Over the past few years the stealth genre has become a very welcome change of pace for those of us who like a little more depth than a typical run & gun FPS can offer. Don’t get me wrong, I love to bunny-hop and rocket-jump as much as the next guy. I just like a change of pace from time to time. The gaming world was first introduced to the stealth genre with the Metal Gear Solid series, which was the leader of the pack until Ubi unleashed Sam Fisher on us in their groundbreaking title, Splinter Cell. In late 2003, Kemco took a shot at the genre with their Rogue Ops title, which was enjoyed by some, but found to be farily average by most. Now ATARI has unleashed Mission Impossible: Operation Surma, which hopes to take a cool TV/movie license and slap it onto yet another stealth-action title.
Those of you who have played Splinter Cell will notice right away that MI has “borrowed” a lot of Splinter Cell’s gameplay elements. You could go as far to say MIis to Splinter Cell as True Crime is to Vice City. Being a virtual clone of the best stealth game ever made isn’t necessarily a bad thing…is it?
I remember spending countless hours playing Splinter Cell, trying some of the harder missions again and again in hopes that I’d find the best way to finish them. This trial and error style of gameplay is made a little more user-friendly in Mission Impossible: Operation Surma. The game points you in the direction of your next objective through a small arrow on your map, and this eliminates a lot of aimless searching around levels trying to figure out just what it is you are supposed to do next. And if you’re spotted and a guard sets off the alarm, you are given 60 seconds to find the alarm box and hack into the system to disable it. Some hardcore stealth gamers may complain that this makes the game too easy, while others (especially those who found Splinter Cell to be more frustrating than fun) will welcome these features with open arms.
In Mission Impossible: Operation Surma, which is based on the popular action movies, you assume the role of super spy Ethan Hunt. As Ethan, you’ll have access to some super cool weapons and gadgets that would make James Bond jealous. You have all the standard spy equipment such as the electronic lock pick, night vision contact lenses, pistols, tranquilizer gun and a laser cutter along with “sonic imager goggles” that allow you to see your enemies through doors, and an “electronic warfare gun” that shoots a projectile containing a multi-use microchip. Shoot the chip at a security camera to disable it, or the chip can make an enemy show up on your radar map when attached to his clothing. Then there is my favorite gadget of them all the “micro-cord. Aim the micro-cord at an overhead beam or pipe and fire, and it will lift you swiftly up and safely out of harm’s way.
One thing I found lacking in Splinter Cell was good old-fashioned hand-to-hand combat. I mean come on, Sam Fisher can hang for hours from a ledge by the tips of his fingers but he was a wimp when it came to an up close confrontation with a bad guy. Ethan Hunt on the other hand is quite capable of kicking some serious butt with his bare hands. You can sneak up on an enemy and take him down with a stealth kill, or if you get spotted you can perform a running dropkick that will knock your opponent flat on his rump. If he gets back up you can bust his chops with a three hit combo move. Although the combat is very simple and you only have three or four attacks, it’s very cool when you pull off a move and you get the slo-mo cinematic camera angle of your kick or stealth kill. If a fight would ever break out in a bar full of super spies Sam Fisher and Ethan Hunt, I’d put my money on Ethan.
Graphically, Mission Impossible: Operation Surma is a fairly good-looking game. The character models are well detailed and the animations are smooth. The lighting and particle effects are nowhere near as impressive as those in Splinter Cell but not many games are. There are some pretty major drops in framerate on some of the larger levels, though they don’t really interfere with the gameplay because it’s a stealth game, but they are annoying to say the least.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the audio in MI: Operation Surma other than it is superb. The voice acting is top notch and sounds natural (although Ethan sounds almost identical to Sam Fisher). And we all love the Mission Impossible theme music…right? Top-notch sound effects and music really sets the stage for this spy thriller.
To sum it all up, MI: Operation Surma may be a Splinter Cell clone, but for my money, it’s a very good Splinter Cell clone. For those of you who thought Splinter Cell was way too difficult, you may want to give this game a try.
- Gameplay: 8
- Graphics: 7.5
- Sound: 8.5
- Replay: 7
- Overall: 7.5
- Fans of the stealth genre will most likely enjoy this game. I know I did.
— Buzz Kilgore