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"'Cause No One Lives Forever... but evil never dies."
UNITY, a British international spy organization, is having a bit of a problem: someone is killing their operatives. What better solution then to hire an ex-cat burglar as a new operative that the enemy don't know about yet in order to find the culprit. Enter Cate Archer, also known as "The Operative", in: The Operative In: No One Lives Forever.
No One Lives Forever is a First-Person Shooter series by Monolith software, published by Sierra. A spoof of 1960s spy movies, it was survived by a Sequel, No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy In H.A.R.M.'s Way (which involved fighting ninjas in a trailer park in Ohio during a tornado and an evil assassin French mime, among other things), and murdered by a terrible Mission Pack Sequel called Contract J.A.C.K. Since then, Monolith has moved on to the F.E.A.R. and Condemned series, ending their relationship with Sierra, and no new projects involving Cate Archer, sadly.
Some of the other noteworthy elements include the use of gadgets -- introduced at the beginning of each mission much like the Q scene in every Bond movie, the outrageous action set-pieces, and the hundreds of miscellaneous documents to read, including purchase orders for death traps.
Both games involve vehicles in the snow at some point, which is also just like most Bond movies.
- Action Bomb - The plot of the first game involves a chemical which, when injected into
humansany mammal, turns them into living time bombs that explode after a period of time. The only warning signs are being very gassy and burpy before you go boom.
- Action Girl - Cate Archer.
- Aliens in Cardiff - In this case, Ninjas in Akron, Ohio.
- Anticlimax Boss - The last part of the second game, sadly. Not only there's Volkov in the wheelchair (see Villain Decay), but the very last enemy you have to confront is just a Giant Mook, maybe a little more resistant than the others, but he doesn't even get an energy bar. Even Isako may qualify; the second and last encounter with this boss is almost boring, compared to the battle inside the tornado in Ohio.
- Batman Gambit - In the first game, Bruno feigns his demise to draw out the real traitor in U.N.I.T.Y.'s organization. As far as Need To Know, Cate didn't; her reaction needed to be genuine.
- And when Bruno reveals all at the end, after the fight with the Goodman imposter, Cate's understandably upset by this and very much pissed off about being kept in the dark.
- Banana Peel - Played rather hilariously in the multi-player part of NOLF 2. If you walk over a banana, you slip and are helpless for some seconds before getting up. This makes for some very entertaining encounters.
- Blatant Lies - In NOLF 2, you can overhear a Red Army soldier saying "This is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - people don't just disappear in the middle of the night!"
- Bonus Material - The Game Of The Year edition of the first episode has a long extra mission which starts after the ending credits. The PlayStation 2 version adds yet another mission, a flashback on Cate's past activities.
- Brawn Hilda - Inge Wangner, one of the antagonists in the original game is this.
- British Accents - They really don't want you forgetting that UNITY is a British spy organization.
- And contrasted with Tom Goodman's very American accent.
- Most of the supposedly British accents in the game were very clearly not done by British people. The worst offender was American Kit Harris as the protagonist - her British accent is poor, yes, but when you realize that she was in fact supposed to be Scottish, it was quite a Face Palm. Occasionally saying "aye" does not make you a Scot.
- Busman's Holiday - The aforementioned extra mission of the first episode, called Rest and Relaxation. After the events of the main game, Cate is taking a well-deserved vacation, but involuntarily stumbles into trouble and cannot keep herself out of H.A.R.M.'s way.
- Chekhov's Gun - Throughout the first game, Cate will find pieces of an item simply referred to as the CT-180, without any clue as to what it actually is beyond that it's a brand new, experimental device of some kind. She may also occasionally find a note referring to it. In the second game, Cate is given the CT-180 Utility Launcher, one of the most useful pieces of equipment ever created for a first person shooter, capable of launching everything from camera disablers, to sleeping darts, to tracking beacons.
- Chekhov's Gunman / Obfuscating Stupidity / The Dog Was the Mastermind - The Evil Mastermind behind H.A.R.M., the Director, turns out to be a middle-aged drunk who appeared in almost every level of the first game as a civilian background character.
