UNITY, a British international spy organization, is having a bit of a problem: someone is killing their operatives. What better solution than to hire an ex-cat burglar as a new operative that the enemy doesn'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 game from 2000, developed by Monolith Productions and published by Sierra. A spoof of 1960s spy movies, it was followed by a 2002 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 a Mission-Pack Sequel in 2003 called Contract J.A.C.K..
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.
It's also only one phrasing variation away from the John Gardner Bond novel Nobody Lives Forever.
No One Lives Forever provides examples of:
- Acting Unnatural: An early level in a Hamburg nightclub has Cate being followed by a HARM spy. The tail is immediately suspicious with his fedora and raincoat, and Cate's partner for the level mentions that he's so obsessed with following her blindly that he'd probably wander into traffic just to keep up with her. As expected, he follows her right into the women's restroom and gets himself iced.
- Action Bomb: The plot of the first game involves a chemical which, when injected into any mammal, turns them into living time bombs that explode after a period of time, with the power of the explosion correlating to the size of the subject (an adult man injected with this can blow up an entire town). The only warning signs is the victim being very gassy and burpy before they go boom.
- Action Girl: Cate Archer, before and after being hired on as a secret agent. A good chunk of the first game is her proving beyond a shadow of doubt that she's this to her organization.
- Aliens in Cardiff: In this case, Ninjas in Akron, Ohio.
- Alliterative Name: John Jack, the protagonist of Contract J.A.C.K..
- Bandage Mummy: Volkov's condition in NOLF2 as a result of a skiing accident caused by John Jack between that game and Contract: J.A.C.K.
- 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 about the gambit.
- Banana Peel: Played rather hilariously in the multiplayer 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.
- Bilingual Bonus: In "Contract J.A.C.K.", Il Pazzo throws in a lot of gratuitous Italian swearing, as well as a few other phrases that make you realize that yes, he really is as crazy as his name suggests.Il Pazzo: Bring his testicoli to me.
- Blatant Lies: in NOLF2, 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!"
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: The Inge Wagner boss fight has a German poster that reads: "Der Erstaunliche Inge - Der beste Oper Sänger!" Spelling errors aside, both the article "Der" and the "Sänger" imply that Fräulein Wagner is in fact male. This, along with several other questionable German translations, was corrected in the German version of the game.
- Boring, but Practical: The Hampton 9mm SMG in the first game. Accurate, good rate of fire, ammo is plentiful and varied, and can even be silenced. Similarly, stealthy players will likely stick with the 9mm Pistol throughout most of the game due to those same reasons, minus the massive fire rate of the SMG.
- Boss Bonanza:
- Basically all of the bosses and mini bosses can fall under this aside from the first boss (which is like a half way boss). You fight Armstrong in scene 2 of "The Indomitable Cate Archer". Once this chapter ends and you get to "A Very Large Explosion", this is when the frequency of boss fights really starts picking up as you are first put to the test against the 3 elite guard chicks (seen in cut scenes throughout the game mentioning how bored they always are) which are each treated as tough mini bosses. In scene 2 you are forced to fight off several helicopters that all either bring several shots to take down or some luck in surviving long enough to get a shot at the gunner when they open the helicopter doors once close to you to get more precise shots in at you. Immediately after, in the same scene, you are forced to duke it out with Volkov while he starts with an AK-47, and you start with nothing as you are forced to find a gun before he kills you. Once you beat him, you move on to "Such is the Nature of Revenge", where you are forced to have a quick fight with Baroness Dumas, and finally in Scene 2, you have to beat Tom Goodman, the final boss of the game.
