/24: THE GAME
It's hard for me to review this game properly, mainly because I'm an unadulterated 24 addict and although as a developer, I had my obvious preconceptions and 'license' fears, secretly as a fan I wanted this game to be awesome!
I had been watching the games' development process closely with both joy and anguish. To cut to the chase, since I started playing the game 4 days ago, I have been irritated, confused, annoyed, but also genuinely surprised by 24: The Game.
.GAME Vs SHOW
The way the feeling of 24 has been recreated in a videogame format is very good. It's slick and to be honest, at times, cinematically speaking, I was occasionally fooled into thinking I was watching the show. It's superbly done.
However, this brings its own issues which, from a gameplay point of view, can suddenly make you want to throw the controller across the room. For example, in the middle of a driving section, you are just about to take a bend and they decide that this is a good time to suddenly go into split screen to show you the vehicle tailing you. Could you confuse me more?
I also noted (and this may have purely been time constraint issues) several places where they decided to do something cinematically that could have easily been done by the player as a gameplay section and, to be honest, I felt a little cheated. Story wise it's a little confusing. They have tried to write a 24-style story, but have also tried to tie up loose ends from the end of season 2 to the beginning of season 3. There are strange plot twists and it does not feel like it fits together coherently. I don't want to spoil the story for anyone who hasn't played it, but there are key places where the story suddenly alters, which had me wondering what exactly was supposed to be happening. I never get that feeling with the show.
I think the writing could have used a little more time and refinement. That said, the characterization is wonderful and each one is brilliantly recreated, especially Tony Almeda who looks great. Obviously this is helped by the actors lending their real voices, but they also move and react like you'd expect them to in the show.
One of the things I really enjoyed was the large selection of mini-games the designers came up with. Yes, they were simple, and yes, it has all been done before, but when was the last time you played a game that implemented these old school dynamics and made it fun?
Although, realism wise, they are technically ridiculous, I think they worked really well, even when compared to the shows distorted view on what computers actually do and are capable of.
However, there is one mini-game that will drive you to the edge of insanity; not just because it's difficult, but because it is also insanely repetitive. You will quickly realize that it's also effectively pointless. Welcome to interrogation. You're not really doing anything! If it had been up to me, I would have made this a far better game system and used it more often. It's only used 3 times in the whole game, and it just gets more and more frustrating! All you get to do is press one of three buttons and I'm not even sure why. What it actually does is make the line of questioning more aggressive, passive or neutral, but it really doesn't seem to do that much. Neither does it seem to make that much sense when the character suddenly loses it and you have to start again!
.DRIVING (me up the wall)
If ever a game needed to have something cut, it'd be the driving sections in 24! They're like a cross between Driver on acid and the abhorrent mess that was the driving sections in the first Matrix game. Yes, it's kind of cool that they've built a couple of sections of downtown LA, but for what purpose?! The driving mechanics are truly awful; everything from the basic controls to the car physics. The car sounds are like something you'd hear in F1 Grand Prix on the original Sega, and the missions are just regurgitations of their own dullness. The only one I recall being decent was the last one you do and it wasn't even in the LA city they'd obviously spent a lot of time and effort crafting.
Early in prototyping, if they did such a thing, they must have realised how poor this all was and should have cut driving entirely and replaced it with a more robust and deep combat and stealth system and really pushed the game that way. You can't do everything, and when you try, this is what happens! The first Matrix game suffered from exactly this problem.
Enough bitching then! What is actually good about this game? To be honest, even with the horrible driving sections and interrogations, it's still great fun to play a game that is split up into discrete sections like this. One second you are storming through a derelict building, restraining civilians, shouting “CTU” at the top of your lungs and killing anything that looks like it might have a gun and be a terrorist, and the next minute you're hacking a damaged hard drive or driving through LA to rescue Kim (obviously!!).
It's the format of the tv show that makes this truly possible without it feeling clunky, and all things said and done, it has translated well as a game. The story (although a little convoluted and confused) is still intriguing enough to make you want to see what happens in the end.
The soundtrack (subtle as it was) is well woven into the game-play and changes, especially on timed missions to represent the pressure you are under, which felt really good. The shooting and combat sections are well designed and occasionally even tempt a second play to get that better percentage score. I also loved the sniping missions, and wish they'd been able to implement a few more.
Personally I would have loved to have seen a more accurate representation of time in a game based on 24, but what the hell, you still get the idea. The look is done well enough, and although it doesn't have a particularly solid frame-rate, there is a lot going on most of the time and so, this is just about forgivable(ish).
.On the Whole
If you're a fan of 24, you'll get a kick out of the game, for sure. If you're not, you may find it repetitive and perhaps a little dated. That's not to say there isn't something there for a non-fan though.
I was, in the end, underwhelmed by the overall experience, however, I was satisfied that I had finished the game and even felt tempted to redo some of the more interesting missions. It's not a great game, but it's definitely not a bag of dirty socks either. Worth a go, especially if you're a 24 fan.