- Calling Card - Volkov's rose in the first game.
- The Cameo - In Contract J.A.C.K., Cate is briefly visible at the beginning of the Czechoslovakia mission (no clue if it was just thrown in or if there was a reason for her to be there), and once or twice in "Wanted" posters.
- Career Killers - Volkov, H.A.R.M.'s "Vice President of Executive Action" (a.k.a. chief assassin). John Jack in his game, with Volkov as the employer. Also Pierre, the Mime King and the whole ninja clan.
- Classy Cat Burglar - Cate's backstory.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment - The "Man-Handler", which smashes henchmen into "man-crates".
- Cool Bike - In some sections of the last levels of Contract J.A.C.K. you get to drive a Vespa scooter with twin guns.
- Defeat Means Friendship - After Cate kicks Magnus Armstrong's arse in the first game, he (reluctantly at first) helps her out in the sequel.
- Defector From Commie Land - Dr. Schenker, an East German scientist.
- Also Misha, the pilot who gets you in and out of Siberia (though he may just be a sympathizer or a factionless hireling and not a full-out defector).
- Duel Boss - NOLF ends with an It's Personal gunfight between Cate and Tom Goodman inside a cemetery. You and Tom are both armed with the same weapon (a revolver) and can take roughly the same amount of damage, so it's an even fight (although he cheats a bit by using poison-laced bullets).
- Elaborate Underground Bases - Of course. Could it be a spy story without them? Explained in the second game when two mooks talk about how expensive and inconvenient it is to build elaborate bases as compared to leasing office space, but notes the necessity of it in that potential clients expect to see such lairs or they won't believe that an evil organization is evil enough for high-profile jobs.
- Enemy Chatter - Stealthy players will catch hundreds of different conversations between civilians, guards and various henchmen, even the mimes.
- Most of which are utterly hilarious.
- Enemy Mime - The Mime King. At one point there's a tricycle chase.
- Escort Mission - Never aggravating ones, luckily. During the first game, you'll have to bring Dr. Schenker with you twice, but when a firefight ensues, he stays put until you go and recall him. In the second game, you'll have to protect Armstrong for a little time, while he tries to force a door open. You also have to escort your kidnapped Russian pilot to safety in a brief rescue mission. Like Schenker, he takes cover until you tell him it's safe to move.
- Though the "evacuate the civilians" missions (thankfully only one per game) can get a bit annoying after having to reload the game several times because the sheeple have no sense of self-preservation and keep getting themselves killed.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas / Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal - Both averted: The Director reacts to his mother's frequent phone calls with utter disdain and the latter at one point expresses her utter shame at her son's criminal actions, going so far as claiming a relative jailed for arson was a "saint" in comparison.
- Evil Counterpart - The Baroness points out the similarities between her own life and Cate's when the two of them finally meet face-to-face.
- Cate also points out several similarities to her superiors, but also points out where their paths had diverged.
- Everything Fades - Subverted (or inverted?) in that you have to do the fading yourself using "Body dissolving powder".
- Within the first game, it's stated that Cate, as a woman, lacks the upper-body strength to move the bodies, thereby requiring the body dissolving powder (or arranging to kill everyone before they can find the bodies). In the second game, she not only gains the ability to move the bodies on her own, but the villains within game do the body dissolving if you don't with hilarious dialogue.
"Sorry, comrade, but there's less paperwork this way."
- Everything's Even Worse with Sharks - At one point in #1, you must scuba dive to a sunken ship which is now, you guessed it, filled with sharks.
- Evil Versus Evil - Many conversations between henchmen mention rival organizations, some even previously worked for them. In Contract J.A.C.K. you fight against Danger Danger on behalf of H.A.R.M.
- Exposed to the Elements - Avoided - She wears coats in the snow levels.
- Expy - Bruno is an Expy of a retired James Bond.
- Face Heel Turn - Tom Goodman, who is actually an imposter.
- Fisticuffs Boss - Magnus Armstrong in the first game.
