24 is one of the most popular and innovative pieces of work currently on television today, so it's no surprise that video game clones of the 24 concept--a big, tense situation playing out via multiple perspectives over the course of a single 24-hour time period--would start to show up on the scene. 24 actually has its own game coming out next year, but the running start with the concept goes to Capcom and developer CiRCLE's Without Warning. The gimmick here? It takes place in a chemical plant overrun with terrorists, and spans a 12-hour period. The perspectives of six key characters are featured as well, causing the story to dart around quite a bit. But whereas in most cases when you tell a story from multiple character standpoints, that story and said characters are usually required to be interesting, Without Warning offers nothing of the sort. The plot is flat and painfully generic, the characters are terribly wooden rehashes of tired action game/movie clichÃ©s, and on top of all of that, the gameplay is about as dull as a game about shooting terrorists in the face can possibly get. So while Without Warning might have an interesting concept, it does next to nothing with it.
The plot description in the previous paragraph is just about as much story depth as you'll get from playing through the entire game. A terrorist group led by a French-Canadian mercenary has broken into a chemical plant on US soil, and plans to do something seriously evil with the chemicals housed in the facility. A military unit is sent in to take them out, and is subsequently gutted in a brutal attack. Only three soldiers, Kyle Rivers, Jack Hooper, and Ed Reagan, are left. In addition to them, three civilians are trapped onsite, including Dave Wilson, a plant security guard; Ben Harrison, a TV news cameraman that gets stuck in the plant when his news helicopter is shot down; and Tanya Shaw, a plant office secretary. Everyone's either trying to escape, or kill all the terrorists.
Throughout the course of the game, you play as each of these characters at one point or another, although you'll never grow to care about a single one of them. These characters are about as deep as an inflatable pool. One might argue that in an action game, you're not supposed to care about the characters as much as you are the action, but that's not so much the case here. Because of the whole shifting perspectives thing, you find yourself playing a lot of the same sequences over and over again, but with different characters. If the interactions, dialogue or situations were at all interesting, that repetition would be forgivable. But none of the three is in any way interesting. The story never transcends the basic "Terrorists! Get 'em!" kind of stuff that we've seen in hundreds of other shooters. The dialogue is cheesy and badly written, the voice acting is even worse--with actors apparently recording their first and only takes of their lines--and every single situation the game puts you in is just stupidly predictable, taking any measure of thrill or excitement out of the picture. Thus, you're left with a game design that feels terribly lazy and repetitious, thanks to poor execution of its somewhat ambitious premise.
Another problem is that Without Warning largely fails to make the act of shooting evil terrorists fun. The basic shooting mechanics are OK on paper, with a target-lock feature mapped to the left trigger button, and shooting to the right trigger. The problem is that when you shoot a bad guy, you never actually know what's going to happen. Sometimes you'll get lucky and pick off a guy from hundreds of feet away with a machine gun. And sometimes you'll have to shoot a guy three to four times with a shotgun at point-blank range to take him down. In fact, you're often better off trying to stay as far away as possible from any bad guys, as target locking enemies at relatively close distances causes the camera to snap around in a spastic fashion. It also doesn't help that each character is basically relegated to one weapon type. Whereas in just about any shooter in existence, you can pick up weapons of fallen enemies, this is not the case in Without Warning. It's arguable that the special-ops soldiers are probably fine with their automatic weapons, but when you're playing as a security guard with a weak pistol, you'd have to envision him eventually wanting to pick up a fallen AK-47 at some point.
Apart from weaponry, there isn't a lot of difference between most of the characters. All three of the soldiers and Dave the security guard handle roughly the same, apart from a few differentiating tasks assigned to each of them (Reagan is an explosives expert, so he diffuses a lot of bombs via some dull minigames, whereas Kyle has a sniper rifle as a bonus weapon, so he can pick off enemies from great distances). As for the secretary and the cameraman, their whole thing is "no confrontation." Ben's more interested in filming than shooting, and Tanya's just trying to get the hell out of dodge. The problem is that the story is paced out such that it takes hours to even get to the sections featuring Ben and Tanya; and when you do, you realize that it was all for naught, because trying to play stealthy in this game is the antithesis of fun, and in the off chance you do find yourself in combat, the weapons at your disposal aren't exactly good.