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Mission: Impossible

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Reviewed by Scott McCall Some might say the drama leading up to Mission: Impossible's release might be more interesting than the game itself. After all, no game in 1998 has been more heavily scrutinized than Ocean's oft-delayed Mission: Impossible. Opinions from players and critics cover the entire spectrum, from awesome to decent to disappointing. Most critics have given the game a lukewarm reception at best, making me wonder if playing Metal Gear Solid before the rest of us had a negative effect on their opinions of this spy thriller. I don't know, maybe I'm just easier to please, but I found that I thoroughly Mission: Impossible, and now I'm going to show you why. First and foremost, Mission: Impossible is nothing like GoldenEye 007. I really didn't realize this for myself until I actually played the game for a while. It feels completely different, it looks completely different, its pace is completely different, and its character interaction is completely different. Yes, they do share similar concepts, but the execution is different enough that you can't directly compare the two. Still, I'm going to compare them to show how they're alike and how they're different -- but not to promote one over the other. Many have complained about Mission: Impossible's trial-and-error gameplay. Is it me, or do those same people seem to have forgotten that GoldenEye 007 had the same type gameplay, especially on its higher levels of difficulty? But just like GoldenEye 007, it's still fun to replay the same levels over and over in Mission: Impossible because you feel that you've accomplished something new each time or that the next time you'll be able to put it all together and meet the objectives. While GoldenEye 007 introduced stealth elements into the 3D action/shooter genre, it still relied heavily on its action. A lot of that action is missing in Mission: Impossible, which may be disappointing if you're looking for a game just like that beloved classic. Mission: Impossible places greater emphasis on puzzle-solving, teamwork, gadgetry, and following orders. Basically, the shooting element has been reduced to the point that the game can no longer be classified under the 3D action/shooter genre. For example, in addition to your pre-mission objectives, you'll often receive updates, new orders, or advice from Phelps or someone else. You have an "IMF Communicator" to check for information about possible actions, such receiving a message, talking to a character, opening a door, pushing a switch, or climbing a wall. There's also a "Field Scanner" always on the screen that will lead you to important objects, people, and spots. Some might think these devices take away some of the mystery, but you'll soon realize that the game can be challenging enough even with the help of technology. Remember, the Impossible Mission Force is a team; you're not a one-man wrecking crew. One thing about Mission: Impossible that may turn people off too soon is that the first two levels (mission one) are uninspiring and unexciting, not to mention that the control is initially a pain. But once the game starts to follow the movie a little more closely and starts to introduce more team members and gadgets (mission two), the game gets much better. Listen to some of these objectives on future levels. For instance, on one level, you must escape from CIA headquarters. Along the way, you have to do your best to avoid security and you must take a sergeant hostage to escape. In order to do that, you have to spray paint the video surveillance cameras and find the appropriate item to hold him up with. On another level, at a party, you have to get a killer before she gets you, find a way to lure a general downstairs, and impersonate him -- all without getting the guards suspicious. Yet another level has you taking control of snipers to protect Ethan Hunt, the guy you would normally control. This is only a small sampling of a few objectives and doesn't necessarily represent all the objectives on that level. Some levels might only have two objectives while other levels might have seven or eight objectives. Speaking of which, the objectives can usually completed in any order, but that's because you usually have to complete certain ones first before getting further into the level. Intelligence, teamwork, and gadgets also play a great role in Mission: Impossible. One of the greatest gadgets, the facemaker, plays an integral part of the game and is a great item to use. You'll be knocking out people throughout the game and impersonating them. So once you're impersonating them, you have to play a little differently. In most instances, you shouldn't run, you shouldn't have a weapon drawn, and you shouldn't act confused. The enemies in the game will actually pick up on these types of behaviors. Also, on nearly every mission, you'll be meeting with other IMF members on several occasions. Sometimes they'll give you advice, sometimes they'll give you items, and sometimes they'll join your cause. But oftentimes you'll also have to make sure there's no one looking when talking to them or placing an item somewhere. Getting back to items, there are many other cool gadgets you'll be using such as a video freezer, night-view glasses, nausea powder, fingerprint scanner, smoke generator, wire-cutters, scramblers, and