- Flyover Country - One of the very few videogame levels ever set in Ohio.
- Fun with Acronyms - Parodied. Nobody outside of H.A.R.M. knows what H.A.R.M. means. They rub it in your face by ending a lot of the various memos you find sitting about with what appears to be one of their slogans: "Remember what H.A.R.M. stands for".
- There's possible implications that almost nobody within H.A.R.M. knows what it stands for either.
- Monolith appears to like this. H.A.R.M., Contract J.A.C.K., F.E.A.R....
- Some of the aforementioned intelligence documents you come across even mention a lawsuit lodged against H.A.R.M. by the "Hair Alternative Replacement Club" for trademark infringement. (In Agent for H.A.R.M., it means Human Aetiological Relations Machine.)
- A special bullet you get in the last mission of NOLF2 is called Anti Super Soldier Serum. Try to spell the initials only.
- One of the rival criminal organizations mentioned is Evil Alliance, whose initials coincidentally happen to be the same as a competitor video-game company...
- General Ripper - Hawkins in NOLF2. A pea-brained, trigger-happy, ugly idiot who's a bit too happy about the idea of starting a third world war. And he's a five star general. There may be some Take That on American militarism.
- Gilligan Cut: Armstrong gets one in the second game when Cate asks him to assist in providing information on H.A.R.M. "Well... I suppose I could make a few calls, but DON'T EXPECT ME to get involved! *cut* "Jamal? Magnus... I'm coming to India."
- Gonk - Inge.
- Gratuitous Italian - Il Pazzo ("The Crazy"), the main enemy in Contract J.A.C.K., speaks with a lot of Italian swear words thrown in.
- Heel Face Turn - One of your partners in the second game was a major antagonist in the first.
- Heel Realization - Kemal, Cate's contact in the Indian branch of H.A.R.M. You can find a letter where he explains why he got sick of being among "cartoon villains".
- Heroic Sacrifice - Cate's mentor Bruno (an Older and Wiser Expy of James Bond) takes a bullet for Cate near the beginning of the first game (He gets better.). Armstrong attempts one of these in the second game when he stays behind to jettison an underwater base's escape dome before the base itself explodes ( again, he gets better). Finally, Super Soldier Lieutenant Anders shoots down the nuclear missile at the end of the game, saving Cate and preventing World War III, an act which causes him to overheat and die.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice - Isako does this to Cate at the end of the first level in NOLF2. Fortunately, UNITY agents were able to retrieve Cate and save her life, even though she was supposedly stabbed through her heart. Oh, well.
- Implacable Man - H.A.R.M.'s Super Soldiers in NOLF2 are like this, being essentially unkillable until you finally acquire specially treated chemical bullets that make them overheat and explode in the game's last mission. Lieutenant Anders in particular follows you halfway across the world (by walking on the ocean floor!) because Cate reminds him of his own daughter.
- Insecurity Camera - One of the items you get is a Camera Disabler
- Before that, you're partially saved by the cameras giving an audible (and visible warning) when they spotted you and only sounding an alarm if you didn't immediately hide.
- I Owe You My Life - The only reason competent and honorable Anti-Villain Isako works for abusive Card-Carrying Villain The Director is because he saved her life after a botched assignment. Isako remains loyal to the Director even after learning he set the whole thing up in order to recruit her. Only after the Director tries to kill Isako and Cate rescues her does she consider her life debt paid, at which point she promptly defends Cate from the Director.
- When does this last thing happen? The last we see of Isako is after Cate saves her from being shot by the Director.
- Laser Hallway - Played straight when you try to crack a high security safe. The first two hallways have mobile lasers that you must dodge normally. The third has a truly ridiculous amount of lasers and you can just pull up a nearby airvent and go underneath them.
- Lava Pit and Convection, Schmonvection - Subverted. At one point, one villain is showing another around his underground base. The villain remarks "Ah, lava. Very nice." At one point you drop the first villain into the lava, and find out afterwards it was actually a glowing lava-like substance designed to look like lava at room temperature because real lava is just annoying to deal with.
