The latest season of 24 ended this week and I know some of you are holing yourselves up in a hermetically-sealed bunker until next January. But I say, "Come out of your caves! If you need a fix, I have your drug!" I know how addicting it can be – worse than Jack Bauer's stress-induced coke habit – but there is always 24: The Game to while away your time. Maybe not seven-or-so months worth, but hey, I'm here for ya. We can form a support group!
To tell the truth, it's kind of strange going back to the early days where relationships were different, other people were in charge of CTU, some characters no longer exist, and others that are now major players once only had bit parts. It's a little more Season 3, though, as it sets up Chase's arrival in LA and he plays a pivotal role in the events of the game. It would ruin a lot of the fun to go into too much detail, but a terrorist group headed by a man name Madsen rolls into town and it seems he's had quite a past with our protagonist. Apparently Madsen once served under Bauer in some capacity and aside from his quest to hold Los Angeles hostage, he's planning to make Jack suffer. The poor CTU agent just can't get a break!
Throughout the game you'll play as several different characters. Most of the time it'll either be Jack, Chase, or fan favorite Tony Almeida, but once in awhile you'll get control over Kim Bauer or Michelle Dessler. Since it would be tough to go the whole nine and make each mission an hour long, they instead consist of mini-missions which take up the "time frame" of an hour. For instance, sneaking through a building and retrieving a hard drive might only take the player ten minutes, but in 24 land that was half an hour. It's a little disappointing, but it does keep the plot moving along at a brisk pace.
The cutscenes are pretty well done, with mostly-accurate models of the entire cast and fluid animation to boot. The "camera" cuts around and pans just as it would in the TV show, as well. The in-game graphics don't hold up quite as well. There's nothing egregiously wrong with them, but some environments feel a little bland and frame rate issues pop up here and there. Jack (or whoever you might be controlling at the time) takes up most of the screen as the camera rides right up next to them. It would've served the game and controls better if they pulled the angle back a little bit.
Audio-wise, the voice acting works really way. Not a surprise since all of the actors from the show lent their pipes to their video game counterparts. Sean Callery's signature soundtrack makes the occasional appearance, but the rest of the music is comprised of unfortunately dull filler.
Now we finally get to gameplay, which is really a mixed bag. In order to capture the more manic moments in 24 as well as all of the different computer and field skills put to use by CTU agents, the developers decided to fill the game with several different types of gameplay with varying success. These are best tackled one at a time.
The core of the game is comprised of shooting and stealth. There isn't a whole lot to either that you haven't seen before and in some cases less. Stealth sequences, for instance, are usually as simple as making your way around some guards and sneaking past cameras. You can perform a surprise attack from behind, but that's the extent of it. No cool weapons or gadgets or anything to augment the gameplay here. Shooting segments come together in a similar manner – run into a room, use the lock-on feature and blast away. They tried to innovate here by allowing the player to move the crosshair while locked on in order to line up for headshots and so on, but more often than not, it's more efficient to just shoot shoot shoot.
You'll occasionally be tasked with driving around sections of Los Angeles. If anything, it's an exercise in frustration and needlessly tough as you'll have be required to lose any cops or terrorists on your tail before completing your objective. There isn't an easy way to go about this, including the game's prescribed method of weaving in and out of back-streets. Tests of endurance aren't 24's forte and it really messes with the pacing of the game. Just to put the cherry on top, vehicles control like a beached whale.
What makes the experience oddly fun are the mini-games used to represent various computer tasks like hacking into a security system, scoping out snipers using heat-sensing radars, recovering data from corrupted hard drives, and so on. They're usually pretty simple to understand, but serve as a nice gesture to the player that they're involved in every action instead of just feeding them through cutscenes every time a computer problem needs to be dealt with.
While the disparate elements of 24: The Game aren't stellar, they come together like peas and carrots when combined with the solid and engaging storyline. If you can sit back and enjoy the ride, like watching any season of the show, you can get a fair amount of enjoyment from the experience despite its shortcomings. There's always something cool about getting to interact with characters and locations that you'd normally only be engaging with passively through through the television screen. Unfortunately, there isn't much to go back to once you've finished the game. Extras such as short interviews and character models become available once you get high rankings on each missions, but that's about the extent of it. As an adaptation, 24: The Game stands out against the plague of other licensed dreck, but some polish could've made it shine. For series junkies, though, there couldn't be a better time to pick this game up. It'll help you get through the withdrawl symptoms to boot!