Seconds after I agreed to replay No One Lives Forever for this article, I was wracked with doubts. Would it be as rib-tickling as I remembered it or as wonderfully diverse? Would it still seem as imaginative?
Having taken the plunge and spent the past week squeezed into the skintight plastic catsuit of superfly '60s superspy Cate Archer I can report with a happy heart (and sweaty crevices) that NOLF is every bit the amusing, inventive, life-affirming experience I remembered.
First-person shooters and humour have traditionally slept in separate beds. Here's irrefutable proof that it doesn't have to be this way; an extremely accomplished, stealth-oriented shooter seasoned with plenty of laughter.
Much of the comedy comes in the form of overheard conversations between HARM (an evil criminal organisation) employees. You find yourself listening-in as bored gun-toting goons gas about work, families, and hobbies. Such chats amuse, but also immerse. Another source of chuckles are the numerous readable 'intelligence items' (company memos, personal letters ). Where less imaginative devs might have used such items solely to communicate clues or bolster scores, clever Monolith use them to perpetuate wry running jokes and show us the laughably bureaucratic internal workings of the world's premier maleficent multinational.
As relentlessly comedic as NOLF is, if FPS fundamentals had been neglected there'd be no recommendation here. Thankfully the shooting irons are solid, HARM's hoodlums quick on their feet, (watch as foes duck behind parapets, roll out of trouble and flip tables for cover!) and the level design superb.
One of the few disappointments in Evil Genius was the lack of choice when it came to lair locations. NOLF captures the globetrotting flavour of the Bond movies far better, whisking Cate through a succession of exotic locales. Name another title in which – in the space of a couple of days play – you can find yourself bobbing in a vat of German beer, plunging from a disintegrating airliner without a parachute, jumping crevasses in a snowmobile, and spearing sharks in the brine-filled belly of a sunken freighter.
Perfect game then? Worth the 91% it originally scooped? No and yes. The odd level is just a bit too experimental for its own good and those long cutscenes will get your goat after a while (that's a NOLF in-joke there).