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There are moments that show more imagination. There’s a great chase scene where a sprinting Tony has to avoid the stuff that his running target throws in his wake, and some surprisingly well done interrogation scenes where you modulate Jack’s approach to tune in to the nervous state of the subject. Normally the speed at which Jack moves between soothing tones and barked threats – “You’re going to give me that information, because you don’t want the alterntative” sort of thing – might raise eyebrows, but hey, it’s all very 24. We also get a cool find the hitman section, followed by an even better shoot the hitman section, and at least the bits where you have to hack your way through systems using a simplified circuit-linking puzzle are fairly simple. I know some may moan that they’re hardly realistic, but what else would they want? For you to spend the next forty minutes hard-coding a virus in Assembly?
Still, taken as a whole, it’s all a bit sloppy and inconsistent, and you’ve probably played most of this before and done better in Metal Gear Solid 2 or 3, Need for Speed: Most Wanted or Fahrenheit. Even the graphics vary dramatically, with a smooth frame rate and some nice effects improving the mostly bland action sequences, while the driving sections suffer from pitiful texture detail and a stop-start frame rate. You keep thinking, after Black, Burnout: Revenge and God of War, surely the PS2 is up to more than this? Again, the best-looking bits are the cut scenes, just because you get close to the action and can see how detailed and well-modelled the characters are. That’s really the amazing thing: Sony Cambridge has created the one game where you look forward to the bits that usually annoy you by breaking up the gameplay, and actually don’t want them to end. In fact, it’s practically the opposite of Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3.
But here’s the thing – no matter how shocking the gameplay gets, the authentic 24 atmosphere just keeps pulling you through. Even when you know it’s rotten, and that you’re going to have to spend the next 20 minutes engaged in a tiresome and repetitive task, you do it just to see what the plot has to offer next. And that’s why I’d recommend fans of the show – and only fans of the show – rent the game over a weekend and just treat it like an extra, interactive DVD boxset. It might not be the game that changes your life, but you will want to play through it once.
Sony Cambridge gets it half brilliantly right, and half horribly wrong. The result is a great ‘lost’ season, even when it’s a poor excuse for a game.