Mission Impossible – Operation Surma – GBA – Review

Operation Surma seems
like it accomplished the impossible.  Not only are its in-game graphics better
than the shots on the back of the box, but the gameplay is filled with more
tactical espionage depth than its competitors.

Shockingly, players will be
able to do all of the things that they are used to doing in console spy
games.  Lean up against walls to sneak around the camera-littered hallways;
hide in the shadowy areas to avoid getting caught.  Karate-chop the necks of
unsuspecting enemies.  (Or, if you’re really daring, you may chop the necks of
enemies who are looking right at you.  The results can be deadly or amusing
and unrealistic.  More on that later.)  Use different weapons, including a
tranquilizer for silent, non-lethal removal of enemies; or a handgun for
deadly shots to the chest. 

Enemies appear frequently
and are not easy to kill unless they don’t know it’s you.  Disposing of
enemies isn’t just a way to clear a room, it’s also a good way to create a new
wardrobe.  The prison inmate outfit will get you no more than a cell where the
now eliminated prisoner used to belong.  That’s helpful if your goal is
infiltration – an easy access to a high-security area.

But it’s not very helpful
if what you’re looking to do is execute all of the enemies and make it out of
the place alive.  In that case you’re going to need to take the clothes of
your enemy.  Ugly, yes, but this isn’t the E! Network, so there aren’t any
annoying reporters around to make fun of you.

Amusingly, and completely
unlike any recent console spy game, your new clothes somehow change the
mindset of the enemy.  Let’s say there are two enemies in a room.  Kill one of
them and wait for the other one to walk over.  If he didn’t actually see you
do the killing, he’ll never suspect you as the killer.  Gunshots won’t make a
difference – if he doesn’t see you, you must not have done it.  This is quite
different from console spy games, where the mere sound of a gunshot will alert
the other enemies that something is wrong, regardless of where the shot came

It could be assumed that
the Game Boy Advance isn’t capable of creating enemies with any kind of
memory.  Okay, I’ll buy that.  But if that is in fact the case, why should a
spy game ever be attempted for this platform?  It takes away from the fun when
you can fool your enemies so easily.

To make up for the
enemies’ stupidity, Operation Surma makes other parts of the game ridiculously
difficult.  The very first level might as well have been titled "Mission:
You’re Going To Die No Matter What."  Ethan is in a small room.  You’ll see an
enemy in front of you, so my first instinct was to run forward and attack. 
This was before I had figured out the controls, and at this point I wasn’t
aware of what was in my inventory.  Shot a few times but not yet dead, I fired
back and sent the guard to his grave.  The story introduction told me that I’d
have to infiltrate the area, gain access, collect various items, etc.  The
usual spy game stuff.  So I pushed on…

…Only to be killed by
the next series of guards.  A few minutes of fumbling later and the game
finally made a little bit of sense.  Ethan is pre-equipped with a tranquilizer
gun.  It only takes one shot to knock out an enemy, and you have six darts. 
Clearly it’s best to tranquilize the enemy while you can, and kill them only
when absolutely necessary (in other words, when the tranquilizer runs out of
ammo).  Guns are loud and, for some odd reason, take more than one shot to
take down an enemy.

My fun of tranquilizing
comes to an end when I’m forced to complete an objective that will empty my
inventory.  You can get the items back, but it’s a pain.  And before you get
them back, you’ve got to worry about taking out more guards!

But then there’s
neck-chopping.  This game is rated T, and you can’t expect to see any
neck-snapping in a game that’s geared at the 13+ age group.  Nonetheless,
neck-chopping essentially has the same effect: it removes the enemy from the
game (not by killing, but by knocking him out).  Enemies don’t have to be
snuck up on – you can chop the neck of enemies that are pumping Ethan full of
led.  You’ll take damage from the gunfire, but they’ll still fall.  This is a
bit crazy (shouldn’t Ethan die before he ever gets close enough to chop the
guy’s neck?), but at the same time it enables you to take out enemies even
when your ammo has been depleted.  It would be better to conserve your
bullets, but how can you do that when enemies reappear in an area every time
you’re spotted by the security camera?

As cool as it is to see a
mobile game play closer to a console game, Mission: Impossible – Operation
Surma isn’t entertaining enough to hold your attention.  The missions are more
often boring, confusing and frustrating than they are enjoyable.  It’s a nice
effort, and a half-decent rental (if your rental store actually has it), but
it isn’t worthy of much more than that.

Reviewer’s Scoring Details

Gameplay: 5
I haven’t played
the console versions of Atari’s hot spy/mission game, Mission: Impossible –
Operation Surma, but I’ve had enough experience with the genre to know how its
games are expected to play.  The Game Boy Advance version is surprising in
that it feels more like a console game than any other spy/mission game for the


course, "feeling like" isn’t the same as being like.  Operation Surma is a bit
too slow and boring to keep spy/mission fans happy.  It’s got cool gadgets and
some cool gameplay mechanics, but that’s not enough to turn a snoozer into a
sleeper hit.

Graphics: 7.9
Better than the
screenshots promoting the title, Operation Surma is a moderately impressive
game.  Its looks aren’t good enough to kill anyone, but they are better than
most 2D titles.

Sound: 6
Familiar themes,
new songs, typical GBA ditties…all the stuff that makes Game Boy Advance a
below-average platform in terms of sound.

Difficulty: Medium
Operation Surma
isn’t particularly difficult, but it is confusing at times.

Concept: 8
My praise goes
out to the conceptualists behind this title.  They came up with a few great
ways of converting those complex gameplay mechanics introduced in console

Overall: 5
Mobile games
continue to amaze me.  With limited technology, they’ve gradually moved toward
providing an experience close to that of their console counterparts.  Some are
merely the same in concept, others are very similar in gameplay.

Mission: Impossible –
Operation Surma is a little of both.  It stars Ethan Hunt (the star of the
movies, as well as the other Mission Impossible games).  It has noteworthy
gadgets like sticky bombs and a tranquilizer gun.  It also has the nifty,
almost-always-necessary "lean up against the wall" sneaking ability.

The only thing missing is
the fun.  Operation Surma sounds like a winner, and it practically feels like
a winner at first.  But it really isn’t that fun to play.