The television show 24 is so close to being a video game already, what with its crazy plot twists and constant march from one goal to the next, that it seems like the PlayStation version should be, in the words of Jack Bauer's one-time top boss, a "slam dunk." Penned by actual 24 staff writer Duppy Demetrius, the story fills in the gaps between seasons two and three, and it moves as frantically as the show: You switch between several characters, all voiced by the real actors, and the missions—which are varied and brisk—feel like they're embedded into the cutscenes, rather than the other way around.
But the story can't save the clumsy, half-baked action, from the generic third-person shooter missions to pointless driving sequences where your enemies crash into you like kids in bumper cars. You'll also solve trivial "decoding" exercises, which include simple mazes and word scrambles reminiscent of those old activity books where you helped Superman beat Lex Luthor by finishing a crossword puzzle. But worst of all, the game is missing the show's most crucial element: the incessantly ticking clock. While a timer sometimes kicks in near the end of a mission, the game usually lets you dawdle or finesse your aim instead of forcing you to rush, cut corners, and make (interesting) mistakes. Would the "real" Jack Bauer worry about nailing every headshot when he's busy trying to save the world?
Beyond the game: The "Interrogation" mini-game is an intriguing piece of interactive drama that lets you steer Jack through questioning a suspect. Sadly, you can't shoot said suspect in the leg or murder his family to get him talking.
Worth playing for: The few moments where the time pressure and the gameplay sync up—like the sniper exercise, where you have to focus on picking off the bad guys while a disaster occurs below.
Frustration sets in when: The action fails in many ways—from stupid henchmen to allies who stroll in front of your bullets to a looonnnng stealth mission in a heating vent—but the single biggest problem is the camera, which bounces as erratically as an Elisha Cuthbert bobblehead.
Final judgment: For once, you'll wish you could skip the action to get to the cutscenes.