30 Days of Dreamcast – Day 24: Confidential Mission

Confidential Mission
Genre: Rail Shooter
Developer: Hitmaker
Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: 05/14/2001

Arguably seen as the last console to give light guns a chance, the Dreamcast had its share of rail shooting titles that made use of the various console pistols that were available for it. A lot of these favors were due to the fact SEGA was riding on the final waves it had made in the “Ëœ90s with Virtua Cop and The House of the Dead before the genre took a short fizzle while the world became enamored with first person shooters. For a time it seemed every other arcade effort from SEGA was a light gun rail shooter that used one of the two aforementioned games as a foundation and luckily for Dreamcast owners, a good chunk of these titles made it to the white-box underdog. Among the last batch of black-labeled releases SEGA pitched out to the system is perhaps the most obscure title to bank off the long-running Virtua Cop series – Confidential Mission. Dropping the goody-goody law enforcement gimmick for a sauve, hi-tech spy shtick, Confidential Mission strays from the path a bit, offering a shred of innovation that would make its way into other SEGA shooters even if, when you boil it down, players are basically still playing Virtua Cop.

As a SEGA shooter, Confidential Mission follows all of the same clichés and practically a carbon copy setup as any other game it has ever produced in the genre since Virtua Cop. We have a male and female character, which allows up to two players to blast and reload, all the while protecting the innocent as they track down bosses over three stages: Seriously, that describes nearly every light gun game SEGA has made since 1994, with most even falling in under the three stage department. Confidential Mission introduces yet another SEGA three-letter acronymed organization in the Confidential Mission Force (CMF), with players assuming the roles of Howard Gibson, the most blatant imitation of James Bond ever, and the deadly Jean Clifford. The duo’s latest mission has them tracking down a man known as Agares, who has hijacked a satellite that can nuke any global coordinate he chooses … sounds a bit like a certain movie from 1995 starring Pierce Brosnan that was later made into a legendary first-person shooter …

Typically for a SEGA arcade shooter, the story is just “there” and is never really explained in detail. The beginning of the game spells out the aforementioned scenario and players are immediately dropped into the first stage museum level to find information on Agares’ plans and whereabouts. The rest of the story is thrown out in bite-sized cutscenes that hardly flesh out any characters or plot and are filled with painfully cheesy one-liners.

Unlike many of the other arcade-to-home transfers, however, Confidential Mission actually gives players a lot to do, even if it is crammed into the confines of three arcade levels. Obviously, players can tackle the straight-up arcade port of the title, but two players can also test their trigger fingers with a partner mode, which paints enemies red or blue – only player one can kill red enemies while the blue enemies have to be downed by player two. Even though the mode may seem mild, it is a true test of teamwork and serves up a good challenge to players that think they have the game down. A single player can also visit the Agent Academy, which is filled with quick challenges that pit players against the clock. The mode throws out a variety of tasks that involve justice shots, protecting civilians, shooting in patterns and more. If players can clear out 18 challenges, a much-more challenging “another world” mode opens, which remixes the positioning of the arcade mode elements, while adding in more enemies and civilians at random positions and even adding in a few more scenes exclusive to the mode. On top of that, clearing out the remixed mode adds super-difficult challenges to the academy and dedicated players will unlock various other features such as the ability to disable all HUD information and toggling other game settings. Compared to other rail shooters by SEGA, the new modes actually change up the gameplay experience and while the offerings don’t jam the disc full of content, there is a deceptive amount of items to toy with here given the genre and ported-over origin of the title.

Visually, Confidential Mission is nothing to write home about; the graphics do their job, but nothing more to wow the player. While the title brings the arcade straight into the home, looking at other titles in the Dreamcast library, it’s easy to see the system isn’t being put to its full use with Confidential Mission. The environments measure up well for the most part, with notable segments such as the museum’s evolution and Egyptian exhibits, but the characters are just an eyesore to look at, most specifically when you can see their face. The faces remind me of the static slapped-on scans of the Nintendo 64 era and the fact that there is no animation for the characters’ faces when they talk just looks petty when even a game like Ready 2 Rumble could muster up some respectable facial animation. Most of the characters’ movement animations look off as well, most notably whenever one dives, rolls or jumps – it comes off as slow and floaty like they are fresh off the original Virtua Fighter roster (well, okay, it’s not quite that bad). Nearly everything in Confidential Mission looks awkward and fails to utilize the Dreamcast’s power, but given SEGA’s rail shooter track record, the graphics in these games have done little to evolve since the “Ëœ90s. You do get a few slightly impressive rendered scenes and everything does its job, but when a player views an in-game object up close, it’s a potentially cringe-inducing experience that will remind some of their Nintendo 64 days.