- In the sequel, No One Lives Forever 2, the boss format is very similar, but a little less epic than in the first game. It's got a halfway boss, and then a high frequency of bosses at the end. This includes Pierre the Mime King near the end of Chapter 13, Volkov followed immediately by Isako at the end of Chapter 14, and then, surprisingly a bit anti climatic, a Super Soldier Lieutenant at the end of Chapter 15 who is basically a miniboss, but serves as the final boss of the game. His fighting style is very similar to that of a regular Super Soldier and he doesn't even get a health bar as he only has about 2.5 times as much hp as a regular one (however, if you fail to shoot him with the anti super soldier serum in time he will still recharge to full health just like a regular one). In fact, a Super Soldier Lieutenant is encountered two times in Chapter 10, but just can't be beaten without cheating since you don't yet have the anti super soldier serum to permanently get rid of them.
- Brawn Hilda: Inge Wagner, one of the antagonists in the original game is this.
- Busman's Holiday: The aforementioned extra mission of the first game, 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.
- Cane Sword: At the beginning of the second game Isako has a sword hidden in her Japanese-style umbrella.
- 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.
- Call-Back: The second game and Contract J.A.C.K. make occasional references to the events of the first game. Notably, the penultimate mission of J.A.C.K. has you board a moonbase created out of the remains of the space station that blew up in the first game.
- Calling Card: Volkov's flower in the first game, which he leaves by his victim's body or near where he killed them.
- 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.
- Classy Cat-Burglar: Cate's backstory.
- Combat Haircomb: With a poisoned blade no less.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: The "Man-Handler", which smashes henchmen into "man-crates" (i.e. the body gets compacted into a cube shape) without killing them. H.A.R.M. seems to use it for particularly incompetent minions, while Volkov subjects people to it since he's in a bad mood.
- 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 whose defection is the impetus for the first game's second mission.
- 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).
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: In NOLF2, one conversation between the Enemy Mimes concerns the reasons why not many women find employment in the criminal industry. In it, the same points are brought up that often appear in arguments about why not many women find employment in the games industry (or even STEM in general).
- The Dog Was the Mastermind: The Evil Mastermind behind H.A.R.M., the Director, turns out to be the middle-aged drunk who appeared in almost every level of the first game as a civilian background character... including a space station that exploded.
- 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). If you're being gutsy, you can run out of cover to grab the bottle of anti-toxin in the middle of the cemetery, which will nullify his poison and level the playing field.
- Eagleland: Tom Goodman, with an exaggerated American accent and look.
- Elaborate Underground Base: 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 in an ordinary high rise building, 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 the high-profile (and lucrative) 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 people have no sense of self-preservation and keep getting themselves killed.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Averted — The Director reacts to his mother's frequent phone calls with utter disdain and frequently hangs up on her. She spends the entire game attempting to browbeat her son into stopping his evil career, and 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.
- Everyone Has Standards: Despite the game being set in a far less progressive time, pretty much all the contacts in the second mission are horrendously embarrassed by the horrific sexism of the Spy Speak exchanges they have to say to Cate, with one even telling Cate to tell whoever wrote them to "grow up".
- 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 between herself and the Baroness to her superiors when the latter becomes a person of interest, but also points out where their paths had diverged.
- Everything Fades:
- Justified 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 in-game do the body dissolving if you don't, with hilarious dialogue."Sorry, comrade, but there's less paperwork this way."
- Bodies fading away can also be turned on in the game options with the stated purpose of decreasing the load the game puts on the computer. It has the side effect of helping with stealth.
- Justified 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 in-game do the body dissolving if you don't, with hilarious dialogue.
- 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. To make it even more fun, they kill you in one hit if they catch you.
- And again later on, while you're crossing a bridge in the BigBad's secret lair, a Have a Nice Death sign (complete with smiley face!) pops up in front of you and the bridge drops out from under you, dumping you into a shark tank.
- Evil vs. Evil: Many conversations between henchmen mention rival evil organizations, some having even previously worked for them before being hired on by H.A.R.M. and actively considering signing up with another one once things start going south. In Contract J.A.C.K. you fight against Danger Danger on behalf of H.A.R.M.
- Exposed to the Elements:
- Avoided — Cate wears coats in the snow levels.
