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Retrospective: Why '24: The Game' is the best game ever*
by Chris Hawke

I have lost faith in humanity. Only recently, I was reminded of the PS2 TV-tie-in 24: The Game, and my memories flooded back of all the brilliant hours I spent with a virtual Jack Bauer and his last-gen crew. I completed it not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times. That’s three more than once. I frikkin' loved it. So imagine how my heart fell when I checked out some old reviews and was met with a slew of fives and sixes. Hell, someone even chucked a 2/10 in there too. How? Why? And whom? That is why I'm here; to set things right. Once and for all, I will prove that 24: The Game was, and still is, the best game ever*.

* "Best Game Ever" is totally subjective and may vary depending on personal opinion.

Aiming And Cover

Few things anger me more than when Grand Theft Auto IV is credited with the best, and sometimes earliest, use of a 'free-aim/lock-on' hybrid system. 24 was there before you, Bellic. Not only was it revolutionary for its time, but it worked perfectly. All you had to do was hold down a button to aim, and a large yellow circle would appear over the terrorist, for they are always terrorists. Then, using the analog stick, you simply move the crosshair anywhere you want within that circle: the head for quick takedowns, the legs for some kicks (geddit?), or the 'special area', if that's your thing. Smooth, simple, and instantly makes the bread-and-butter of the game exciting and fun. The cover system is similarly simple; just click to cover, and you're safe, and pop out when you want to aim and shoot stuff. Couldn't be better.


You know how Call of Duty and the like can only muster up 8-9 hours of play and ten or so missions? 24: The Game has fifty-eight. Fifty-eight separate missions. And all of them are incredible. They take you from 6AM, storming a boat with a bomb on it, through to an earthquake in the centre of Los Angeles.

It's not just run and gun all the way though. One mission you're shooting. One mission you're driving. The next you're disarming a bomb. Then you've got to chase a low-life criminal down back-alleys on foot. Or maybe you'd like to storm a private yacht, using a helicopter. Or shall I throw in some interrogation missions? Or some steath missions? You can be an undercover agent taking a tour of a government building, while actually stealing important information. Some sniping missions for good measure. And then there’s one where you control Kim Bauer.

We’ll forget that one.

Sure, the stealth missions were mostly broken. And the puzzles were shoddy at best. And, of course, the best missions revolved around shooting. But that's not the point; the point is, at least the developers were trying to give you a change of pace and keep you on your toes, something you rarely see in modern games.

Oh, and did I mention? It's open world (but you're drawn along a linear path for the main game), so has a whole city to explore. Not only that, but after the earthquake, another city replaces the first, with fissures everywhere, roads blocked and buildings tumbling. Eat it, Liberty City.

Voice Acting

Admittedly, recent titles like Uncharted 2 and Batman: Arkham Asylum trump 24, but only just. All provided by the cast of the TV show, it's much better than your usual spiel, but totally brought into a new level of awesome by Kiefer Sutherland. His voice is like the trembling of mountains as they crash to the sea in Revelations 7. Basically, epic. He whispers every word at the end of a sentence, and shouts for little to no reason, but it’s better than the norm.


The usual 24 story. Black Presidents - crazy, I know! - assassinations, bombs, more bombs, CTU being destroyed/taken over/infiltrated, someone important dies. In fact, it's so action packed, I thought I'd just guide you through the story - or, at least, around two or three hours of it.

A major earthquake occurs in Los Angeles, caused by terrorists detonating explosives at focal points, the places where fault lines intersect. Kate Warner is kidnapped by the terrorist cell, along with Governor James Radford who is kidnapped for assassination, but is then rescued by the CTU. A conspiracy involving Radford in the day's attacks is uncovered by the CTU, and Radford is killed by the terrorist cell because he attempts to back out of the terrorist plot. Fort Lesker, the U.S. military base and the epicentre of the earthquakes, is attacked and taken over by terrorists, who then begin stealing weapons-grade plutonium before attempting to smuggle the weapons out of the U.S. to the Middle East.

That’s almost as confusing as Lost. Well, maybe not Lost: it doesn’t get stupid, explain everything with magic and then pump out a lacklustre final episode. Instead, it twists and turns like a storyline-snake. Whatever that is. Somehow, it never gets too much to understand - maybe that's the magic of 24, but it's rare that games have such narrative quantity, and the quality to go with.


Alright, so it isn't a stunner. But neither was Brothers In Arms: Hell's Highway, and that was utterly sublime. The characters are faithfully recreated, and while the visuals never make you gasp, the fact that it has both a pre- and post-earthquake city is commendable. Framerates were stable, and you should be thankful it wasn't a montage of the Dulux 'post-apocalyptic-grey-and-brown' range.


Each mission is graded out of 100 points, based on the quality of performance, number of objectives completed, shooting accuracy and so forth. A grade of 90 points or higher rewards the player, by unlocking some form of bonus feature: there are three movies (interviews with cast about the game, TV promos); 98 images (wallpapers of main characters); and 23 characters (3D models that the player can view). So, you have 58 missions in which to get 100 in each. That's going to be a good few hours spent working for CTU.

So, what does the future hold for 24? It's an oddity. It’s doubtful 2K Games have it on their timetable, though the game did leave room for a sequel, with Jack being rushed to hospital and the appearance of a woman that's never explained or followed up. But 24 has gone out-of-fashion. Maybe if there is a crazed public outcry for a return for another day in the life of Jack Bauer, there could be a sequel, but I doubt many share the same views on this game as I do.

Or do you? Express your views in the comments section.

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- Chris Hawke

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