At one point while playing and reviewing 007 Legends back in October, I realized that amidst the godawful execution, there were promising ideas at play. “If this game actually had some semblance of personality,” I said to myself, “as well as more development time, an actual budget, competent shooting mechanics, and stealth that wasn’t broken, it would actually be fun.”
It was definitely an optimistic viewpoint, but a valid one nonetheless. Instantly, I hurriedly searched my mind to think of any FPS series involving stealth and a spy theme that could potentially have a current-generation sequel. I waited for a response to come. Then I waited some more. Then I went to have a sip of coffee. Then I spat out the coffee because I hate coffee. Then, like a stealthy bullet to the back of the head, it hit me:
No One Lives Forever.
For those unfamiliar with the original game, it was developed by the under-appreciated folks at Monolith Productions and released in 2000 for PC/Mac (and later PS2) as a stealth/FPS title that parodied the style and tropes of overblown spy films. Although a critical and commercial success, spawning a sequel and even a spinoff by the name of Contract J.A.C.K, the series has faded into obscurity lately. Such an occurrence is understandable given the falling out of both stealth and espionage in the later 2000’s. However, considering recent trends and the landscape of today’s gaming market, I firmly believe that now is the perfect time to bring people a No One Lives Forever 3.
Why? Firstly, it’s evident that the stealth genre is making a comeback. Recent titles like Dishonored, Hitman: Absolution, Mark of the Ninja, Assassin’s Creed III, and Far Cry 3 have proven that stealth games are still very much relevant in today’s market and that gamers are very much willing to buy them. NOLF’s stealth wasn’t perfect to be honest, as it was home to some spotty AI and a few levels in which a raised alarm equaled game over, which is a big no-no in my book. Most of the time though, the stealth flowed organically into shootouts when you were spotted, and the environments were open-ended and interesting enough to make both play-styles engaging. With a bit of tweaking, this gameplay formula has the potential to become something just as polished as the apparently excellent systems used in Far Cry 3.
And that’s just in terms of gameplay. One mustn’t ignore the trademark humor and personality NOLF 3 could bring to the table. If, like me, you’ve grown sick of developers’ recent efforts to make game narratives overly serious and depressing, you’ll definitely understand the appeal of a NOLF 3. For my money, No One Lives Forever contained some of the most genuinely funny humor and memorable characters yet seen in a game. Not only was it intelligent, utilizing actual wit and smart context as opposed to the modern trend of ‘Whedonizing’ dialogue ala Uncharted, but it was also varied, using everything from satire to sight gags to awkward conversations between guards.
So yes, NOLF 3 definitely has the potential to provide some humor, but one thing we constantly forget is that ideally, humor and drama are meant to compliment and juxtapose each other in order to be effective. Simply having one or the other devalues each and wastes the emotional spectrum writers have available to them. Nothing would help teach developers this than another installment of the series. No One Lives Forever was definitely funny, but also held a serious tale at its core, presenting a narrative that was emotional and engaging on its own. Lead designer Craig Hubbard said it best himself in an IGN interview back in 2000:
“[The game’s intention is] to make you laugh, but not at the expense of providing a broader, more satisfying emotional experience than a spoof generally allows, so that even if you don’t chuckle once, you can still have plenty of fun playing the game. At heart, NOLF is an action/adventure/espionage game with a healthy dose of levity.”
This brings me to Cate Archer herself. She was definitely a strong female protagonist, and by strong I don’t just mean she was a generic badass girl who could take on men in a fight. She was that too, but she was also complex and layered. Her dark past involving theft made for an interesting backstory, and her recklessness was something she had to overcome and fight against during her adventures. SPOILER ALERT: The death of her mentor Bruno Lawrie, for example, came across as an effective piece of character development for her. SPOILERS END. Coupled with her wit and charm, she wasn’t just a memorable female protagonist, she was a memorable protagonist, period. Again, I bring your attention to Craig Hubbard:
“She’s not just some marketing gimmick, but rather a character with a complicated, tragic personal history and clear, understandable motives that drive the narrative.”
There are a number of other things I could mention as unique incentives to revive the franchise, such as the 60’s/Cold War setting having gone relatively unexplored so far and the potential for over-the-top villains, but I’d just be spinning my wheels. I really want to see a NOLF 3, and I think many people would gladly play it if it were made.
That brings up the most important question, though; how would such a game be made? At the moment, Monolith is owned by Warner Bros. Interactive. I very much doubt they’re frothing at the mouth to resurrect a dormant franchise like this one, so it would be up to the fans to continuously poke the publisher and harass them into making it somehow, not that we here at OnlySP encourage destruction or blackmail… usually. Perhaps it could be done via petition, similar to Timesplitter 4. Since next-generation consoles are on the rise, perhaps it would be best to start the project there?
Whatever the case, I encourage anyone related to the franchise reading this, whether it be diehard fans or someone from Monolith or Warner Bros. themselves, to really consider this. The market is in dire need for some unique experiences with a sense of humor, and to me, nothing would patch that hole better than another No One Lives Forever. Perhaps an HD remake of the original would also suffice. Either way, I’m sure no H.A.R.M could come from it.