- And when you fall into a frozen lake, your immediate objective is to find a place to warm up before you freeze to death.
- Bruno is an Expy of a retired James Bond.
- The fez-wearing mooks in the first game strongly resemble and sound like Will Farrell's character in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Around the middle of the first level, you can interrogate one by asking him the same question three times. He even lampshades it!
- FaceHeel Turn: Tom Goodman, who is actually an imposter.
- Fisticuffs Boss: Magnus Armstrong in the first game, on account of him being riled up enough to prove he can beat Cate with his own hands.
- Flyover Country: One of the very few video-game 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 Membership" 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 competing video-game company...
- There's also U.N.I.T.Y., but nobody mentions the acronym, or what it means.
- General Ripper: Hawkins in NOLF2. A pea-brained, trigger-happy, ugly idiot who's a bit too happy about the idea of the Cold War going hot and starting a third world war. And he's a five star general. There may be some Take That! on American militarism going on. He's the reason why any nukes fly at all during the final mission of the game, where he pushes the launch button without any prompting from his government and is disappointed when it gets shot down.
- Ghostly Glide: The Mime King in the second game moves like this. Turns out he's actually a dwarf on a unicycle wearing an oversized long coat.
- Giant Mook: The Super Soldiers in the second game are essentially this; huge, slow brutes armed with a repeating rocket launchers and have enough armor to be capable of soaking 2 to 3 mags of automatic weapons fire before going down. They also won't stay down unless you shoot them with anti-supersoldier serum while they're disabled. Design-wise they seem to be a precursor to the Heavy Armor soldiers from First Encounter Assault Recon.
- Giftedly Bad:
- Inge Wagner and her singing, and how. She's so bad at it due to being completely tone-deaf that she's regarded in-universe as the worst singer around, but she's somehow attracted a fanbase of people who think she's doing it on purpose. And in her fight against Cate, she's able to weaponize it and actually drain Cate's health.Sailor 1: You okay? You look terrible.
Sailor 2: I have a really bad headache. I went to this club last night? It took me two hours to get in.
Sailor 1: Popular, eh?
Sailor 2: I guess so, although I don't know why. The music, it was the most horrible thing I've ever heard.
Sailor 1: Hey, I've been to places like that.
Sailor 2: No, you don't understand. I thought I understood what bad music was. This place... imagine that bad music is its own art form. The woman who was singing would be the Beethoven of bad music.
Sailor 1: Come on.
Sailor 2: First of all, it was operetta, which is bad enough.
Sailor 1: Ugh.
Sailor 2: What made it truly painful wasn't that it was completely out of key, although that was certainly unpleasant. It was that it was so... vicious. Like she was trying to kill the audience with her voice.
Sailor 1: Maybe she was.
Sailor 2: No, if you'd seen her you would know. She didn't realize how bad she was.
Sailor 1: What did she look like, anyway?
Sailor 2: Very large with bright, rosy cheeks. Dressed kind of like a milk maid.
Sailor 1: You're kidding.
Sailor 2: No, I'm not kidding.
Sailor 1: Was her name Inge Wagner?
Sailor 2: How did you know?
Sailor 1: She came aboard an hour ago.
Sailor 2: What?!
Sailor 1: It's true! Didn't you read the memo in the galley?
Sailor 2: I never read those!
Sailor 1: We're supposed to assemble on deck after breakfast tomorrow. For a motivational concert.
Sailor 2: I get it. Very funny! You really had me going for a moment there.
Sailor 1: I'm not joking.
Sailor 2: Please tell me that you are... I have to get off this ship. Maybe I can hide somewhere? Do you think they'll notice if I'm not there?
Sailor 1: I doubt it. Hell, I'll join you.
- That conversation becomes a Brick Joke later when you find a letter that announces anyone who skips the "motivational concert" is automatically volunteered to be a test subject for HARM's next project.
