you proceed through the game, you will find yourself initiating conversations with NPC's you'd never give a second thought to in other games just to see what they'll say. More often than not, they'll have you laughing.

As for the gameplay, it's mostly standard fare, although there are some fun twists. In true FPS fashion, you run, jump, and sneak through levels using a variety of weapons and clever special objects (such as poison barettes, robotic poodles, and a ton of other neat gadgets I don't want to spoil by preannouncing). However, many of the levels offer special treats, such as the opening scene, in which you have to dispatch a bevy of Moroccan assassins who are after the hilariously deaf American ambassador to their country. This amounts to simply standing at a window and picking them off as quickly as you can, Duck Hunt-style, but the whole riff is wonderful, and turns out to be a great way to start off the game. In another scene, you must jump from a plane without a parachute, and nail all the bad guys on the way down. This is much easier said than done, but again, the novelty of the scene makes it into much more than just another level.

NOLF is, quite simply, a triumph of writing, acting, and gameplay in the interactive genre. It has no peer in this regard. Even other highly regarded games like System Shock II and Thief must bow to its superior artistry...and I don't say that lightly, as I am a huge fan of both of these. (I do not, however, mean to say that NOLF is in every way a better game than all the rest. I simply mean that the quality of the ingredients is, in the main, higher all around. It must remain for each individual player to judge how successfully the parts have been made into a whole.)

The Bad
My biggest frustration with NOLF has to be the control scheme, or more specifically, the lack of a couple of controls I've come to regard as essential. The first is the ability to lean. In a game that involves sneaking around as much as this one does, it seems inconceivable to me that such a function would be omitted, but it has been. What you have to do instead is pop out from behind corners for a brief second, and then pop back. The designers have tried to make this the functional equivalent of leaning, by making the bad guys not notice you until you've been exposed for more than a second or so, but in practice it is very unintuitive and clumsy. Moreover, it means that when you shoot you always have to have your whole body exposed to the enemy. In first- or second-generation shooters, such things might have been acceptable, but after games like Thief the rules changed forever. I just wish Monolith had realized that.

The second fatal omission is the ability to toggle crouch mode. There is a crouch function, which can be assigned to any key you want, but it still only works for as long as you press the key. Once you let go of the key, your character stands up. Why is this a big deal? Because a) just as in Thief, you make less noise while crouching and can often slip by enemies this way, and b) available cover may be only waist-high, requiring you to squat to take advantage of it. The problem is, since you can't lean around corners, you will often need to crouch and move either laterally or forward and backward at the same time, which turns out to be a very tough thing to do no matter where you assign the crouch key.

Beyond these not insignificant shortcomings, my only complaint is with NOLF's somewhat convoluted and confusing menu system, which on the one hand seems hardly worth mentioning, but in the interest of full disclosure should be acknowledged.

The Bottom Line
Playing NOLF is like starring in a big-budget action movie and is loads of fun. It features probably the best acting, and hands down the best dialogue ever heard in a computer game, and it's uproariously funny to boot. While there are a couple of fairly serious control issues, these should not dissuade you from experiencing this gem of a game. Work of this quality simply does not come along every day. It would not, in fact, be too much to call it art.

Windows · by Jim Newland (56) · 2002

[ View all 10 player reviews ]



The game evolved quite a lot from its original conception. Originally you didn't play as a woman, but as Adam Church, operative for Her Majesty's Most Secret Service (MI0) and the game was not as Austin Powers-Swinging Sixties but strived for a more serious humorous take on the James Bond films (Adam himself was a satirical version of Bond). Early screenshots from late 1999 can be found on the web or in old magazines where you can see the early incarnations of NOLF.


A few months after NOLF's release, the ESRB changed its rating to M and its descriptors to Animated Blood, Animated Violence. The Game of the Year Edition has this rating, and it is listed as M on the website, but the original boxes don't. Inquiries to the ESRB about why this happened result in a canned "When the game was first submitted, we gave it a T, but then it was resubmitted with more mature content," which is obviously not true.


Several of the game's missions take place in German cities such as East Berlin, Bremen and Frankfurt. While the developers did make an effort to create a proper setting by making signs that are correctly written in German there are some errors. One in particular is a sign in the Stasi (state security ) compound in East Berlin which reads "Begriff -- Kein Trespassing". This would literally translate to "Term -- No Trespassing". Additionally, most of the articles on posters and Inge Wagner's banner are wrong since they use the wrong gender.

