previews\ Nov 6, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Mission Impossible - Operation Surma - XB - Preview

A lone skin diver heads down to the underwater wreckage of a submarine, checking his watch occasionally, holding his breath for an extraordinary length of time. He searches the wreckage, looking for something when there is a distraction from without the submerged vessel.

He swims upward, through a hatch. There are two others divers just under the surfaces of the water. Both groups stare at each others, then one of the intruders aims a spear gun toward the sub and fires. The spear, with a heavy casing on it, impales the side of the sub. The lone diver swims over and touches the casing, which opens to reveal a small wing-like breathing apparatus and an optical clip for the diver’s stylish mask.

He turns back but the other divers have left. Without concern, the diver uses the breathing apparatus and then clips the optical device to his mask.

A scan is taken of his retina, then ...

"Good evening, Mr. Hunt ...."

Paramount, Atari and Paradigm Entertainment Mission Impossible Operation Surma, a third-person action/adventure for the Xbox console system. The game takes advantage of the full spectrum of IMF tricks and through solid graphical presentation, plays out as a taut thriller.

The mission begins easy enough. Simon Algo is an ex-intelligence agent who seized control of the Balkan nation of Yugaria in a coup. Algo is a major concern though, because he has a worldwide spy network and may be collecting weapons of mass destruction.

One of Algo’s top advisers is Mikhail Marcou, who is looking to defect and in exchange will supply a mini-disk cataloguing Algo’s covert operations around the world.

Your mission, should you decide to accept, is to contact Marcou, escort him to safety and bring in the disk.

"As always, should you or any of your IMF agents be caught or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. Good luck, Mr. Hunt."

There are five IMF agents in the game: Ethan Hunt, Luther Stickell (a telemetry expert), Billy Baird (transportation), George Spelvin (ex medical-student, actor and master of disguise) and Jasmine Curry (a top graduate of Quantico, who is raw but good). The game also has two difficulty settings - impossible and easy.

Luther does bear resemblance to actor Ving Rhames (and yes, the voice is there) and John Polson’s Billy Baird character is reasonably well rendered. Ethan has a very faint resemblance to Tom Cruise, but only if you are really stretching your imagination.

The game is a combination of stealth and all-out action. Initially, you are skulking about and trying to remain as undetected as possible. After all, you are entering a Yugarian ministry compound, alone and with a host of guards who will kill you if spotted. The game takes advantage of shadows to increase the stealth factor and make Ethan undetected. And players will have to look around to find the best path to the target.

But sometimes total stealth isn’t the answer, and you have to resort to raw violence.

The game controls are relatively simple to manage and will require only a small learning curve. Players will be able to get into the game relatively quickly. Graphically this is a game that is solid, but not in the upper class with other titles such as Metal Gear Solid 2. The sound is well done with the musical score adding very nicely to the mood of the ongoing mission. The vocal work is also solid and really gives personality to the players. Some of the vocalizations by the NPCs is a little off though.

Mission Impossible Operation Surma does seem a little on the linear side, though, which may affect replayability.

All in all, though, this game is a well done combination of elements - action, stealth and an evolving storyline. True to the Mission Impossible theme, success or failure can ride the edge of a spinning coin, and what looks like a winning situation, can turn out badly in a heartbeat. You can’t stop moving in this game, because to do so may result in your undoing, and ... well, you know ... the secretary will be disavowing any knowledge of your actions.

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