- Inge Wagner and her singing, and how. She's so bad at it due to being completely tone-deaf that she's regarded in-universe as the worst singer around, but she's somehow attracted a fanbase of people who think she's doing it on purpose. And in her fight against Cate, she's able to weaponize it and actually drain Cate's health.
- 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."
- Gratuitous Italian: Il Pazzo ("The Crazy One"), the Big Bad in ;;Contract J.A.C.K.'', speaks with a lot of Italian swear words thrown in.
- HeelFace 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".
- Armstrong has a rather reluctant one at the end of the first game when Cate points out how many innocent people are going to die to satisfy the Baroness's urge for revenge.
- 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.
- Hidden Depths: On numerous occasions, the Enemy Chatter shows average mooks to have a number of interests outside their work, and sometimes surprisingly thought-out insights on the world around them.
- Honor Before Reason: Isako owes an unspecified debt to the Director of H.A.R.M. who happily abuses it to use her and her underlings for his dirty work. She keeps obeying in spite of her obvious disgust with the man until he tries to reward her failure with death, which is stopped by Cate.
- 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: As is common for games, the cameras give off an audible (and visible) warning when you are spotted, and only sound an alarm if you remain in sight for more than a couple of seconds. At least here actually destroying a camera causes an instant alarm. In the first game one of your gadgets is a camera disabler which is described as functioning in a perfectly realistic manner: it records a cycle of the security camera's normal view with its own camera and then displays that in front of the lens using a small built-in view screen.
- 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.
- Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Cate's wardrobe is often quite fancy for someone in her line of work.
- 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: 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. You even find barrels labeled as containing fake lava. 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.
- Low-Speed Chase: The second game features a sequence in which Cate and Armstrong use a tricycle to pursue a mime on a unicycle.
- 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.
- Makeup Weapon: Cate Archer has a wide array of girly themed destructive items (mascara laser, hairspray flamethrower, and the like) one could conceal in one's purse.
- Meaningful Name: Baron Archibald and Baroness Felicity's surname, Dumas, although pronounced "Doo-mar" is an obvious contraction of "Dumbass", because Baron Dumas is an incredibly stupid man-child who only got by because of his wealth inherited from his family.
- Mission Control:
- Volkov during part of Contract J.A.C.K.
- In NOLF2, you get Santa talking to you through a robotic Myna bird.
- Nebulous Evil Organization: H.A.R.M.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed:
- Baroness Dumas is based on Katherine Hepburn.
- Inge Wagner is based on Florence Foster Jenkins.
- No One Could Survive That!: Subverted when 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, which is acknowledged and discussed upon their first face-to-face meeting.
- No Woman's Land: The entire theme of the first game revolves around Smith and later Tom Goodman doubting Cate's abilities because she's a woman. Turns out both Smith and Goodman take her very seriously, and try to get her killed, and play up her failures to discourage her or get her removed from the case.
- 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 initially underestimated her skills, but his estimation of her skills were much higher prior to their fight.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: While not containing any bureaucrats, but still in the same sense why Bureaucracy is hated. In the Underwater Base mission, one of the objectives has you on a wild goose chase looking for a requisition form for a computer manual to hack into a H.A.R.M. supercomputer, only to find the first manual you get does not work with the supercomputer.
- Obviously Evil: Mr. Smith, who's the traitor getting agents killed. Considering that he spends the entire game either belittling Cate and trying to get her pulled from duty, insulting the head of UNITY to his face, and constantly trying to drive a wedge between Cate and the rest of U.N.I.T.Y., it's amazing that he maintained his cover for as long as he did.
