When the Soviet Union disassembled and the Cold War ended, America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and video game developers sought out new enemies to battle. Russian mobsters, Colombian drug lords, Iraqis and other assorted non-nuclear threats filled the void left behind by the Soviets. Add a few years and a glut of covert ops style games, stir, and you get CIA Operative: Solo Missions.
The game has the look and feel of such genre stalwarts as Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six and Max Payne, but is far less complicated with fewer tasks, enemies, and locales to search during missions. Solo Missions is essentially a "lite" version of other black bag games, and that's okay. Gamers who don't want to plunk down major cash for the others should have a reasonably good return for their investment.
Although the game fails to measure up point by point with similar games in the genre, and especially due to its clunky gun interface, it's still enjoyable. Whether the hero is using a pistol, machine gun, or sniper rifle, aiming is done with a red dot from a laser scope, which unfortunately doesn't always work, especially in the case of the machine gun. Perfectly dot-aimed shots miss the enemy with disappointing regularity.
Another drawback is the incredibly easy nature of the game. Your character can absorb an inordinate number of bullets, and the enemies typically take a break between shots. Additionally, mission objectives are usually as simple as shooting a particular enemy, dropping a bomb in a certain room, or retrieving an item from a warehouse. The simplicity of the tasks invokes little or no challenge and lowers the enjoyment factor.
Sound plays a bigger part in CIA Operative: Solo Missions than do the graphics, which is fortunate due to the weak nature of the latter. The backgrounds are unrealistic, bland, and unimaginative, despite the use of Open GL technology. The protagonist receives warnings, orders, and other information from his contacts via an earpiece rather than in text form, thus listening carefully is important. If you miss information or an instruction, you'll have to reload the mission or risk failure.
Despite faults like easy gameplay and poor graphics, CIA Operative: Solo Missions is a cheap alternative to many higher priced first-person mission style shooters. However, gamers looking for a more immersive environment and tougher challenges can do better elsewhere.
Graphics: Graphics are below average with little visual stimulation. Different levels produce hordes of similar looking enemy drones with few special characters.
Sound: Sound plays an important part in the game and is nicely done. Orders and warnings are given verbally to the hero by radio.
Enjoyment: Enjoyment is somewhat offset by the incredibly easy gameplay. Some interface problems hinder playability as well, such as shots not hitting the target when aimed correctly.
Replay Value: Replay value is minimal. Once all missions are accomplished, there's not much point in doing it again.
You take on the role of C.I.A. operative, Jack Noel, sent into the field to eliminate various bad guys in first-person perspective, in six different locations. It boils down to eliminating the "target" or planting a bomb or defusing some warheads, then running outside to await pick-up. The levels are very, very short and you can almost count the number of them on one hand. It seems like there's been no effort made to inject any fun into the game. In fact, the whole thing comes off as being very amateurish. The character models and skins are boring to look at, and their animations are way below those found in the Half-Life mod, Counter-Strike. They're also fairly brain-dead since most of the them won't respond to sniper fire hitting the ground at their feet! None of them shoot more than a few rounds before taking a breather - leaving them open to more than a few bullets.
I could go on about the lackluster graphics or how quick it is to complete (about an hour from beginning to end) or the invisible walls that pen you in or the having to swallow that an undercover operative wears a big, flowing jacket or the idiotic civilians that wander into the middle of a firefight or that you get access to only three weapons but there's no way I want to spend more time writing the review than it took me to finish the game. Instead I'll mention what is good about CIA Operative.
The gun bob is the best I've see in a first-person shooter. CIA Operative runs on yesterdays hardware, which means you don't need a colossal gaming rig to run it. It's a budget title for the casual gamer. The sound and music is all right - nothing too annoying. Best barrel explosions ever! Pop a barrel marked as explosive and a shockwave (just like that of the Death Star blowing up in the Special Editions of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi) blasts out, crumpling any nearby bad guys. The zoom function of the sniper rifle is very easy to use. I didn't encounter any fatal bugs. After completing CIA Operative you get to enable a bigfoot option that turns all the bad guys into hairy beasts. They can't shoot at you so mowing them down is even easier. If killing virtually defenseless critters is your idea of fun you'll like it, but it adds nothing to the game.
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