Play It Once, And Again, Santa

How The Operative: No One Lives Forever Made A Lasting Impression

The Operative: No One Lives Forever was released eighteen years ago and, having played it recently, is a fun romp in the era of the Cold War. Published by Sierra and developed by Monolith Productions. The story riffs on TV shows such as The Saint and Get Smart, while lurking like a spy in the shadow of Austin Powers. NOLF is a tongue in cheek adventure that wanted to do it all. Being a brilliant game that achieved what it clearly set out to do– dazzle its audience.  Yet while colourful graphics, funny writing and a sexy femme fatale is also a recipe for Tropetown, Population: Pop Culture. NOLF had a winning ingredient in The Great Market Make-Off; Replayability.


The Secret of GOTY Island


Nowadays it seems that most pubs have leaned on Multiplayer to give their products new and exciting, unscripted and unpredictable experiences. And while NOLF did have the option for multiplayer, it was really mandatory at that time, it wasn’t the focus or the modus operandi. So while multiplayer was an option it was more of an after thought. And that’s fine. The campaign held far more entertainment than just navigating a maze to release the pressure of a twitchy index finger when you finally found a target.

Similar to games like the N64’s Goldeneye and Thief but with a Tenchu twist No One Lives Forever offered mission objectives like an RPG-lite. Carried out through a succession of thematically varied stages, formated as missions, with each stage you could select your best equiptment for the level. Where more wild, strange and often outlandish equipment unlocked as you progressed through the game. But you weren’t put straight into the dip. Any new mission with new toys was introduced with an appropriate tutorial. Which was thankfully succinct.

Diving deeper into the game there was also a touch of Metroid as your evolving abilities, courtesy of more robust gadgetry, would later allow you to find collectables unattainable in previously played levels which would also let you more efficiently strategise your approach on each mission; Essentially you could mutate the game. These tokens which were mostly irreverent intel would also spawn in (mostly) different places on each playthrough. And so rewarding a close study of the environments with better routes and more bonuses. Making your meters easier to maintain. As such with new ways to tackle each environment it let you choose your own adventure.

Adventures in gaming have a short lifespan and an even shorter shelf-life regardless of what genre the game is.  There are defiant and resourceful players who reluctant to give up the ghost update their favourite games beyond what any company aftercare has done and who, to be quite honest, without the gaming landscape would be lost. If not for their love and hard work many of these titles would be abstract memories in an industry throwing every card out of the pack hoping for a rulebook. With that sentiment No One Lives Forever is a divine comedy with its sum held in limbo. As the legal state of play is, like espionage, still in a gray area [at the time of writing – Ed.]

Locked up Cate attempts to aggravate her captor Magnus Armstrong into a fist fight.

No One Lives Forever didn’t run on the prettiest or most feature heavy engine at the time but the game had depth. Has depth. And variety. Variety to match the colours in its garish sixties fashion. And diversity in its approach to progress. These things together created a dynamic but lighthearted experience.

Spanning many drastic locales. Each offering their own thematic hazards and hinderances. And presenting new challenges, more easily overcome with the fantastic gadgetry you could expect from a spy comedy, with fun rides through a silly Whodunit of conspiracies and personal vendettas. However most importantly through the mechanically sound gameplay The Operative: No One Lives Forever is a training course for the genres elegant but recursive objectives.