2008 Reviews

Secret Service

  • Review Date: 2011-11
  • Release Date: 2008-11
  • Developer: Cauldron HQ
  • Rating: 4.5

This isn't the first in the Secret Service franchise - in fact there were a couple before the 2008 version but by different developers. I didn't even know about them, let alone play them. This game is created by Cauldron HQ, based in Slovakia. They first came to recognition with the 2003 shooter Chaser, built on their own engine, which was a good, underrated effort. However their History Channel games have received negative reviews and the third Soldier of Fortune (Payback) was a messy flop. Secret Service is no different, in fact worse, than Payback.

The major issue I had in Payback returns; the bug where my bullets go right through enemies and I can't kill them. It turns out this can be fixed by forcing Vsynch on under the Nvidia control panel. Simple fix - it's a shame Cauldron couldn't have done something about this in a patch.

What it meant was that I played the game in easy, figuring the occasional invisible enemy is going to cause too much drama if I keep dying and returning to checkpoints. But with the problem fixed, I continued on in easy and the game was probably a little TOO easy then. I don't think I died from enemy gunfire in the entire game. It's still fun though, for your standard realistic shooter with 1000 of the exact same human enemy. That's where the positivity ends, because Secret Service fails just about everywhere else.

The Cauldron engine is looking pretty average for 2008. It's glossiness attempts to hide what is a bland looking game. There's little art direction, the level of detail in the levels is sparse. While it does attempt to look modern, at least 2008, there's absolutely nothing in this game that'll make you think "that looks cool". It's just boring indoor settings from an extremely linear Lincoln Memorial, various areas of the White House and finishing in the Air Force One in the easiest boss battle of all time.

Then comes the various gameplay elements that frustrate - laser tripwire bombs, machine-gun turrets and the mini-game/challenges required to hack computers. Challenges where you're usually given around 60 seconds to complete a task that takes far longer than this, usually double. Then if you fail you die instantly and return to a checkpoint, which is often NOT right before this mini-game. These are the most annoying mini-games I've ever experienced, and if it weren't for a trainer removing the time limit, there's no way I would have bothered playing Secret Service any further than the first mini-game encounter. There's about a dozen throughout the game.

The story is also a bore with confusing political non-sense throughout with zero character building or backstory so you barely know who anyone even is for most of the game.

So overall Secret Service is a below average game. The combat is okay, but mini-games terrible. If you want to play something average just go back to Soldier of Fortune: Payback. It's similar but has a bit more variety and interest in it's locations. And lasts more than five hours.

Cauldron have since given up on PC games to focus on consoles. Not a big surprise, and they won't be missed with the sloppy efforts they've put out after Chaser.