|24 shows up in video game form, exclusively on PS2 thanks to Sony|
What we have here is a wonderful license boasting some fab ideas for its video game incarnation, let down mostly by the lacklustre specs of the machine it's running on. I'm a big fan of Sony as a development team - especially their more recent output - but part of me wishes they hadn't scored this particular license. If someone like Ubisoft had snagged up 24, it'd be free to appear on some of the more cutting-edge systems, ones far more suited to this kinda genre. As it is, 24 is a PS2 exclusive...a system long since past its sell by date...and as a result, no one wins.
It has the makings of a fantastic TV tie-in on paper, and I'd even say that occasionally it lives up to that promise. Charging around as Jack Bauer with an Elite pistol in hand, yelling at terrorists to drop their weapons before blowing a hole in their head holds some major novelty value - not to mention the surprisingly fun "interrogation" sequences - and there's definitely something to be said for that. Yet the experience is constantly marred by poor frame-rates, horrendous aliasing and perhaps most of all, that dodgy PS2 pad.
"Today is the Longest Day of My Life..."
Set midway between season 2 and 3 of the show, 24's plot follows - among many other things - that of terrorists attempting to assassinate the vice president (aka Jim Robinson). You control a ton of CTU agents throughout the day, ranging from Jack himself, to Tony, to Chase, to a bunch of minor no-name bomb defusers and the like. Basically, if you've seen it in the show, you'll get to try it out here.
Each separate mission is interspersed with some absolutely fab in-engine cut-scenes that really nail the 24 atmos. You often feel like you're privy to some sorta long-lost season of the show, and it's pleasingly watchable in that regard.
|The missing link between season 2 and 3, the game fills in all kinds of blanks|
It's when these cut-scenes end and you actually take control that it all starts to fall apart. Once you remove all the fancy mini-games, the kick arse cinematics and those ever loveable characters, 24 becomes primarily a very mundane and unintelligent third person shooter.
In a game so focused on endless shoot outs, sadly the shooting just ain't much fun
either. It's positively crying out for the same control system we saw in Resident Evil 4, but you'd be wiser to set your sights more towards Driv3r. You can mess around with a couple of alternate configs and switch in auto-aim and so on, but that's a cop-out if ever there was one, and in the day and age of Resi 4 and the Halo series, anything less than perfect real-time aiming is pretty inexcusable if you ask me. The bottom line is that the PS2 pad really isn't built for these sorts of games, with the dead zones on the analogue sticks the final nail in the coffin.
It's a shame, 'cos if the game had spent more time beefing up this underlying yet essential aspect of solid combat mechanics, the rest could so easily have fallen into place. There's an awful lot of neat ideas going on around it you see, along with some incredibly solid production values too.
"I'm Gonna Need a Hacksaw"
This sucker's clearly built by huge fans of the show. It seeps with love and worship for all things 24, from the awesome use of split screen camera work, to the kick arse script and storyline. Every single 24 alumni shows up for voice acting duties too - including Kiefer Sutherland himself - and they all do a damn good - if somewhat subdued - job for the most part. Actors have also had their likenesses recreated digitally in-game, and although not quite perfect, if you squint your eyes they can often pass for the real thing.
|Every 24 cast member lends not only voice talent, but digital likeness too|
The game also - somewhat surprisingly - boasts full physics at all times, with crates, shelves and even enemies flying all over the place amidst hails of gunfire. You'll even find drivable vehicles peppered throughout, including the occasional level set around high speed car chases and the like. Although rough as hell and plagued with pop-up, such moments certainly add a nice bit of variety and help pull off that 24 adrenaline rush the game so desperately needs more of.
Heck, just little things like the fact your cell phone reception alters and cuts out as you move around the levels is a great little touch, one of many such fanboy nuggets that are just oh so 24
As I say, there's some very nice ideas and concepts at play...it's just let down by the underlying and highly monotonous shooting sections that unfortunately dominate most of the levels. Oh, and to add insult to injury? 24 also thinks it's a stealth game, with you - get this - controlling Kim Bauer of all people on a couple of such levels. The unholy marriage of all that is wrong with the universe.
"Tell Me Where the Bomb is or I Will Kill Your Son!"
|24 looks fine in stills, but the framerate and jaggies kill it in motion|
Graphics, as I touched upon, are damn impressive in cut-scene mode - right up there with the likes of Metal Gear Sold 3. Much like the game as a whole though, they rapidly degenerate when the actual gameplay kicks in. Those jaggies...the goggles, they do nothing! Textures are also very bland and lacking in detail, and without the 24 countdown along the bottom of the screen, you'd often be hard pressed to tell it apart from any other third person shooter.
Sound is absolutely spot on however, with all the classic music queues, solid voice work, and vintage sound effects you'd hope for. Every single bleep and telephone ring from the show makes its way across, and you even have a button for yelling out Bauer-isms at suspects mid-mission, making this 10/10 material without a doubt.
All in all though, 24 - The Game disappointed me pretty damn hugely I'm afraid. Coming off of Shadow of the Colossus and God of War, I was hoping Sony would knock a third ball out the park in this one, but 24 just doesn't cut it. The story and cut-scenes are fantastic, but the gameplay is often boring, rough around the edges and just lacking enjoyment.
|While the chance to live the life of Jack holds some minor novelty, 24 - The Game could have been so much more|
Perhaps most criminally of all, it does absolutely nothing interesting with 24's greatest asset...its real-time nature. How I would have yearned for a genuine 24 hour long persistent video game, with you stopping a terrorist attack in under a day of real-time gameplay, played out with interactive branching storylines that really got the blood racing. Instead, 24 treads the far more traditional route of linear level after linear level, with the real-time concept conspicuously missing. You'll find cheap, and often non-sensical countdown timers pushing you forward, and it just ain't enough.
In a way, this is the "Enter The Matrix" of the 24 world. An ambitious, and passionate affair that aims for the skies and tries to do its subject matter justice, but doesn't really have the innards to back up the vision. As a die hard 24 fan, I'll see it through to the end - if for no other reason than to enjoy another Jack Bauer arse kick-a-thon - but at about two thirds in now...it's starting to feel an awful lot like hard work...
Wanna know how Chase become Jack's partner? How Kim started working at CTU? Who was behind that slimy hand President Palmer assassination attempt many moons ago? Then this game is definitely worth a ganders...albeit in rental form. If however, you care not for such things, and are wondering "Who the hell's Jack Bauer?" then move along...there's nothing to see here.
As Jack himself would say, "DAMN IT!".