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24: Special Ops

For: Mobile

Not just another day

Product: 24: Special Ops | Publisher: Digital Chocolate | Format: Mobile | Genre: Action, Casual | Players: 1 | Format: J2ME | File size: 854KB | Reviewed on: K800i other handsets | Version: Europe
24: Special Ops Mobile, thumbnail 1
People often say that 24 gets increasingly implausible with every new series, because, surely to God, nobody could have that many bad days. However, being an ace counter-terrorist agent, it's not that unlikely in our view that Jack Bauer would be called upon to foil the occasional plot. Still, how the hell they've all ended up lasting exactly a day is a mystery.

Digital Chocolate is adding to the mystery with 24: Special Ops, which like I-play's original 24 game, consists of a series of mini-games based on the adrenaline-squirting TV series. The plot concerns nuclear warheads, helicopters, code-cracking, bomb-disposal and a pernicious arms dealer called Dietrich, all of which you either enact as Jack Bauer or learn about through talking-head cut-scenes with fellow operatives Bill Buchanan and Chloe O'Brian.

One of the most impressive things about Special Ops is the presentation. Visually, it follows the distinctive art style of the series very closely. Each level is introduced with the words 'The following takes place…' and then a green LCD display of the time of day, complete with beeping countdown. To resume your game, meanwhile, you 'continue story' and to visit the extra features menu you select 'previously on 24.'

In every respect Special Ops is a polished title. The graphics are crisp and detailed, so the environments are expansive while even small details – such as weapons, power-ups and mice scuttling across the floor – are clearly discernable, which is no mean feat given the detail present in the backdrops.

Thankfully, this quality carries over for the most part into the gameplay.

There are three main sub-games, the most significant of which is the isometric shooter, where you'll spend the majority of your time. Walking at a snail's pace that transpires to be less frustrating than it first feels, you make your way through a series of levels taking down various henchmen, some of whom throw grenades and some of who merely shoot.

Waist-high objects function as cover in these environments, and you automatically duck when you approach them, then automatically vault over them when you push again in their direction. Power-ups, such as the submachine gun, you fire automatically, while the Kevlar vest means health.

Other elements of play are present, such as the option to sneak up behind enemies and kill them - automatically by stealth - but you'll rarely take advantage of this facility, not least because the game is fairly easy, with most levels conquerable in one go.

The second kind of sub-game is driving, and these levels are much better than the token overhead driving sections you may be used to seeing. For the most part they simply involve barrelling vertically along a four lane road, weaving through traffic and occasionally barging another driver off the road.

While not exactly adventurous, these sequences are enjoyable thanks to responsive controls and the fact that it's actually necessary to use your brakes from time to time, which is a rarity in the world of mobile driving.

The third sub-game is, inevitably, puzzle. There are two kinds: one in which you have to rotate pieces of pipe on a grid so that a line can run from one side of the screen to the other, as in the retro classic Pipe Mania, and the second is a variant of hangman in which you need to discover the missing letters in a phrase before a timer runs down.

Again, these aren't exactly original, but they're well-presented and enjoyable enough, and combined with the other modes, provide variety.

As if that wasn't enough though, these 24 levels are supplemented by a bonus system whereby you unlock special features by gaining various awards, which include finding hidden laptops, killing enemies with grenades and reaching a variety of other milestones. While completing the game is easy, collecting every award is actually fairly tough, and so there's plenty to keep completists engaged once the rest of us have wandered away.

Still, if there is one regret it's that despite its high polish, 24: Special Ops is a far more leisurely pursuit than the high-octane series on which it's based. Countdowns are generous, continues infinite, and the pace creeping. Presumably this is to entice the sort of mass market audience the 24 brand is designed to attract. Hence hardcore action gamers might find it a little easy for their tastes.

But other than this caveat, 24: Special Ops provides a textbook example of how film and TV licenses should be approached. It looks great and works well with the brand. In fact, we're happy to say it's the best 24 mobile game to date. Jack, your time starts now...
24: Special Ops
Reviewer photo
Rob Hearn | 24 January 2008
A polished game with varied activities, 24: Special Ops provides an enjoyable, if rather easy, trip through another bad day at CTU
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