24: The Game may as well have been called “Jack Bauer’s Day Off” because he really isn’t firing on all cylinders.
This game is set inbetween Seasons 2 and 3, back in the day when Nina Myers was still a threat to society and amnesiac moms, Kim Bauer hadn’t yet become *completely* irritating and Ryan Chappelle still had his brains inside his head. Only the latter two show up in this game, alongside Jack – of course, Chloe O’Brian, Michelle Dessler, Tony Almeida, President David Palmer and Chase Edmunds.
So what’s the plot for this game? Well, terrorists are kicking up a stink in Los Angeles (again) and as things start we learn there’s a load of the deadly poison Ricin parked in an LA harbour and Jack’s got to track it down with a little help from his friends… I mean colleagues… I mean… well, sometimes in 24 the powers that be approve of what he does and sometimes he goes off-message and they disavow all of his actions, despite the fact that he’s proved time and time again that there’s really only one guy who can get the job done – him. The guy deserves a knighthood, not a hard time.
24: The Game is pretty easy to get into, and you’re not really up against the clock as although you start at 6am, working your way round to 7am, the onscreen clock only appears at certain moments when passing checkpoints, and shows up as the convenient time spaced out around the current hour in play. Only at certain points does a timer start, giving you any sense of working against the clock.
There’s a “Previously on 24” section which has a roll-call from the actors featured, all of whom perform their actual voices – unlike some games that side-step one or two key characters (anyone remember the Xbox game based on Buffy The Vampire Slayer?), a trailer for Season 4 on DVD and a ‘Missions’ option which is just for you to load in your previous game because that… er… happened previously on 24 when you last played it, ahem, even though there’s a ‘Load Game’ option from the main menu.
Some of the key sound FX are recreated here, such as the countdown clock and the one just after being told that the next segment takes place during a specific hour, and if you’re wondering in-game where your next round of bullets is coming from after you’ve capped the bad guys, just search their bodies for extra ammo.
And that’s all the good stuff, because this game has a large number of obstacles to overcome. Trying to maintain 24 hours of plot over about half that time in actual gameplay is one thing, but it’s the mechanics which often let it down.
The first problem is that it’s simply taken so long to come out since it was first planned, and at the time of this game’s release we’re a few hours into season 5 on Sky One.
It does all the split-screen stuff, on occasion, in the same flashy manner, but it gets in the way as it divides up the screen like one of those two-player games where you have to share the same TV, which doesn’t help things at all in crucial situations and the graphics start to resemble something from the original Playstation!
When you enter a room full of baddies, sometimes there’s the option to restrain one, rather than fill him full of holes, but there’s no real comeback doing the latter if they give themselves up and you don’t care about the end-of-level stats, so you may as well have a blast! In fact, when coming up against any of them, difficult this is not. Bad guys present little or no challenge when you need to shoot them dead. Well, only in one respect at least…
The camera angles leave a lot to be desired, particularly if you want to turn quickly and aim your weapon just as you’re entering a room so you’re ready to cap the bad guys. You expect to be able to quickly turn, aim and have the camera angle follow you round very quickly afterwards and find you heading in the desired direction, but no. You’re found back in the same direction that the camera’s still facing, so you’re not in the least bit ready. Grrrrr!
Things get even worse in this respect when you’re actually face-to-face with the enemy and you end up constantly pointing in the wrong direction when every second counts, literally.
From time to time there are rudimentary driving sections with terrible handling. It’s like the guys who wrote this had never played a Grand Theft Auto game, let alone actually got behind the wheel of any vehicle in the real world(!)
Driving a car makes it sound like you’re stuck in first gear and it’s running on the wrong type of fuel. Also, in the chase sections, as with most games of this type if you don’t keep up with your target then you lose him and have to redo that section… Pardon? I know most games act like this, but this is CTU we’re talking about and with the satellite tracking technology at their disposal they’re so clever they could tell, if a tree fell in a forest, whether or not it made a sound(!)
As stated earlier, all the real actors voice their own characters but Jack’s voice – arguably the one you hear most often – is programmed in rather unevenly at times, not going with the ebb and flow one would expect of the series. For example, the game starts in a tense situation so why is Jack talking as calmly as when he announces the time of the hour in which an episode takes place, rather than shouting back home as you’d expect?
Doing the actor a further disservice is his appearance. Jack Bauer, close-up (right), looks more like a constipated Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland‘s co-star in 1990’s supernatural thriller Flatliners. The other characters don’t look much better either – and to think this apparently has Kiefer’s personal seal of approval(!)
Overall, 24: The Game doesn’t feel like a complete experience. The run-and-shoot and driving sections are like playing a load of individual mini-games linked by a tenuous storyline, even though the show’s own storyline can go a bit off-track at times. And then comes the actual mini-games themselves, to break up the meat of the story. These include forcing a kidnapped baddie to tell you the truth, interrogating him by pressing certain buttons at the right time (not quite the Parappa the Rapper that makes it sound like) or doing something or finding the right path between certain boxes in a control panel to disable a bomb.
You don’t want to press the wrong button at the wrong moment so if you’re in need of a medkit then can’t afford a mistake when coming under heavy fire. Such a shame, then, that it’s too much of a faff to use your PDA (inventory) with the D-pad, since it doubles up for the weapon select as well, and the PDA should’ve been made available from the Pause menu so you also get time to think while trying to regain your health.
Jack Bauer isn’t your only controllable CTU agent – you can also play as others including Chase Edmunds, who we only saw onscreen in Season 3, but the gameplay and objectives give exactly the same experience. In fact, it may as well be Jack throughout for all the difference it makes.
24: The Game reminds me of the problematic parts of kill.switch and Enter The Matrix in its implemenation, which is a great shame. If you really want to behave like a film/TV character full of bravado, play The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay.
At the end of this review, if you still want to have a go then I’d advise a rental first, but I’d assume the only inclination for you will be its subject matter. Had it been another character in another setting in another game, you wouldn’t have gone near it with a bargepole. Now paint Jack Bauer over that character, paint CTU and the outside locations as the setting and stick on the high-profile name and… there’s the attraction.
- Publisher: Sony
- Players: 1
- Widescreen: Yes
- 60Hz: Yes
- DTS sound: No
Producers: Jean-Baptiste Bolcato and Mark Green
Writer: Duppy Demetrius
Music: Sean Callery
Jack Bauer: Kiefer Sutherland
David Palmer: Dennis Haysbert
Michelle Dessler: Reiko Aylesworth
Kim Bauer: Elisha Cuthbert
Tony Almeida: Carlos Bernard
Chase Edmunds: James Badge Dale
Chloe O’Brian: Mary-Lynn Rajskub
Adam Kaufman: Zachary Quinto
Agent Aaron Pierce: Glenn Morshower
Max: Thomas Kretschmann
Ryan Chappelle: Paul Schulze
VP Jim Prescott: Alan Dale
Agent Tom Baker: Daniel Dae Kim
Nina Myers: Sarah Clarke
Kate Warner: Sarah Wynter
Madsen: Christian Kane
Governor Radford: Andreas Katsulas
Sid Wilson: Tom Sizemore
Mandy: Mia Kirshner (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.