- Both the "Ah, Lava." line and the revelation of it being fake lava can also be considered a Lampshade Hanging on how badly the lava is rendered (it's just a plain orange bump mapped undulating texture).
- Also lampshaded by a conversation stating that lava made to look cool is better than realistic lava.
- Lower Deck Episode - The Co-Op campaign is based around generic U.N.I.T.Y. agents filling in the gaps around whatever Cate was doing.
- Mission Control - Volkov during part of Contract J.A.C.K.
- In NOLF 2, you get Santa talking to you through a robotic Myna bird
- Nebulous Evil Organization - H.A.R.M.
- No One Could Survive That - Subverted and lampshaded. A character who was 'killed' with no body found returns, only it turns out later he is an evil impostor. This comes as a surprise to everyone because it's generally assumed by the characters that no body means no death.
- Not So Different - Cate and Baroness Dumas.
- Obfuscating Stupidity - Tom Goodman, or at least his imposter. "Tom" pretends to be a Jerkass unable to believe a woman could be a successful agent, but he's actually pushing Cate into danger. He may have underestimated her skills, but his estimation of her skills were much higher than he betrayed.
- Oddly-Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo - An unexpected aversion, in that the original game was setting up a Bond-like title sequence, but when they actually released a sequel they called it No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy In HARM's Way instead of The Operative In: A Spy In HARM's Way.
- One-Man Army - Subverted (plot-wise at least). Rather than not finding anything unusual about Cate mowing down hundreds of enemy Mooks per mission, her superiors find it so unbelievable that they mistakenly assume she's making the whole thing up on her mission reports.
- The Only One - Justified: Previously to the first game, Cate Archer was only given extremely low-profile assignments. This meant that when H.A.R.M. started picking off top agents, she was the only one capable of investigating without being assassinated herself, as barely anyone had even heard of her.
- Parasol of Pain - The plot of the first game involves these being used to turn people into living bombs.
- And the sequel has Isako pull a katana out of a secret compartment in hers.
- Pretty in Mink - Cate wears a fur-trimmed coat in each game.
- Punch Clock Villain - Virtually every enemy character in the series except the ninjas.
- Puzzle Boss - Inge Wagner.
- Railing Kill - Any enemy near some railing will inevitably fall from there when killed. Similarly, if near stairs or some sloping surface, he'll tumble.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech - Cate lays a big one on the Baroness. The Baroness shoots back, "Well, aren't you an arrogant little bitch?"
- Running Gag - The continuous phone calls from the Director's mother.
- Shoe Phone - Each mission introduces new gadgets you get to use, including a lockpick disguised as a hairpin, sleeping gas in a perfume bottle, and goes all the way up to bombs disguised as poodles and angry cats and a rocket launcher suitcase. Somewhat subverted in that not all of the spy gadgets and weapons you get are disguised as things, which just makes you wonder what the point is of disguising anything at all.
- In both games, Cate uses the codename Foxhound at some point.
- H.A.R.M. probably takes name from the bad 1966 James Bond ripoff movie Agent for H.A.R.M., although it is an American secret agency there. Monolith must have a large culture on the whole spy genre (or maybe they're just Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans).
- One enemy conversation you can overhear features one guard discussing virtually every 60's spy show ever made--if he's that big of a fan, it's a sure bet that Monolith is too.
- One of the random items that ninjas drop is a ticket for Kaiju Soshingeki, which was indeed released in 1968.
- The Sixties - Even the space station you visit has a go-go lounge.
- Politically-Correct History - Is Averted. Cate has to deal with a lot of sexism.
- Played a bit straighter in the sequel, featuring a black guy as a liaison from the American branch of UNITY. But hey, maybe UNITY is more forward-thinking than other government organizations...
- Politically-Correct History - Is Averted. Cate has to deal with a lot of sexism.
- Sniper Scope Sway - In the second game, you can level up your sniper skill to get rid of it.
- Sniping Mission - The first part of the first level of the first game is a sniping shooting gallery.