Another noteworthy issue are the villains accent's: Most of the villains are supposed to be German. However, some of their accents sound rather East European. One voice actor seems to have based his supposedly German accent on Arnold Schwarzenegger with a more Austrian note to his German.

German version

In the German version, all blood and death cries were removed. This also means that the "MoreBloodOption" cheat has no effect.


On nearly every level the guards, if you don't alert them, will carry on conversations with each other. Many of these are very humorous, as the guards discuss things which range from high brow topics like sociology in how it relates to criminals and alcoholics to how to let the guard dog relieve itself at the guard's post. Even if it was not part of the point system, being stealthy would be something players would strive for just to overhear all these talks.

Inge Wagner

The game features Inge Wagner, supposedly a grand-granddaughter of the famous German composer Richard Wagner. During your battle against her, a tape recorder plays Wagner's music.


The model and actress Mitzi Martin was the inspiration for the heroine of the story, Cate Archer.


  • In one of the missions, Kate receives a codename "Foxhound". This is an obvious reference to Konami's Metal Gear series., Mitzi Martin, was the inspiration for the heroine of the story, Cate Archer.
  • In one of the cut scenes in the mission "The Dive" you'll see a submarine that has the number 5675-309. This is likely a reference to a popular rock song of the 80's by Tommy Tutone, called "Jenny 8675309". Notice the similarities between the numbers?


The game initially sold poorly until the reviews and word of mouth increased interest in the game. Notably, the sales spiked a few months after the games release and enough positive reviews were printed.


The second disc includes In the Lounge: 9 exclusive music tracks inspired by the 60s, plus 2 groovy music tracks from the Fox Interactive & music search. The track listing is:

  1. Goodman's Surprise
  2. Santa's Workshop
  3. Be-boppin' Shoo-woopin' Along
  4. The Operative
  5. Elevator of Love
  6. No One Grooves Forever
  7. Suisse Chalet
  8. UNITY's Spy
  9. [untitled track]
  10. El Dorado (by Archie Thompson)
  11. Void (by Red Delicious)
Tracks 1-9:
Written and composed by Becky Kneubuhl;
Doug Norwine, Flute;
Joe Finetti, Trombone;
Lee Thornberg, Trumpet;
Lisa Kable, Vocals;
Chris Lee, Guitars;
Mixed and recorded by Gabriel Rutman at Asylum Studios

"El Dorado" (Track 10):
Written and performed by Archie Thompson;
Published by ArchType Music (BMI);
© 2000 Archie Thompson;

"Void" (Track 11):
Written and performed by Red Delicious (Steve Baca, Sara Wallace, Rob King);
Published by Stompin' Music (BMI);
© 2000 Red Delicious

Source code release

The publishers have released the source code for NOLF for anyone to modify. For anyone interested, they can be downloaded at the download section of the official NOLF webpage (link available at the related sites section).


  • Computer Gaming World
    • April 2001 (Issue #201) – Action Game of the Year
    • April 2001 (Issue #201) – Best Screenplay of the Year
    • April 2001 (Issue #201) – Villain of the Year (for H.A.R.M.'s Evil Hand Puppet)
    • May 2005 (Issue #251) – Introduced into the Hall of Fame
  • GameSpy
    • 2000 – Special Award for Story
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 02/2001 - Best Action Game in 2000
    • Issue 12/2008 - One of the "10 Coolest Levels" (for the level "Unexpected Turbulence". It is a short level of six minutes but manages to stay in the player's memory because of its original, funny and challenging main idea.
  • PC Gamer
    • October 2001 - #44 in the "op 50 Best Games of All Time" list
  • PC Player (Germany)
    • Issue 01/2001 - Best Action-Adventure in 2000

Information also contributed by dasfatso, Emepol, Entorphane,, Fire Convoy, Marko Poutiainen, Scott Monster, Szajd, Unicorn Lynx, Zovni

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Ray Soderlund.

Macintosh added by Kabushi.

Additional contributors: Kalirion, Unicorn Lynx, Solid Flamingo, Szajd, oct, Patrick Bregger, Xy Yz.

Game added November 14th, 2000. Last modified September 24th, 2023.