Thursday, November 30, 2017

'No One Lives Forever': Early Development, Reinvention, and Release

In 2000, when The Operative: No One Lives Forever has hit the shelves, it was sold millions of copies all around the world, and resulted in a huge success for both the developer and the publisher. Simply referred to as No One Lives Forever, the game pays a visit back to the 1960s culture where the spy craze was all around the media. Its homage comes from the most notable and iconic spy franchises, specially Our Man Flint, the James Bond series (first five films with Sean Connery), Get SmartThe Man From UNCLEThe Avengers, with the inclusion of Modesty Blaise amongst others. At the time, First-Person Shooter genre was a popular gaming category, which combined all those spy media inspirations into its circle and created a stealthy action video game which left a huge impact on the audience, which spawned a sequel and an interquel spin-off. They were all developed by Monolith Productions and published by Sierra Entertainment, with the exception of the original game being published by Fox Interactive.

Development on the project started in 1998, after Monolith's latest two titles, Shogo: Mobile Armor Division and Blood II: The Chosen were released. The game actually started off as a mission-based, anime-inspired, paramilitary action thriller intended as a spiritual sequel to Shogo, which was supposed to be an action-adventure involving the elements of fantasy, but eventually the project ended up being a 1960s spy adventure in the tradition of Our Man Flint and countless other spy movies and shows of the same nature. After finally signing a contract with Fox, the team was able to draft a mission statement, which stood as a point of reference during every aspect of developing the game. Craig Hubbard, who contributed in designing many Monolith video game titles, insisted that a strong narrative, with twists and turns in the spirit of Charade or Where Eagles Dare, featuring a fiercely competent hero and an assortment of despicable villains, memorable moments, death-defying situations, opportunities for stealth as well as all-out action, and a variety of exotic locales to explore categories are heavily required.

Shogo: Mobile Armor Division served as a spiritual predecessor to No One Lives Forever.

Eventually, the game was announced at E3 1999 conference show, with some screenshots and a small footage of the game was shown. Monolith claimed that No One Lives Forever will feature a retro backdrop set in 1964 Europe, complete with the fashions and styles of that time period. The main character was said to be named Adam Church, a British secret agent working for MI0 (pronounced MI-Zero), an ultra secret group operating under the authority of "Her Majesty's Most Secret Service". Reportedly, Church's mission is to help aid in the defection of an East German biophysicist named Otto Dentz. When the mission goes awry when the defector is abducted by a terrorist group operating under the name HARM. This unknown group and its motives for kidnapping Dentz are unknown, and Church finds himself in the midst of perplexing puzzle as he attempts to find him. The player is also able to use several high-tech gadgets, including lock-picks, sunglasses with cycling visions, a cigarette lighter that melts any metal locks sticking onto gates and doors, among the others.


Early No One Lives Forever development screenshots featured at E3 1999. A male hand is seen wielding the weapons, and wearing a dark blue suit as it appears. None of these locations have appeared in the final release version of the game.

During the production after the title was surfaced, the game was compared to the James Bond series, and particularly the 1997 video game, GoldenEye 007, which led the developers to get into rage and restart development on No One Lives Forever. Hubbard stated that the intention of the game was to make a 1960s-themed spy adventure, and not a Bond-inspired imitation, leading them to submit many changes to the storyline. Originally, the game was supposed to have a drop dead serious tone, but afterwards, the Austin Powers-styled parody was dragged into the genre, with many standards remained still the same. Each location and level maps seen on the early footage, all of them have been absent in the newer edition. The protagonist, now, has been changed to female operative named Cate Archer, a former thief burglar, now a secret agent in service for the British Monarch, under a super-spy agency UNITY. The only objects that survive from the original development were the weapons. They've also added something in front of the working title to get away from any reference to anything that relates to James Bond and his franchise (particularly the Bond novel written by John Gardner, titled Nobody Lives Forever), with a final conclusion settling on The Operative: No One Lives Forever, with the front name making reference to Cate herself. Not much of the original project was revealed at all, nor a concept art for Adam Church was ever seen. So, nobody but the developers know how did the male protagonist looked like.