- Another huge (and possibly the most foreshadowing) example of this is in Such is the Nature of Revenge - Scene 1. When Cate Archer finishes phoning in her report on obtaining the list, Mr, Jones excitedly says: "She's got the list!", and how does Mr. Smith respond? A simple "Unbelievable.", in a rather monotone, unenthusiastic, and very uncaring tone of voice. For Cate's superior, you'd think he'd show even a hint of being proud of her after all that she's been through. If that wasn't enough yet again, he just rubs the back of his head in a seemingly very casual manner after that comment. To add irony to this, Mr. Smith says in Scene 2: "I am overjoyed to be proven wrong.", which very clearly contradicts his earlier attitude in Scene 1, and shows he really truly wasn't. All of this further shows how evil and sociopathic he truly is.
- Oddly Named Sequel: 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 at first that she's making the whole thing up on her mission reports.
- The Only One: Justified in-universe. Prior to the first game's start, 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 remaining and still capable of investigating without being assassinated in the initial flurry of deaths, as barely anyone within her organization or outside of it had even heard of her.
- Mr. Smith notes that U.N.I.T.Y. has several other pressing matters happening during the first game, and Mr. Jones apologizes for sending Cate on multiple time-sensitive, highly-dangerous missions back-to-back but notes that with the previously mentioned assassinations, they really don't have anyone else available. It's noted early on that more than half of the active roster of agents has been killed.
- Optional Stealth: For the most part. Technically, you can complete most levels in NOLF with guns blazing, but stealth is a much better solution. Breaking stealth is not as heavily penalized as in other Stealth Based Games (which the NOLF series strived to be).
- 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.
- Pinned to the Wall: In 2, if you kill an enemy next to wall with a crossbow bolt, he will remained pinned to it. If you then search his body, you can almost always recover the bolt, and the body will slump onto the ground.
- Politically Correct History: Averted. Since it's The '60s, Cate has to deal with a lot of casual sexism from practically all directions. Despite her obvious ability, her gender keeps her out of field work until Volkov's assassinations reach the point where U.N.I.T.Y. is literally running out of field agents. And even then Bruno, a respected veteran operative, has to keep pushing and vouching for her just to get her foot in the door in spite of the very pressing need for her to be in the field.
- Pretty in Mink: Cate wears a designer fur-trimmed coat in each game.
- Professional Killer: 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.
- Punch-Clock Villain: Virtually every enemy character in the series except the ninjas. Magnus Armstrong especially, as he's only a "villain" because he got in so much trouble for fighting, and even then, he only fought with people that wanted a fight or deserved a beating, having never ever bullied anybody and refusing to harm Cate because she's just doing her job and also Scottish.
- Puzzle Boss: Inge Wagner, who's completely invulnerable to bullets and melee due to her Valkyrie armor. But she apparently insisted that her fight has appropriate background music, so she has a cassette player blaring operatic music where she's fighting Cate. The the solution is to turn the player off, which causes Inge to drop everything to turn it back on, and then turn on an electrical box in the area since that player is sitting on a barrel in a puddle of water...
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: A trio of multiracial go-go girls who you fight in the final parts of the first game. Before you encountered them, they lounged around their dressing room moaning about how so very bored they were.
- 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.
- Reality Ensues: Attempting to disable security cameras by shooting them will disable the cameras, sure, and also raise an alarm, as the guards on monitor duty will notice cameras suddenly malfunctioning. Same goes for searchlights.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Cate lays a big one on the Baroness. The Baroness shoots back, "Well, aren't you a righteous little bitch?"
- Regenerating Shield, Static Health: In the first game, damaged body armour can be replaced during missions but health can only be restored at the end of the mission. This makes opponents with dum dum rounds a top priority in a gunfight.
- Running Gag: The continuous phone calls from the Director's mother.
- Shoot the Dog: You can shoot the monkey in Morocco but that will lead to a game over for "Unacceptable Simian Casualties".
- 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. Then averted 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 refers to UNITY via the codename Foxhound at some point.
- H.A.R.M. probably takes name from the bad 1965 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.
- One of the random items that ninjas drop is a ticket for Kaiju Soshingeki, which was indeed released in 1968.
