Why You Won't See NOLF Re-released Soon
I've recently had this itch in my brain. An itch I can't seem to get rid of. This Easter I visited some childhood friends back home where my parents live. We do the same every Easter and Christmas, me and my friends. We take a week or so off work or studies, visit our parents and get the old gang together to reminisce. While visiting one of my friends, I looked at his shelf of old physical copies of games. He had Half-Life, Command & Conquer and a good few other classics. One particular, very bright orange cover stuck out. I pulled it out and immediately realized what I was holding. A very rare copy of a very rare game these days. One of my favorite games of all time. NOLF, you sly dog.
Do any of you remember this game at all? The Operative: No One Lives Forever. It was an FPS developed by Monolith Productions and released in 2000, to widespread critical acclaim. Set in the Bond-esque 1960s, you are Cate Archer, a secret agent and professional assassin employed by the agency known as UNITY in the fight against Dimitrij Volkov and the evil terrorist organization H.A.R.M.
The game could show off some pretty fancy technology for the time. I remember being fascinated by how enemies would fall and roll when you shot them while they were standing near a staircase. The game also had a great plot that was both, homage to and a parody of the old spy movies of the 60s and 70s. And did I forget to mention that you had a ton of awesome gadgets at your disposal? Lipstick grenades, briefcase-shaped missile launchers, laser guns, cigarette lighters that turned into welders, zip cord belt buckles, a body-dissolving chemical compound that makes carrying and dumping dead enemies seem like such a hassle in comparison... Oh and NOLF had a crossbow, way before it was cool. Monolith also developed a sequel, NOLF 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way and a spin-off, Contract J.A.C.K. Oh Monolith and your overcomplicating video game titles. Though at least the two first games were huge critical successes, they apparently didn't make much in the way of sales.
Since I found the dusty cover of this forgotten gem in my friend's shelf, I've been wondering. Why did NOLF just die? There was a sequel and a spin-off, and then it all just went underground? Monolith moved on to make other games - among them, the esteemed F.E.A.R. franchise. But the rights holders must surely know that a reboot could be very profitable? I mean, if a company thinks rebooting Syndicate as an FPS is a good idea, someone somewhere must be thinking about NOLF too. Right? But even if you don't look at the possibility of having it rebooted, why haven't these two classics been re-released on Steam or GoG? It seems so commonplace nowadays, so why not NOLF?
Apparently, I'm not the only one thinking about this. Who am I kidding anyway, anyone who have played NOLF during their life have likely thought the same at some point. Where is NOLF 3? Why isn't NOLF 1 and 2 on GOG? Community Manager at Activision, Dan Amrich has seemingly gotten this question a lot, because he posted this video on his channel at Youtube about a week ago, explaining who has the rights. Well, I feel bad if I get your hopes up and you watch this video only to end up disappointed. Because you see, the conclusion is that nobody really knows who sits with the rights for NOLF.
How can this be? Well there's a ton of confusing and contradicting facts to be considered. Monolith developed all three games of the franchise, including the spin-off. But all three games had different publishers. Between the release of NOLF 2 and 2008, there's been a bunch of sales and mergers that have eventually left Cate Archer spinning in limbo with no visible light at the end of the tunnel. Activision is the most logical place to find the rights, but Amrich says it doesn't seem like it. Monolith don't know, Sierra Fox and Vivendi are all gone, swallowed up by the behemoth that is Activision Interactive. Nobody knows, and nobody cares. Well, if you don't take into account the thousands of fans who would gladly dish out their hard earned money for a reboot on Kickstarter or elsewhere - or at least to get their hands on a re-release on GoG or Steam. Because not all are as careful with their game discs, or as lucky to have bought the game in the first place, as my friend in my hometown.
Damn it, I knew I should've stolen his copy while I had the chance. I really wish I could end this one on a more cheerful and optimistic note...