As generic as Confidential Mission’s audio is, I would have to say the title has what I would consider among the best sound offered a home SEGA light gun shooter up to its release. That’s not really saying the sound is superb, but I’ll take a mediocre performance over wishing I didn’t have eardrums any day. When you talk about sound in a SEGA game, the biggest bull’s eye to shoot negativity at is always the voice acting, but Confidential Mission nails a solid performance in a handful of areas. Unfortunately for anyone, one of these areas wasn’t the main characters as they feature the most uninspired, wooden performances that lack proper timing since The House of the Dead 2. What actually steals the show in this title are the vocals of the first boss and Agares, which is not to say they qualify for an award, but finding respectable voice acting in a SEGA arcade game is like finding a needle in a mountain of hay. You also get some quality civilian screaming and baddie death grunts along with the constant barrage of your firearm firing and reloading. A lot of the music sounds like it would have been better placed in Virtua Cop, with its funky movie detective/cop-type feel, but it is still easy on the ears even though it commonly gets lost in the action. Unfortunately, just like its graphics, Confidential Mission’s sound is about as average as it gets, leaving players knowing their Dreamcast is capable of much more.

Thankfully, though, this is where things start to get better for Confidential Mission – in short bursts, it’s just plain fun to play. The title makes no effort to hide its Virtua Cop origins, as Confidential Mission features pop-out enemies that target the player with a reticule that blends from green to red as they lock on and prepare to pull the trigger. Similar to just about any game ever released in the genre, players remedy these villains by aiming and firing and reloading when necessary. To enjoy the game properly, players will have to invest in a light gun, but players can also man a standard controller or even the Dreamcast mouse. While the light gun gives the player the most freedom of movement and emulates the aim of the game more appropriately, cursor speed settings still make the use of a controller bearable and, perhaps, button mapping the reload function as opposed to shooting offscreen may make things even easier for the player. Then again, if your light gun has an auto-reload feature, you’ll still get the upper hand there, but the point is, no matter how you control Confidential Mission, there is enough options available to make it playable and through proper calibration, the light gun never fails to please. You fire at the screen to dispatch enemies or off it to reload, so, rest assured, no one will have issues with the controls.

Just like in Virtua Cop, Confidential Mission is measured in its mindless reaction shooting, but, thankfully, there are a handful of additions that elevate the title beyond a mere carbon copy. The most obvious addition is in the quicktime challenges that affect the flow of the level’s gameplay. These challenges often get to show off the spies’ gadgetry to remind us we’re playing a James Bond-esque shooter and offer up a satisfying variety of tasks – players try to use adhesive bullets to plug up a poisonous gas vent, a grappling hook is used to cross buildings and more. While players always end up at the same location, passing or failing these events determines how they get there and, often times, failing results in a bit of an extra fight against more enemies. These events break up the twitch shooting nicely and have proven to be such a welcome addition that SEGA still uses the mechanic in its newest games such as Ghost Squad and Rambo.

Confidential Mission also throws in a bit more item hunting than some of its SEGA-spawned brethren, giving players a lot of incentive to shoot even the things that don’t move. While these points and their resulting rankings were more suited for the arcade’s Internet ranking mode, there are a lot of goodies that can yield extra firepower and health tucked away in the game as well. The title also has two endings to see, depending on your performance at the end, but most of your time is going to be spent in the Dreamcast exclusive modes that really mix the gameplay up a bit. There are some challenging, lofty goals to aim for in order to uncover the game’s extras, but while the replayability hangs up there a bit, this is definitely a title players will tackle one gameplay at a time instead of spending hours on end on the light gun. In that regard, however, a blast through the game’s main mode will only hold a player over for about half an hour, but that makes it perfect for a pick-up-and-play title for one or two players.

The spy skin gives Confidential Mission a bit of a fresh spin even though it is basically a blatant mash of Virtua Cop’s gameplay with 007 Goldeneye’s plot premise, but the sauve attitude and hi-tech gadgetry is what makes the game appealing, moreso than the endless army/zombie/police shooting games in arcades. Even though Confidential Mission does a lot of borrowing, there are some great gameplay moments such as sliding through a tube while fighting off turrets, fighting while undercover as a chef or attendant and blowing away snowmobiles from the top of a moving train. The game is a cliché to end all clichés, but in quick bursts, anyone who enjoys rail shooters won’t regret a bit of time spent with Confidential Mission.

The Scores
Story/Modes: GOOD
Graphics: MEDIOCRE
Control/Gameplay: VERY GOOD
Replayability: ENJOYABLE
Balance: GOOD
Originality: BAD
Addictiveness: POOR
Appeal Factor: GOOD
Miscellaneous: VERY GOOD

Short Attention Span Summary

Confidential Mission is yet another arcade to Dreamcast port that fails to use the power of the system, but, still ultimately delivers with potential fun and a few genre innovations that have stuck with today’s SEGA shooters. The graphics border on polished 64-bit quality and the sound is forgettable even if its decent by SEGA rail shooter standards, but the gameplay gives players a quick burst of pure arcade goodness and the Dreamcast exclusive modes will give players a reason to come back every now and again. By no means is Confidential Mission among the greatest titles on the Dreamcast, but along with The House of the Dead 2, arcade fans will have enough on their hands to get nostalgic over a time when games came to the console from arcades instead of the other way around.



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