Monday, July 2, 2012

Third Rate Game Play: Secret Service

Game: Secret Service

System: Xbox 360

Developer: Cauldron (Quadrax, Chaser)

Publisher: Activision Value

Player: Tony

Experience: Minimal (2nd record attempt)

Check after the break for the article!

Secret Service is developed by Cauldron Ltd., a Slovakian game developer.  Cauldron was formed in 1996 by David Durčák, Marian Ferko, Maroš Stano and Peter Rjapoš, debuting with the PC puzzle-platformer Quadrax.   Spellcross and Battle Isle: The Andosia War followed, acting as two turn-based strategy games.  The company’s first first-person shooter, Chaser, was also a debut for the company’s CloakNT 3D engine; while the game took place in the future, the weaponry remained fairly modern in style.  After producing a number of role-playing games, Cauldron began its work with publisher Activision Value, starting with 2006’s The History Channel: Civil War – A Nation Divided.  Since then, the company continued to release historical, realistic shooters via Activision Value.

Activision Value Publishing, Inc. is a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard which was formed on the basis of producing budget titles on multiple platforms.  The company was originally three separate entities, one of which included part of Activision itself; the other two entities were Expert Software and Head Games Publishing.  Expert Software was founded in the early 1990s by Ken and Sue Currier with a focus of bringing budget PC software to stores, usually priced at no more than fifteen dollars.  Its first games include id Software’s Rescue Rover 2 and Pie in the Sky Software’s Terminal Terror, but its most significant releases would be Windows releases of Sega titles, including Panzer Dragoon and Sonic R.  In 1996, the same year Expert Software began working with Sega, Head Games Publishing Inc. was founded.  Shortly after releasing unofficial add-ons for Quake, Head Games worked on making hunting games in collaboration with Diversion Software; such games included Cabela’s Big Game Hunter and Duck Hunter Pro.  Its most favorable product was Eclipse Software’s only release: Inherent Evil: The Haunted Hotel.

In 1998, Activision acquired Head Games, most likely to acquire the Cabela license.  Just a year later, Activision turned to acquire Expert Software.  Combining the two and adding in extra resources, Activision Value was established in 2001, otherwise known as Activision Minneapolis.  Before publishing Secret Service, Activision Value released a large number of projects, including continual Sega PC published titles and other budget PC games.  Its first non-PC release would be 2002’s Cabela’s Big Game Hunter for PlayStation 2 and GameBoy Advance.  The company is perhaps best known for its hand in publishing Stellar Stone’s Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, deemed by many as the worst game ever released.  Other games released include Greg Hastings' Tournament Paintball (from WXP Games), Whac-a-Mole (from DC Studios, Inc.) and Hot Wheels: Beat That! (from Eutechnyx Limited).  Interestingly enough, Secret Service on Xbox 360 was actually not the first to use the Secret Service branding; others included Secret Service: In Harm’s Way and Secret Service: Security Breach, both for PC.

Protect America's top leadership in Secret Service. Assume the role of an elite agent on Inauguration Day in Washington D.C. An extremist assault has been launched against the capitol - security has been compromised and it is unclear who is friend or foe. There is no time for negotiation as you are thrust out of the shadows and into the line of fire in order to protect the nation's leaders. The tactical first person action takes place among famous landmarks and everywhere in between, including both Marine One and Air Force One.
-Official PR

Secret Service is a first-person shooter, putting players in the shoes of Agent Pierce, a secret agent operative who is set forth on a mission to face off against terrorists from the imaginary nation Costa Sentava.  As the President makes his final rounds to the Lincoln memorial, he is attacked by a terrorist, and multiple familiar landmarks rapidly become warzones between the Secret Service and a terrorist organization.  What the agent may find, however, is that the terrorist group’s influence could have greater strength and allies than he knows.

The game, build from the CloakNT engine, features elements of other first-person shooters, including the usage of cover and familiar HUD effects.  Players can swap between a number of weapons in their arsenal, and they can also throw grenades into enemy-populated areas to take out many of them at once.  The game is not just a shooter, however; throughout parts of the game, players are required to defuse bombs and hack into computer systems using a puzzle mini-game involving circuit rotation.  Outside of those factors, the main pull for the game is the locations, which range from government buildings to famous Washington landmarks.

Even though the game is a first-person shooter, it lacks a multiplayer mode of any sort and is exclusively a single-player affair. 

Since releasing Secret Service, Cauldron has strayed away from human enemies and more toward animalistic foes.  Outside of 2009’s Jurassic: The Hunted, the company has exclusively developed Cabela-sponsored first-person shooters.  This includes such games as Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2011 and Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012.  The company’s latest release, Cabela’s Adventure Camp, takes a turn away from first-person shooters and toward Kinect-based mini-games.  Whether they will continue to release motion-controlled games in the future remains to be seen.

Activision Value remains to be a solid asset for Activision Blizzard, although its releases have since strayed from Windows and is more focused on console releases with its major franchises.  Outside of the already discussed Cabela titles, Activision Value has released iCarly 2: iJoin the Click! (from Big Blue Bubble), Wipeout 2 (from Behavior Interactive), and Dreamworks Super Star Kartz (developed by High Impact Games, known for Secret Agent Clank and Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier).

There has been no announcement of a sequel for Secret Service.  As of this article’s release, it can be assumed that no sequel will be emerging any time soon.

Sometimes you just have to try a game out and see if it works out.  Shortly after having played Bullet Witch, we received a copy of Secret Service with which to explore, and after a little bit of issues here and there getting the recording straightened out, we ventured into the game and were not entirely surprised with the results.  We play the first two missions of the game, and from there we come to our conclusion.  Is this game a bad enough game to save the President?

It depends on your definition of the word bad.  Or the definition of the word “is” for that matter.  Secret Service falls into that unfortunate category of being a game that is not technically poor but ends up thematically lethargic.  You can tell by the end of our forty minutes or so of playtime that we cannot bring ourselves to continue.  The game feels very much like other, larger first-person shooters, copying small parts of the HUD design and even using a number of similar elements in its weapon reload animations.  Unfortunately, the level of intensity seems subdued and muted, considering the game’s context.  There is plenty of exposition and forced pathways, making the game feel too slow, too linear, too quickly.

Graphically, it is not a bad game, though this is coming from someone who saw the game on an SD television at the time.  The AI was fairly effective at controlling the enemy forces, though I do not know how much longer I could stand hearing the same five phrases from them again.  The added puzzle elements are done well enough, but they sometimes come across as forced into the end result.  It only adds onto the game’s hard-to-believe story, but then again, if you can turn your brain off for a few hours, I guess it does not hurt too much.

In the end, from what we played of Secret Service, the game did not offend in the gameplay sense, so it might appeal to a number of people, but the game does not try to differentiate itself enough from more well-known shooters available on the Xbox 360.

As for our recording, this was filmed during our initial use of the Xbox 360, and as such, the sound of the system running caused some issues with audio.  We also were still capturing the footage via DVD burner at the time, too, so there is some visual issue there.  Thankfully, there are few episodes left which were DVD captures.

3RM Says: As long as you are with me, Mr. President, you will be safe.
...Mr. President? Erp, thank goodness I have tenure.

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