- Two scientists can be heard discussing the dangers of dehydrating a human body and then rehydrating the remains with "heavy water", which happens in Batman: The Movie
- The '60s: Even the space station you visit has a go-go lounge. Politically Correct History is averted, as Cate has to deal with a lot of sexism. It's downplayed in the sequel, which features a black guy as a liaison from the American branch of UNITY.
- Skill Score: The second game introduced upgradable skills that improved Cate's in-game performance.
- 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 Catsuit: In the first game, Cate's outfit for some levels is incredibly tight leather spy outfit. Played with 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 for even saying their parts of it.Contact: Guten Abend Fraulein, do you make love to strangers?
Cate Archer: Certainly not!
Contact: Then allow me to introduce myself.
Cate Archer: Why not just introduce yourself to a police officer and spare me the trouble?
Contact: Who makes up these ghastly code phrases anyway?
Cate Archer: Someone in the cryptography department — someone in need of a girlfriend, apparently.
- Later:Contact: Want to come in for a game of Twister?
Cate Archer: I'd rather run over you with my car.
Contact: These code phrases have a somewhat confessional tone to them, don't you think?
Cate Archer: Yeah, now that you mention it...
- One mission involves doing these. They all turn out to be crass come on/rejection exchanges, and the spies are apologetic for even saying their parts of it.
- Spy Versus Spy: UNITY vs H.A.R.M.
- Stay in the Kitchen:
- It is 1960's Britain. Mr. Smith is one of the biggest sources of this in the first game, and the aforementioned Spy Speak and lady-themed Shoe Phone gadgets are clearly attempts to haze the girl (although they wind up embarrassing the informants more than Cate), and she puts the gadgets to very good use.
- 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.
- Stealth Escort Mission: In the very first mission in the original game, you have to snipe numerous assassins targeting a VIP without the VIP noticing you or them. The latter requirement is made quite easy by the fact that he is a self-important Upper-Class Twit with zero awareness of anything that doesn't serve his immediate satisfaction, and also stone deaf.
- Super Soldier: The plot of the second game involves these.
- Terrible Pick-Up Lines: Lampshaded and Justified. In Berlin, all of Cate's (male) liaisons have cheesy pickup lines as their Spy Speak signs, while Cate's exasperated rebuffs are the countersigns. After exchanging them, both parties frown and ask themselves "Who Writes This Crap?!".
- Title Theme Tune: Quoted above, complete with dancing silhouettes. See it here
- Token Good Teammate: In the first game Armstrong is notably more moral than the rest of H.A.R.M. He defects near the end after Cate first beats him up and then guilt-trips him.
- 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.
- Trailer Park Tornado Magnet: The second game has a trailer park hit by a tornado; you have to fight off ninjas inside one of the trailers as it's picked up by the twister and beginning to disintegrate.
- Tranquillizer Dart: A stock weapon in the series, essential in the levels where "no casualties" is a 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 abandoned house of the Tom Goodman imposter, where you spend part of the level looking through old notes and exchanges between him and Smith (before it gives way to ninjas breaking in through the windows and becomes a standard run-and-gun level); and Antarctica, where the only enemy is a mutated Implacable Man who you need to simply avoid.
- 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. also has a Rail Shooter level, this time set IN SPACE!
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: You can use the blowtorch to set NPCs on fire. It doesn't damage them so there are no consequences apart from causing them to run around screaming:Indian Police: What horrible agony!"
- Violent Glaswegian: Magnus Armstrong. Also a Man in a Kilt, as befits someone so incredibly Scottish. He views Cate this way too, at least after she beats him in a fistfight. In fact, after this incident, he refuses to harm Cate in any way.
- 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.
- Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Frequently played with, especially after every time Cate gets incapacitated.
- 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!"
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Volkov pulls this on John Jack at the end of Contract: J.A.C.K. Unbeknownst to him, Jack survives the betrayal and returns the favor by sabotaging Volkov's skiis, resulting in his accident and subsequent condition in the second game.