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It’s by turns gripping, thrilling, suspenseful, preposterous, badly flawed, ridiculous, engaging, exciting, appalling and practically unmissable. In a sense, 24: The Game couldn’t be any more like 24 the Series.
In so many ways, 24: The Game is an object lesson in how to export a successful TV series to a video game. It looks, feels and sounds right. The in-game models resemble their TV counterparts about as much as Playstation 2 technology allows, and with the original actors providing voices, it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to find yourself sucked into a great lost season, sitting happily between season two and season three. Stylistically, it’s all there: the creeping, handheld camera; the dramatic score; the signature use of split-screen to cover events from two angles or as a transition between multiple events; the clock updates; the final ticking down and cut-to-black as each ‘episode’ ends.
What’s more, the script is pretty much spot on. Like the series itself, it veers dangerously close to self-parody at times – does Jack ever chill out? Does Kim have no instinct for self preservation? – but the narrative has all the sudden twists, misleading innuendo and shock revelations we expect from the series, and it’s all dealt out in the same breathless fashion. Of course, the real-time element has been dropped – in the unlikely event that you played straight through in one sitting without dying, 24: The Game would run less than half the length of 24 the series – but the game has maintained the TV version’s sense of urgency. And as with the series, what starts off as a small-scale terrorist threat soon develops into a deeper plot with more horrifying ramifications. You just know that the guy who seems like the mastermind will be revealed as a pawn before the story reaches its end. And for once, nobody seems to be sleepwalking through the lines; everyone from Kiefer Sutherland downwards puts their all into the dialogue, with only the odd casual background line – the “What are you doing here?” sort of stuff – sounding silly, awkward or misplaced.
In fact, if we were marking 24 for how faithful it is to the TV show, it would easily get an 8 or 9 – the guys at Sony Cambridge really have done an amazing job. Sadly, on the producing an enjoyable, entertaining game front, things don’t look nearly as rosy.