Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Genre: Third Person Action
|FIMP: 24: The Game [PS2]|
So I won't.
24: The Game so far, to put it perfectly bluntly, is a 24 fan's dream come true. It's also a serious game player's nightmare come true. As both, I'm torn right down the middle as to just how much this game is worth playing. On the one hand, knowing about that crucial gap between Seasons 2 and 3 - during which this game takes place - is absolutely critical to satisfying my obssessive need for all things 24. On the other hand, I've grown to despise horrid camera angles and routinely dumb AI that isn't redeemed by inspired level design or waves of enemies a la Doom.
24: The Game has its heart set in the right place. Primarily a third-person shooter at its core, 24: The Game incorporates driving, stealth and several minigames into the finished package. It's got an innovative lock-on targeting system where you still have more precise control of where you're aiming, so you can actually lock-on to an enemy and go for the headshot. It's got a great stat-tracking system that reports your competence (or lack thereof) as a percentage rating at the end of each level, egging you to improve your play to unlock special features.
Somehow, unfortunately, it mostly misses the mark.
For starters, even the basic act of running in the game is severely hampered by an over-sensitive left-analog stick. Think of a smooth-running platformer like Jak and Daxter or Super Mario Sunshine, or an action title like Grand Theft Auto. Turning and running in these games is fully controllable and you never feel like your character suddenly spazzes out of control. In 24: The Game, however, tilting the analog stick from up to up-right makes your character swivel almost wildly to the right, making precision turns require the use of the camera stick. Since sprinting requires you to press the X button on the controller, using the camera stick for precision turning is nigh impossible.
The minigames and alternate gampelay modes provide a nice cut away from the crap camera - but fail in terms of providing something engaging. There are sections where you're given a scrambled code and must reassemble it by pure deduction, only able to switch two letters at a time. There are other sections where you defuse bombs and unlock panels by gauging the most direct path between connected blocks on-screen by simply pressing the right face button. These types of nursery-school minigames really just get in the way of the shooting action. I'd rather be capping people in the head with an AK-47. True, the interrogation minigame - which plays a little bit like free-throw shooting from NBA Live (thanks for that one, Dave) - is intense enough to be fun, and the one sniper mission I've played so far was highly enjoyable. But then we come back to the crap - specifically, driving. I have rarely seen worse driving physics in a game. Couldn't they have hacked together a really quick Ridge Racer or Grand Theft Auto engine for this one?
Then you've got the targeting, which actually for the most part is awesome. L1 locks onto an enemy, displaying a wide circle around your target on-screen. Within that target, a tiny crosshair pops up. You can then maneuver this crosshair with the right analog stick to target a specific part of your foe's body, but the one flaw in this is that it auto-centers when you let go of the analog stick. This is similar to the haphazard manual aiming in Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64, so I suppose this really is a personal issue that I have with this method of aiming, and at least you still stay locked-on to your target. But for those not used to auto-center analog aiming, quickly targeting someone's head and then keeping the crosshair there for when the enemy comes out of cover becomes a somewhat irritating task.
This leads directly into the next problem - enemy AI. In almost every single shootout I've been in, enemies are content to stay in cover, pop out and aim, and then shoot when they see you. That's about it. Thus, as a player, all you need to do is follow suit. Watch them pop out of cover, pop out yourself, squeeze off a few shots, and then duck back down. True, it's tense and sometimes exciting, reminiscent of Winback for - again - the Nintendo 64. But just like Winback, it becomes tiresome when that's all they do. Since a lot of the indoor shooting takes place in corridors, there's no opportunity for enemies to flank you. They don't do that much in more open environments, either. They still stay content with sitting pretty where they are and popping out of cover, even though they should probably be guessing that you've got your gun trained on them already. There's one instance where there were a bunch of little alcoves where I could hide, advance, hide, advance, et cetera. I employed this tactic and totally massacred a bunch of hostiles. Why they didn't think to do the same is beyond me.
With that said, at least fans of the show who aren't necessarily videogame fanatics can get into the game easily what with the relatively low challenge that the AI presents. And really - it's all about playing through the game to get to the cutscenes. I'll concede right now that I've pretty much given up on this game being more about a videogame experience, because I'm overjoyed that the game's story and presentation absolutely match the show almost cut-for-cut. The multi-paned windows, the voice acting, facial mannerisms, tense moments, plot twists, and even the way the camera pans and zooms in on faces really emulate the feel of the show to the point where paying $40 for what's reportedly an 8-hour season really doesn't cause any buyer's remorse.
Like Black, this will be a tough game to review - but for different reasons. I'm admittedly enjoying it if only for the presentation. I'm just upset that the gameplay really doesn't thrill me, because there was so much potential here for a high quality shooter experience. Regardless, if you really, and I mean REALLY love 24, then you probably don't need to wait for a review to drop the Andrew Jacksons on this.
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