No One Lives Forever, and its sequel A Spy In HARM’s Way, are infamously unavailable. Through the meticulous horrors of ownership rights across multiple publishers, and an apparent unwillingness by any involved to see it resolved, it’s not possible to buy either classic game anywhere.
Well guess what – there’s a way to get them anyway, and we super-encourage you to do so.
We have long lamented the unavailability of the No One Lives Forever games. I was recently moaning about it, sadly remembering the peculiar disappearance of the implied Night Dive version. Shortly after I posted that, Kotaku’s Kirk Hamilton got in touch with me to point out a splendid bit of digging he’d done a couple of years back to find out what happened to all that. Which was this:
Night Dive applied for the trademark since no one else held it, and confident they’d manage to get a straight answer out of people involved, had gotten access to the source code for both games. Things were looking positive, they were even working on marketing material, until the tangled mess of ownership proved impossible to disembroil. With three contenders – 20th Century Fox, Activision and Warner Bros – Night Dive sensibly assumed it really belonged to developer Monolith’s now owners, Warner. So they got in touch. But Warner quickly said Activision owned some of it too, and wanted them involved. Right, fine said Night Dive, and went over there. Activision then told them that, well, maybe they owned it a bit, they weren’t really sure, but if they did the contract wasn’t stored digitally, and was probably lost in a box somewhere. And Fox said exactly the same. I’m really not making this up.
But then Night Dive’s trademark application was made complicated when Warner Bros, despite refusing to claim ownership of the game, applied to extend their expired trademark of the name. Sigh. Night Dive reportedly tried to understand why, made repeated attempts to negotiate, but Warner showed no interest at all in even trying to make a deal, no matter how sweet Night Dive made it.
So where did this all leave things? In a place we called Stupid. Fox seemingly wanted money up front to even look through their filing cabinets (which they’d repay if they found they had no rights), so when Night Dive said no to that generous offer, Fox responded by saying (and I paraphrase) “You can bet your bum we’ll look in our filing cabinets for free if you start selling it.” Activision just shrugged. And Warner? Well, those treats sent Night Dive a “scary letter”, threatening to throw lawyers at them if they pursued re-releasing the game, despite the concurrent negotiations they were involved in. SIGH. Night Dive eventually managed to get the two parts of Warner to actually talk to each other, and sensibly ask themselves if they wanted to work out a licensing deal, which resulted in their saying… No.
As Kotaku reported Night Dive saying in 2015, “They come back with a response that said they’re not looking to either publish the game themselves at this time, or to partner with us.”
Night Dive were generous, saying people who tried to help (and not all did) were friendly about it. But you can be friendly and entirely unhelpful, it seems.
The end result being, no one knows who owns NOLF, but no one involved is willing to relinquish their potential rights for the sake of seeing a game they’ve no interest whatsoever in selling being available to buy.
What a joyous, wonderful system, eh?
But there’s an alternative! Some anonymous heroes are not only risking the wraths of all involved by distributing both games, for free, but are putting out patched versions that’ll run on your snazzy new PC, even in resolutions like 3440×1440 – I know, cos I just played it like that. And gosh, NOLF2 looks good in HD!
I discovered this via a comment on a recent post about Tron 2.0, another Monolith classic that Disney are looking after well. Huge thanks to one SimonSays.
I’ve had a few issues. NOLF is quite crashy when I press Capslock, of all things. With NOLF2 I’ve had trouble with the menus not fitting on the screen at higher resolutions. But I’ve not spent long fiddling to try to fix these issues.
RPS ordinarily doesn’t encourage downloading unofficial versions of games, but at the same time, we’re strong advocates behind the concept of abandonware, where individuals and groups preserve and maintain the availability of games that are no longer available for legitimate purchase. NOLF and its sequel are certainly much younger games than would normally qualify for that, but my goodness, all the potential owners of the game sure have gone out of their way to ensure they can’t profit from it. These games have been available for over a year, and no one’s done anything yet.
And heck, if any of the companies involved were to step forward to object, they’d rather be positioning themselves as having suddenly resolved the rights issues they claimed they could not untangle! They’d be surely ready to release their official version just in time and then we could point you to that one instead.
We’ve reached out to the distributors of the game for comment.