Mission: Impossible (N64)
Imagine that you are an N64 game developer.
Your mission, should you decide to accept it: create an action-packed N64 spy- thriller that surpasses last year's immaculate Goldeneye 007. The game must deliver pulse-pounding solo and multiplayer excitement, eye-popping visuals, brilliantly designed levels, and a killer soundtrack.
Infogrames signed up for this mission. Not surprisingly, it proved to be impossible.
Although Mission: Impossible is not intended to compete directly with first- person shooters such as Goldeneye, comparisons are both unavoidable, and unfavorable. Goldeneye was so successful in every department that many gamers will undoubtedly seek to find similar experiences in Mission: Impossible. But, the two games are actually quite different.
On the bright side, Mission: Impossible does strive to distinguish itself from other shooters by being more of a spy-simulation. This is not a Quake-style maniacal shooting rampage; it's a game of thoughtful precision. Its five missions and 20 levels provide a wide range of Mission: Impossible experiences, many of which recreate scenes from the highly successful (and confusing) Tom Cruise flick.
The gameplay of each mission varies dramatically from level to level. One might expect this to be an advantage of Mission: Impossible, but in many ways it is not. The inconsistency means you'll spend time learning various control schemes, rather than enjoying the gameplay. The buttons that jump in one level, for example, will perform a different function on the next level. Having to learn new control schemes throughout a game can be very frustrating.
During most missions, gamers take control of CIA operative superspy Ethan Hunt (not to be confused with Jimmy "Superfly" Snooka). Armed with a variety of cool spy gadgetry, Hunt must accomplish the particular objectives of the level.
On other levels, you take control of other operatives in Ethan's team, and protect Hunt from harm. "Mission: Impossible" incorporates the traditional teamwork and camaraderie of the original series. You get to interact with fellow Impossible Mission Force (IMF) members Jim Phelps, Sarah Davies, Andrew Dowey and Jack Keifer. So far, so good.
The problems begin when we start working on some of these individual levels. Mission: Impossible gameplay can be both repetitive and unforgiving. One wrong move (or one wrong hesitation) and the entire level is failed. You have to start over, and hopefully perform the move correctly. There's an element of unfairness in this style of game design that makes for an often-frustrating experience.
Thankfully, several of the missions really capture the essence of the Mission: Impossible experience. For example, the stage in which you must wield a sniper rifle is a blast. And remember the nailbiting scene from the Mission: Impossible movie in which Ethan Hunt is lowered from the ceiling on wire? It's faithfully recreated here.
The game also does a great job of incorporating the classic Mission: Impossible gadgets and weaponry. Cool spy goodies like blow darts, exploding chewing gum, laser deflectors, night-vision goggles and face makers make appearances throughout the various missions.
The graphics in Mission: Impossible are a mixed bag, but are mostly disappointing. Many of the levels display the dreaded anti-aliased blur. Animation is choppy as well. The frame rate of Mission: Impossible is uneven, and often plodding.
Despite the killer theme song, the music in Mission: Impossible is similarly uneven. It does the job, but lacks the cohesive punch of the various Goldeneye 007 MIDI classics.
Perhaps "serviceable" is the word that really sums up Mission: Impossible. While the game has its moments, it is by no means following in the tradition of Goldeneye. The developers chose to pursue a different path; unfortunately, they lacked a clear vision for implementing their ideas.
Mission: Impossible looks and feels like a first-generation N64 title. When Goldeneye was finally released after numerous delays, we all knew the wait was well worth it. The game was simply incredible.
But uneven level design and significant problems in the control department hinder the much-delayed Mission: Impossible. While fans of the Mission: Impossible series may be pleased with this title, casual gamers (and those seeking a Goldeneye substitute) should approach with caution.