An element from the final game features similar stand-off between the protagonist and the enemies, echoing the same cable car scene from Alistair MacLean's Where Eagles Dare.

Cate's first mission was to protect an enemy target from HARM assassins with her own sniper rifle, which reminds the audience of the scene from The Living Daylights, with Bond sent on a similar assignment.

In The Operative: No One Lives Forever, set in 1967, seven active UNITY covert operatives have been assassinated by a mysterious group of terrorists. Cate Archer, a low-ranking agent, has been called into service for her first major assignment, which was to investigate a recently discovered organization which turned out to be HARM and its executive director, former KGB assassin called Dmitrij Volkov. Cate is the first female agent to be recruited to UNITY, and somehow has been "untrustworthy", which is why her superiors are skeptical of a woman working as a field operative, and have previously relegated her to more mundane assignments. Through many betrayals she faced, many murder attempts she survived, many fuses she lit, and many locations she travelled to, Cate finally comes face to face with someone from her past, who wants revenge from the whole world by provoking a conspiracy all over the countries, with the intention of starting a possible World War III conflict. With the only highly-trained agent left in the field, the entire agency counts on Cate Archer who's their only hope for saving the world.

Cate Archer in the Alps, sent to defeat the Baroness Dumas.

In the next two years, a sequel to the game was released with a bit more serious tone, titled No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in HARM's Way, focusing on Cate Archer facing even deadlier enemies. HARM, driven by vengeful plot against Cate, mark her for death, while they develop their evil schemes to provoke a war between the US and the Soviets.

Cate preparing to infiltrate a village where all the female ninjas live.

An interquel, a game that takes place between the previous two installments, was released, which follows the events of the first game, even re-visits some locations that ocurred in the previous adventures, and predates some happenings which took place in the second game. In this title, Contract JACK, the players take control of a contract killer named John Jack, hired by HARM operative, Volkov, to rescue a scientist from a rival terrorist organization called Danger Danger, led by an Sicilian mobster named Il Pazzo (The Crazy One in Italian). It does not involve UNITY nor Cate Archer herself. JACK, however, stands for "Just Another Contract Killer", which points out that he isn't important in the No One Lives Forever chronology and timeline.

"Just Another Contract Killer". Must be John Jack of HARM.

Cate Archer is based on an American model and actress, Mitzi Martin, and was voiced by Kit Harris in the first game. As the character is from a Scottish descent, Harris recorded her voicework in Scottish English accent, but due to the accent itself being used too lower class, she re-recorded her voicework again in a full-time "British Bent" instead. In the second game, however, Cate's look completely differs, as the writers decided to give her a resemblance to an English model, Jean Shrimpton, and this time, she was voiced by Jen Taylor, a professional vocals imitator herself. The character of Cate Archer met generally positive reviews as her games did. She was described as James Bond's female counterpart, and an improved version of Emma Peel.

Mitzi Martin provided her likeness and motion capture performance for the character of Cate Archer in The Operative: No One Lives Forever, even appeared in disguise as Cate during E3 2000.

Jean Shrimpton's likeness was used for Cate Archer's character in No One Lives Forever 2.

A third game, however, was never mentioned about and wasn't even planned. Monolith switched to working on a brand new franchise with a very similar gameplay to No One Lives Forever, but they have nothing in common when it comes to the genre. Rather it's a horror-themed science fiction thriller with a group of elite forces sent to terminate some failed experiments which turn out to be monsters. It resulted in FEAR, which didn't last long. Fans of No One Lives Forever kept demanding to make another installment in the spy series, but Sierra Entertainment, which published the latest two installments in the series, is owned by Activision, who never give any greenlight to video games involving female protagonists. But, it's still unknown who owns the IP to the franchise, but it's most likely Monolith, who are acquired by Warner Bros. a year after Contract JACK's release. In 2008, the US-based Play magazine expressed their desire to see Cate in further sequels than just one or two. Only time will tell.

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