24 is a television series that has changed dramatic television over the last four years. With an unusual multi-pane visual style and a storytelling method that makes each episode cover one hour of the story at a time, the show has a very edge-of-the-seat pace and style. With the release of 24: The Game near the start of the fourth season, we ask if the game can keep up the pace of the TV series without changing the formula.
I found the graphics for 24 to be a mixed bag. I felt that I was staring at a very fine, but blocky censoring overlay for a lot of the scenes. I would strongly advise against playing this game on a large display. With that complaint stated, the effect has its tradeoffs. The game runs really fast and smooth, and has few to no framerate issues.
The models of the various actors look good, but they still had a sense of wrongness to them. The game did not use very complex textures for the different characters, so you get to see what look like caricatures of the actors. They are still easily reconizable, but they always struck me as just not being right.
The music from the game makes generous use of the themes from the TV show. This music is already good in its own right, and just enhances the overall effect of the game being part of the show. All of the actors reprise their own roles by providing the voice work in game. Because of the amount of information that comes across the screen as narration, and the way they did the models of the actors, the use of the actors’ voices actually does the best at making this a ’24’ game. No other element puts this show in the right thematic place. All of the actors and the voice director deserve a round of applause for doing just the right job on the voice tracks.
The background sound effects also continue to support the rest of the sound by being clear and well placed. Street noises, electronics, and more all bring the world of the CTU to life.
Control really needs to be divided up into three parts, representing the Action, Driving, and Puzzle sections of the game. The Action controls are up first, as they are the most used. The controls are your basic third person control, using the left analog stick to move and right stick to aim the camera. Some management of the camera is required, especially during the shooting sequences as it is loose and does not always focus on the action right away.
The action sequences use a very unique mode for handling precise shooting and cover. You use a shoulder button to target someone, and a circle appears around them. Within the circle are two lines (if you are close enough for that weapon) and you can use the lines to make precise shots. In several situations, terrorists had grabbed hostages for human shields and it was very easy to take that precise shot to hit them in the hand or head and disable them, all while keeping the hostage alive and well. I was able to do this several times in a row early on in the game without having to think about taking the shot. This makes the game feel like you are playing the role of someone who is a good shot. Adding on to the shot mechanic is the use of cover. By using X (the standard action button) near a wall, your character sticks to it, then allowing you to use L1 to pop out and make your shots. Releasing L1 allows you to return to cover. This ‘Time Crisis’ mode works really well and makes the action sequences shine.
Driving mode didn’t leave me with as much of a good taste as the Action mode controls. I got into the cars, honestly expecting controls and reaction similar to the Grand Theft Auto series, and I was sorely dissapointed. While the rest of the game has emphasized action over realisim, the developers seemed to lean the other way during the driving sequences. The cars were sluggish to control, and it felt like I had to push the accelerator through the floor (or the controller) just to get up to speed. One sequence in particular was very frustrating as I was attempting to escape from some pursuing vehicles. No matter how I tried to confuse, distract, or block the other vehicles, they had the advantage and were right behind me or putting me into impossible situations. I was further hampered by vehicle controls that made me feel like I was driving in molasses at sixty miles per hour.
Puzzle mode controls are a mixed bag. I say this because they aren’t really one unified set of controls. They vary depending on which technological task you are attempting to do, whether it be defragmenting a file, cracking a code on a door lock, or scanning a building from orbit to find snipers. The good news is that you are presented with a control screen the first time you attempt any of these puzzles, and the more common controls are in the manual. It works really well, and I did not encounter any puzzle where the control layout made the puzzle difficult to play.
After the control section that you were just subjected to, I’ve really covered the basics of the gameplay. But knowing how the game handles doesn’t really tell you how well it stands as an experience. The overall game is laid out just like the TV series is, with all the action starting at a set time and advancing hour by hour through a day. The setting of the cutscenes and in game play even use the same type of montage/divided camera views to illustrate what is going on. It is done really well, but when you are trying to sneak about, the view changes can cause you to mess up at critical times (I’m looking at you Kim!) The game details several plots and makes use of the storytelling elements from Season 2 to build the story. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like playing the game, as I had only seen a few episodes from Seasons 1 and 2, but thankfully the story is kind to you in that respect and does a good job of lowering you into the plot instead of assumming you know what is going on. It doesn’t tell you anything about what has happened previously (other than knowing that certain characters did or did not die.)
What this game amounts to is a rollercoaster. There are sequences where the action is fast and furious, then you build up a little more plot, moving into another action phase. It continues throughout the missions put before you, and really draws you in to the game. With all that was going on, I would keep forgetting I was playing a game, and kept moving forward through the action sequences just to see how the story developed.
The game has fifty-eight total missions for you to complete, and each of them rates you at the completion of the mission. Score high enough, and media from the game and the series is unlocked for you to watch. Some examples include interviews with cast members, and models to view of the in game characters. The story and action sequences in the game are so well balanced that it is easy to return to it periodically and play it again.This game has a few mixed production values, but comes out on top in terms of being an episode in the 24 series. This title has some solid features to it, and only a few soft spots that don’t hurt the overall title. Rather, they just add to the challenge, because you are going to want to know how Jack Bauer and the rest of the CTU will get out of this situation.