Probably the most disappointing thing in games today is seeing wasted potential. Being such an avid fan of the TV show 24 I was really expecting the game to live up to the expectations the show has set forth, especially considering it was developed in-house at Sony’s Cambridge Studios. Alas once I dove into the game I was presented with a complete polar opposite situation, on one hand the game captures the essence of the show with its presentation. On the other it completely fails in the game play department. What you are left with is a really good episode of the show thrown together with painful segments that you are forced to play to make it to the next cut scene.
Let’s start with what works and work our way down from here. For starters the presentation is top-notch. Bringing in the actual actors from the show to do voice-over work really draws the player into the story and creates the illusion that you are actually watching an episode of the show. I do get the feeling however that this may have been a first for some, for instance Kiefer Sutherland never seems to convey any sense of urgency like he does in the show. While this is a small criticism it is certainly one worth mentioning to fans of the show.
The cut-scenes are one of the only highlights of this title.
The cut-scenes are also immaculate featuring great camera work and superb editing just like you would find in the show. You can tell that the people who worked on them are huge fans of the series as you can sense the amount of passion in each one. They are also implemented into some game play segments which further induce the sense that you are really playing out an episode of the show. Unfortunately you never get much of a chance to see the villain’s perspective as you will spend the majority of your time following the show’s protagonists.
The general storyline is definitely engrossing and extremely well written and you really get the sense that 90% of the developers effort went into making sure the game would appease fans of the show. You have the usual plot twists, cover-ups, and shocking moments that you would find in every episode and it even displays the clock at the bottom of the screen to keep track of the time throughout the day. While the show is second-for-second the game takes a more lenient approach by simply skipping past certain time segments and displaying others at key game moments. While it may upset some fans I guarantee it was hard enough to calculate all the time and check points while still trying to make the game accessible to players.
This is where 24 The Game falls completely apart; game play. Now I consider myself a true connoisseur of the shooter genre. I have played more than my fair share of first and third person games, so when I started playing 24 I was simply expecting a Max Payne control style with some nice touches that mesh well with the show’s theme. Wrong! This game plays worse than a broken piano; nothing ever seems to feel right on any level.
Let’s start with the aiming system; from the outset you are able to move the cursor around with the right analog stick. The problem arises when you stop aiming it jerks back into a central position really screwing up your precision shots. It is also extremely touchy when you start out, there will be plenty of missed shots for those of you who don’t take advantage of the auto lock-on feature. The best combination we found while playing the game was switching the aiming method to “Camera” instead of “Character”. This allows for an almost tolerable scheme, but you still cannot turn off the re-centering. This makes simple maneuvers such as climbing a flight of stairs more of a chore than anything else.
Now lets talk about the aiming system, you can adjust it to an auto lock-on feature that allows you to target the closest enemy with a press of the L1 button. Once locked on you can flick the right analog stick to switch between targets and even adjust the aim for those precision head shots. Basically you will end up using this method most of the time because the default aiming is frustrating to the point of exhaustion. Now this alone wouldn’t constitute an entirely dysfunctional game, there are certainly plenty of games that hold you hand in the aiming department. However when you combine that with the ridiculously stupid AI in the game most of levels simply becomes a “rinse and repeat” affair. Lock onto target A, finish him off, then flick to target B, and so on and so forth. This creates a redundant atmosphere throughout the entire game, even the miniscule side missions, which by the way are the best part of the game, cannot derail this game from becoming anything more than a monotonous ride through tedium.
Twenty bucks says neither of those guys will even see you!
As far as the visuals and audio are concerned the game is far from hideous. The facial models on the characters are eerily familiar to fans of the show. Seeing Kiefer Sutherland rendered in a game is enough to bring back nightmares of Flatliners. The audio as I mentioned before is also very well done thanks mostly to the addition of the show’s cast. Some of the dialogue can seem a bit emotionless at times, but for the most part it conveys a great sense of atmosphere and really drives the story along quite well.
Apart from the occasional distraction of a mini-game such as diffusing a bomb or the excellent cut scenes this game is poorly constructed even for a budget title. The worse part is this game isn’t a budget title so that makes things even worse. Fans of the show would do well to rent it for the weekend to get all the storyline, which is based between seasons two and three, but purchasing this game would be a crime in itself. Jack Bauer may be able to save the world in 24 hours, but nothing can save this game from its undeniable mediocrity.