• Confidential Mission Review - Sega Dreamcast

    For sheer arcade thrills and spills, no other genre captures the spirit of the arcades as lightgun games do. With a well calibrated light gun, the console version of Confidential Mission is almost identical to the arcade original - there might be a slight drop in visuals but little else. Sega have dominated this genre since the Saturn days.
    An early port of Virtua Cop sold fairly well and the second in the series, Virtua Cop 2, was considered by many to be the best example of the genre released up to that time. It was followed by a port of House of the Dead which whilst pushing the Saturn to its limits, didn't do its arcade original justice. Sega remedied this with the launch on Dreamcast of House of the Dead 2 - this equalled the arcade port graphically and exceeded it in terms of extras and lastability. Finally after a few years of waiting patiently for a new light gun game Sega have released Confidential Mission - a lightgun shooter based on the Virtua Cop series - and what a good arcade blast it is.
    The premise of the game is that you are either Howard Gibson or Jean Clifford (nice to see some sexual equality from Sega) who are both Secret Agent -type figures for the US government. You need to track down the leader of the evil crime syndicate Agares, and along the way you visit various locales ranging from a museum to a train to an underground submarine dock. To succeed in each stage you need to shoot many enemies - though it seems a bit weird to me that throughout the first mission you are shooting police/security types since you work for the US government - who try their hardest to shoot you back (but only after pausing for the split second you need to shoot them).
    Graphically this game exceeds any other game in the genre which has been released before it - this includes the superlative House of the Dead 2. Hitmaker have produced an excellent looking port of the arcade original and have captured the feel of the Virtua Cop series perfectly. Unlike the HOTD series there is no damage to the characters you shoot onscreen - which is understandable since this time you are shooting people instead of zombies - but the animation on the characters is top-notch. The graphics look fuller than any other game in the genre up to now, most of the characters would not look out of place in a FPS, whilst the locales look as good as anything seen yet on Sega's final hardware. The action zips along at a rock steady 60 fps as is now the norm for any Sega developed game, whilst there are no noticeable signs of glitches or slowdown either. The in-game cut-scenes use the game engine as well - and look very good for it.
    The background music is typical of most other Sega lightgun games, energetic and with a high tempo and suits the mood of the game perfectly. It's not offering any classics though nor is it particularly memorable, but it does the job while you're playing the game. Sega have continued with the poor voice acting from HOTD2 though Confidential Mission does actually improve on this a little. Your character has some very funny lines though whether Sega intended this to be the case is open to debate.
    Confidential Mission is not as difficult as HotD2 although there are still some difficult sections. You can choose how many lives you allocate to each continue and how many continues you can use. You can also adjust the difficulty although it still is not a difficult task to reach the last boss even playing on Hard setting. You can however make the target zone around your enemies smaller which increases the need for greater accuracy. Confidential Mission only features 3 levels in addition to a comprehensive training level which if completed unlocks access to "Another World" mode which is the same 3 levels but with different enemy patterns. Since the training missions are so hard it will take massive determination and skill on your part to see this mode unless of course your name is Wild Bill Hickock! There are a few different weapons to unlock and the replayability of the game is very good as after each level you get a statistics sheet showing your score, combo count and justice shots number and accuracy. The need to return to the game to improve your statistics is high.
    Bonus points are awarded by performing Justice Shots, i.e. shooting the gun out of your opponents hands - or by amassing Combo shots earned by shooting each enemy up to three times. You can also shoot briefcases which then make 3 diskettes appear, shooting the briefcase adds 3,000 points to your score whilst shooting the diskettes adds 5,000.

    There are a few branching paths but nothing as in-depth as in HotD2. In one instance you must make a shot with a rope launcher and if you make the shot you zip down the line but if you miss you must take a harder path through a store room. These branching paths only add another 30 seconds to the level time but still it adds a few more enemies to boost your score.

    For those who like multi-player there are 2 options - there is regular arcade mode were you both go through the mission helping each other out or there is Partner mode. In Partner mode you and your buddy are each given different targets onscreen. Thus player one is given a blue target and can only shoot enemies targeted in this colour and vice versa for player 2 (though the target is red). Also, before starting this mode you can assign life and bullets to each player taken from a mass total. This way the lesser player can play from an advantageous position. Your ranking and stats at the end is based on the partnership and not individual efforts so it pays to play well as a team.

    It must be warned that the US version of this game reviewed here doesn't support the official Sega lightgun (PAL or Japanese). The official lightgun's have a regional chip built into them though 3rd party ones don't have this regional lockout. The gun I have been playing this game is the Madcatz one which although smaller than Sega's effort is still a reasonable lightgun. It is accurate and doesn't weigh a lot, which matters a great deal if you play this game a lot as it is more comfortable for extended play.

    It must be remembered that lightgun games do not have the lastability of other genres, they last days rather than weeks before you have seen everything the game has to show you, but they are one of the better games if you are after a quick 'blast' before going out or after the pub. For a quick adrenaline rush they are amongst the best genres around, but don't expect to be playing this in a few months time.

    All in all Confidential Mission is a good game though short lived. If you are desperately after a lightgun game then this is a must-buy, but bear in mind that it will get repetitive sooner rather than later. The US import problems may also diminish your enjoyment as using a pad is no substitute for a lightgun. If you only own an official Pal lightgun, it would definitely be a cheaper option to purchase the Pal version of the game, if you own the Madcatz lightgun however then this is game will definitely hit the target.

    Score: 5/10
    A review by John Beaulieu
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