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Well known as being a crushing disappointment when it was released back in 1998, it’s difficult to know exactly who would want to play Mission Impossible nowadays.
What’s really surprising about revisiting it today though is how you can still see the potential underneath the myriad of design missteps. It wasn’t dubbed ‘dissapointing’ for nothing.
Based on the TV series rather than the movie, the game opens with that tune and with some truly shonky looking character introductions.
Supposedly made to look like each person is twirling towards the screen, they instead look like they’re suffering from some serious spasms.
Things don’t get any better with the opening cutscene, which is woodenly animated and incredibly ugly and angular. It was never going to look good next to modern titles, but it’s still noticeably poor.
The first mission is also dull, and lacks any of the verve or excitement of the opening of say, Goldeneye.
You’re tasked with infiltrating a frosty Scandinavian (well, I presume it’s Scandanavian – the game gives all of its locations fake names for some reason) base and destroy the submarine within it.
Sounds promising, but it’s almost insultingly simple. You go into a building once you’re into the base, knock out a guard, disguise yourself as him (face changing is a big part of the game) and then stroll to the exit.
You then get to the next section, and have to find some bombs (why you didn’t bring your own is never explained) and plant them onto the sub and escape.
This had the potential to be a tense and stealth-based affair, but the game allows you to alert all the guards in the complex and still survive.
Thanks to the huge health meter (that’s the fuse at the bottom of the screenshot above) you can take hit after hit and grab the bombs, attach them to the sub and escape with no trouble at all.
It feels cheap, and there’s no satisfaction to be had from defying the odds as it was so easy.
Still, it’s perhaps fortunate that stealth wasn’t an pre-requisite in the mission, as the controls are woeful if you’re hoping to avoid detection. The main reason for this is because it’s nearly impossible to control the camera.
You have to move your hand off the analogue stick and use the d-pad to rotate the camera, which is as clumsy as it gets.
This means the C-pad is used to select your items and the d-pad for the camera, whereas it should have been the other way around.
So after this limp opening you may be ready to give up hope, but the next mission is markedly better – or at least, it starts off well.
You must access the important areas of a Czech embassy while disguised as a waiter, while also having to rig the air ducts with gas bombs and assume the identity of the Ambassadors Aide.
The way you achieve the last objective is actually surprisingly enjoyable and amusing. You not only have to spike his drink, but also have follow him to the bathroom and knock him out (and then change your face to his).
Most amusing is the cutscene where you drag the unconscious aide into the bathroom. You see him being slowly pulled in, and it looks incredibly dodgy – this clip must have been included as a joke.
What even more hilarious is when you take out the female assassin in the same place. Look 4 minutes and 53 seconds into this video to see for yourself:
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This section ultimately makes you feel like an undercover agent though, and is a great example of why people’s hopes for this game back in 1998 were so high.
Somewhat inevitably it’s followed by a highly tedious trudge through a poison gas filled labyrinth however, which requires you to know exactly which explosive boxes to destroy to get through.
Choose the wrong route and you’re pretty much finished, as you only have a limted amount of ammunition.
To make matters worse the game froze while I was playing this section for no reason whatsoever, but with the game’s reputation for being a buggy this was no surprise.
My recent time playing the game is a perfect demonstration of the game as a whole. Small, promising snippets followed by crushingly dull or frustrating troughs.
Mission Impossible is not a complete disaster, but is sadly a case of a potentially great license squandered.