By Messier 1 Comments
I've been enjoying the adventures of Jack Bauer since I bought the first season of 24 on DVD in 2003. The show was so compelling that I tore through all twenty four episodes in one four day weekend. The combination of exciting action, political intrigue and entertaining plots with plenty of twists & surprises has made 24 one of my favorite shows of all time.
24: The Game was released in 2006 when the fifth season was airing, but its story bridges the gap between the second and third seasons, answering some questions along the way. While I was fully expecting this game to be a simple cash-in that would disappoint fans along the lines of Lost : Via Domus, I ended up being pleasantly surprised by the quality of the title. It captures the look and feel of the show, making you feel like you are in the middle of interactive episodes of the show.
The authenticity comes from all of the actual actors voicing the characters they play on the show, the use of the familiar 24 score, a plot that matches the show in terms of scope and complexity authored by one of the show's writers and cut-scenes which are edited like the show, utilizing similar camera angles, lighting and the show's traditional use of split screen.
The game is broken down into 58 missions which incorporate a variety of gameplay conventions and give you the chance to play as a number of your favorite characters from the show. These missions borrow a lot from a bunch of other games. There are third person action missions that play like a traditional shooter, stealth sequences where you need to quietly infiltrate a location or avoid detection, sniping missions, driving missions where you are chasing someone or being chased, a few different "hacking" mini-games, threat scanning mini-games, and the only real unique mission style to the game, the interrogations where you have to get information out of a suspect by taking the right approach to keep the stress meter in their "cooperation zone".
Example of an interrogation (not me playing):
After each mission is completed, you are graded based on your performance. If you score 90% or better, you unlock a piece of bonus content which can be character models, artwork, video interviews with the cast or some TV ads. The video interviews are cool, but the rest of the stuff isn't much of an incentive to replay missions you already passed.
The shooting controls are a little clunky and I found myself fighting the lock-on a bit. The game employs a very rudimentary version of the shooting controls found in GTA IV. You lock on to an enemy with the left bumper, then you adjust the aim of the crosshair with the right stick for head shots. Unfortunately, the enemy that it chooses to lock on to isn't always the one you want. There is the ability to hide behind cover, but you can't slide along whatever you are hiding behind. Any movement pops you out of cover. Its also difficult to aim at enemies which aren't directly in front of you when you are in cover. The driving is pretty basic: one button to accelerate, one button to brake and the steering is pretty forgiving. The hacking mini-games involve you either pressing the correct button that corresponds to the highlighted color or putting letters of a password in the correct order or taking the correct path to complete a circuit.
Some shooting & hacking gameplay from Mission 1& 2 (not me playing):
The game is paced well, with most missions lasting 10 minutes or less, and the variety of tasks breaks things up and keeps any one element from getting stale. It's not a terribly difficult game if you just want to advance the story, but there is a challenge if you want to score well on each mission. There was also a game stopping glitch about halfway through which almost made me quit playing. One mission involves you sniping enemies from a water tower until a truck crashes through a gate, then you are supposed to run back to a building and protect someone. Unfortunately, the enemies you need to kill to complete the mission refused to spawn. No matter how many mission restarts or reloads I did, I was stuck. With only one save file I thought all hope was lost. Thankfully a quick Google search revealed this as a common bug which is reset by restarting the mission & ejecting the disc. Upon reloading the game, this makes the mission start over from the cut-scene and somehow retriggered the enemies.
I enjoyed the game, but I would only recommend it to fans of the show. Each of the types of missions have been done better elsewhere. Taken on its own merits as a game, 24: The Game is pretty average. I had fun with it because I liked playing as these characters and I wanted to see where the story went. If you are interested in getting into 24, this isn't the place to start. Definitely pick up the first season DVDs. To get full enjoyment out of the game, you need to know who these characters are going in and what has happened to them up until this point. If you are a fan of the show, but do not want to bother playing through it, you can watch all the cut-scenes below.