Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: June 22, 2001
The gaming industry and media have been abuzz with discussions of violent content in games for quite some time now; and anecdotal evidence suggests that Sega refused to make a light gun for their Dreamcast system because of this explosive issue. Fortunately for the sharpshooters out there, Interact and Pelican were willing to fill the void and provide the public with products like their Stinger Light Blaster. Unfortunately, up until this point, these stylized weapons have been relegated to niche status, as only House of the Dead 2 and an extremely minor mode of Demolition Racer took advantage of their accurate and exhilarating capabilities. As such, owners of these peripherals were left out in the cold, not unlike the poor folks who purchased Nintendo’s top-spinning robot in the days of the NES. There’s still a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, however, as Sega and Hitmaker have brought Confidential Mission out of the arcade and onto the Dreamcast.
The premise behind Confidential Mission could have been ripped straight from an Ian Flaming novel. A mysterious terrorist organization sets an appropriately villainous plan in motion by stealing a spy satellite, presumably from the ground, and then launching it into space. The governments of the world are baffled by this maneuver and have no idea where the missing orbital has been deployed. In addition to its role as a spying device, this satellite is also bristling with a massive cannon capable of wreaking havoc on the surface of the Earth — meaning it has to be recovered as quickly and quietly as possible in order to prevent fear-inspired chaos. Enter the Confidential Mission Force, a high-tech and ultra-secret organization akin to those found in all sorts of spy novels and TV shows. The CMF, as the group is commonly called, deploys two of its best agents to track down the stray spacecraft and authorizes them to use any and all force necessary to neutralize it.
This is where the player steps in, filling the shoes of and squeezing the trigger for either, Howard Gibson or Jean Clifford. Gibson comes to us directly from the mold that crafted James Bond, and his witty one-liners and perfectly pressed Tuxedo mark him as the classic, charming but deadly, gentleman spy. Jean also has the hallmarks of an archetype, as she embodies the male fantasy as a beautiful but deadly woman. Also joining the cast of good guys is the, apparently, mandatory spy-film female scientist named Irena Mikailova. Far more passive and frightened than the latest Bond girls, such as Denise Richard’s, Christmas Jones, Irena is one of the top designers of this particular space platform. She, of course, is eventually captured, but in the process learns information vital to the CMF’s efforts.
From this familiar introduction enters the equally familiar gameplay of an arcade shooter. As the camera rolls through the levels in a first person perspective, enemies jump out of corners, appear in windows and barge through doors, all looking to take down our intrepid duo. Once in a firing position, the enemies display a targeting indicator that serves two purposes: It identifies where the enemies are in the screen, but a gradually changing hue from green to red also indicates how close the enemies are to firing accurately. For some variation, the designers also incorporated some foes who aren’t using standard firearms. These grenade tossers and missile launchers are particularly troublesome, as you must shoot down their munitions to prevent damage while simultaneously targeting them in order to stop the barrage.
Without variety, this kind of action would grow wearisome quickly, so there are plenty of opportunities to display your targeting acumen during the mission. Some enemies will drop briefcases that may be shot for points, releasing a trio of disks that may also be shot for even greater rewards. One will notice that the foes who drop these items tend to be those who benefit from the greatest cover or element of surprise, and even better items are available when you master the art of taking down a moving target. These rewards include medallions with C, M, or F emblazoned on them (collect a set of all three to add another life to your agent), bullet proof vests that stop one shot, and even the much coveted AK-47 which allows you to fire one clip of automatic bullets that spray slightly and tend to wipe out large groups of enemy agents. In really rare situations, it’s even possible to make a grenadier drop his explosive pineapple; shooting this volatile target unleashes an explosion which will most likely clear the room of enemies.