more. But don't think that weapons are non-existent. OK, so they're not as high-powered and deadly as the weapons in GoldenEye 007. They still get the job done. You'll be using a 7.65mm silenced gun, a dartgun, a blowpipe, explosive gum, an electro-stunner, a fire extinguisher, and more. One improvement Mission: Impossible has over GoldenEye 007 is when it comes to the use of story and cinema sequences. For example, before starting certain missions (there are five missions with a varying number of levels in each for a total of 20 levels), there's the classic, self-destructing message for Mr. Phelps. Instead of just displaying text on a screen, the developers wisely used real-time cinemas with full voice to describe the mission. And although the background information and in-game character dialogues are text-only, it still greatly helps to expand the story. Real-time sequences are even used before or after completing or triggering something. It makes great use of the N64's capabilities to do this. Although one could make a case for Mission: Impossible's gameplay, spy elements, and intelligence, there really is no excuse for the inexact and weird control. It does take a while to get used to, and once you do it's not that big of a deal. But you know the control isn't that great when if you haven't played it for a few days, you struggle with it for a little bit. Mission: Impossible has variations of the control depending on the level. What that means is that on one level you might not be able to run and on another level you might not be able to jump. Normally, here's the control scheme: the A button is for action (jump, open, receive message, push switch, etc.), the Z button is attack (trigger, shoot, or punch), the R button (when held) switches from a third-person view to a first-person perspective, the Bottom C button crouches, the Top C button zooms in on the first-person aiming mode, and the Left C and Right C buttons side-step in the that mode, too. If you didn't notice yet, I haven't mentioned the B button. It's used to do an inventory scroll. Now here's where it gets confusing. Once you're inside the inventory scroll, you must press the B button to switch between weapons. But if you need to switch to a certain gadget, then you must press the Left C button as needed. Then you press the A button to accept the choice of that weapon or gadget. This isn't easy to do effectively in the heat of a mission, although you will get better with practice. Finally, you use the Control Stick to move. This isn't as smooth as it should be, either. When running, the camera switches to a far away perspective. When moving normally, it uses a rear, third-person viewpoint. When using an offensive weapon or gadget, you must stop and hold down R for the first-person aiming sights. So that means you can't accurately attack without stopping. Ouch. Also, you can tweak the camera a little with the L button and Control Pad. It's useful to use the Control Pad to look around bends. There are also slightly different control schemes for the Terminal Room, Sniper mode, and Gun Boat cannon, which I won't go into detail about here. As usual, the final version of Mission: Impossible doesn't exactly look like the renders we were originally shown. That being said, most of the levels look pretty decent and are faithful replications of the movie sets. There are obviously going to be some problems with repeating textures, but many of the levels have a distinct enough look that it's not a problem. Character design and animation ranges from better than GoldenEye 007 to kind of disappointing. The animation definitely isn't as realistic or varied as that game, but there is some good situational animation. Some of the outdoor levels do have fog (they might say it's atmospheric, but we know better), but most of the indoor levels look good with very little pop-up or clipping. The sweeping music score of GoldenEye 007 isn't quite here, but the music does a decent job. The music isn't all based on the Mission: Impossible theme, but there are definitely a few recognizable variations in and out of the game. There's also some original music. Fortunately, the music is in stereo, although the separation could be better at times. The sound effects can be kind quite weak, but the voice is pretty good. Besides the long mission introductions, there's in-game voice, mostly acknowledgments of messages from the IMF or one-word comments after an attack. Mission: Impossible is the newest game in the ever-growing spy thriller genre, which is something I can't enough of. The key is that you must realize this game is not and was not meant to be the next GoldenEye 007. It's also one of those games that won't be critically well-received but will be commercially well-received, if only because of the strength of its license, although I think it does an admirable job of living up to it. Without a multi-player mode, the replay value won't be through the roof, but it's no worse than any other one-player game. So even though some levels are great while others stink, the control is less than desired, and it didn't match the overly ambitious original design, Mission: Impossible is clever enough and fun enough to warrant a long, hard look.

Graphics: 3.8 out of 5 Sound: 3.7 out of 5 Control: 2.8 out of 5 Gameplay: 4.2 out of 5 Lastability: 3.3 out of 5 Overall: 3.9 out of 5

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