- Spell My Name with an "S" - That's Cate Archer, not Kate.
- Spy-Versus-Spy - UNITY vs H.A.R.M.
- Spy Catsuit - In the first game, Cate's outfit for some levels is incredibly tight leather spy outfit. Subverted in that it's bright orange and has a little leather miniskirt. She later trades it in for incognito clothes, winter outfit, and for the second game a short leather trenchcoat/jacket.
- Spy Speak - One mission involves doing these. They all turn out to be crass come on/rejection exchanges, and the spies are apologetic.
Contact: Guten Abend Fraulein, do you make love to strangers?
Contact: Want to come in for a game of Twister?
- Stay in the Kitchen - It is 1960's Britain. The Spy Speak and lady-themed Shoe Phones are the attempts to haze the girl.
- Not so much in the sequel, since she proved herself in the original, but you do get the American general talking down to her and making clumsy passes.
- Stealth-Based Mission - Not so much an Unexpected Gameplay Change given that Cate's supposed to be a spy, except the unforgiving nature of them (i.e. in some missions you fail if you're so much as seen) in the first game turned them almost into puzzles, and the closest thing the games had to a Scrappy Level.
- Super Soldier - The plot of the second game involves these.
- The Ted Baxter - Inge Wagner, and how.
Sailor 1: You okay? You look terrible.
- Three Girl Band - A trio of multiracial go-go girls who were actually a Quirky Miniboss Squad with sniper rifles. Before you encountered them, they lounged around their dressing room moaning about how so very bored they were.
- Title Theme Tune - Quoted above, complete with dancing silhouettes. See it here
- Tragic Monster - The first Super Soldier you meet, Lieutenant Anders, a U.S. soldier and family man kidnapped and experimented on by H.A.R.M. Although, other than your first meeting (where he chases you around the Arctic Base), you never actually fight him in the game.
- "Abigail! Abigail!"
- Tranquillizer Dart - A stock weapon in the series, essential in the levels where "no casualties" is the requirement.
- Unexpected Genre Change - The second game subtly does this twice, with the comedy action/stealth most of the game is centered around shifting to a horror-based atmosphere for two levels; The Tom Goodman imposter's house and Antarctica.
- Just before the spooky level in the Antarctic base you get the most ridiculous situation: Cate and Armstrong, riding a kid's tricycle, chasing an evil dwarf mime on a monocycle in the streets of Calcutta. Here the game momentarily changes to a Rail Shooter, complete with unlimited ammo (you just have to reload every 50 bullets). Contract J.A.C.K. has a Rail Shooter level too, one of the few genuinely good parts of the game.
- Violent Glaswegian - Magnus Armstrong.
- Man in a Kilt - As befits someone so incredibly Scottish.
- What Measure Is a Mook? - Probably taking a cue from the first Austin Powers movie, both games sometimes evoke this sentiment in the player, if you overhear the conversations among common enemies or read their letters: many of them are just PunchClockVillains with friends, family and hobbies. Sometimes you'll feel compelled to sneak past them even if it's difficult, or just neutralize instead of killing them. An example bordering on the Tear Jerker happens in the second game: you are escaping the collapsing underwater base and there's a blocked door with two men. One is trying to open it while the other cries remembering his brother who died in the space station - the one Cate blew up in the first game. Ouch.
- Technically though, the space station was destroyed by a meteor storm which the crew (or rather the "scientific" part of it) failed to detect. You can overhear two scientists arguing about the computer unable to calculate the meteor storm probability, and then finding out it wasn't plugged in. "Right, let's proceed to the escape pods in a calm, collected manner so as to not arouse suspicion." So, it wasn't Cate.
- Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Her? - Frequently played with.
- Several times during the first game Magnus Armstrong refuses to shoot Cate because they're both Scottish, and he won't slay a fellow Scot without a fair fight or a specific grudge.
- Towards the end of the second game, Cate hangs the lampshade on the trope as she's about to be forced into an elaborate torture machine and deathtrap, asking, "Why didn't you [shoot me]?" to which The Director replies, "Too easy- for you!"