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Video Game / Secret Service

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Secret Service is a series of budget-title first-person shooters predominantly made for the PC market and published by Activision Value, where the player takes the role of a member of the eponymous United States Secret Service as they battle the world's criminal and terrorist element (and also protect U.S. dignitaries, on occasion).

The first Secret Service, also known as Secret Service: In Harm's Way, was released in 2001 and developed by Romanian developer Fun Labs, best known for their Cabela's Hunting games. It was a tactical shooter inspired by the original games in the Rainbow Six series. The game was more forgiving than other tactical shooters of the time, with players able to survive several bullet hits before dying, as opposed to the One-Hit-One-Kill gameplay common in the genre at the time. Players could select a loadout from a variety of 20+ real-world firearms before each mission. Players also led a team of up to 3 secret service agents, who could be independently given a variety of commands, including being ordered to move to a given position or to face a particular direction and provide overwatch in that direction (a specificity of command that was seen in few tactical shooters, even the most popular ones such as the Rainbow Six or Police Quest: SWAT series). Prior to several missions, players could position a number of secondary team agents at various points throughout the level. The player had no direct control over these secondary team agents, but they would act independently and fight any enemies that appeared in the area they were assigned to guard. Missions were divided into dignitary protection details, and anti-terrorist raids involving the search for a series of chemical bombs sold to various criminal and terrorist organizations in the U.S.

The second game in the "series" was Secret Service: Security Breach. In contrast to In Harm's Way, Security Breach was a more straightforward Doom-style run-and-gun corridor shooter based on the Gore: Ultimate Soldier engine. The game was released in 2003 and developed by 4D Rulers, the developers of Gore: Ultimate Soldier. The game is notable for featuring various next-gen graphics effects such as bump-mapping and real-time lighting, effects which would be made famous by Doom³ the next year. Because of a quirk of the way shadows are implemented, the game also cannot be run properly on an ATI graphics card, as everything looks like it's covered in shifting black goo. Most of the plot actually involves fighting the Mob, in the Secret Service's anti-counterfeiter role. Towards the end of the game they start trying to kill a leading politician, whose protection encompasses the last few missions of the game.

The third Secret Service game was Secret Service: Ultimate Sacrifice, released in 2008 and developed by Cauldron HQ, best known for Chaser, Soldier of Fortune: Payback, Jurassic: The Hunted, and the History Channel series of historic first person shooters (Civil War and Battle in the Pacific). Like all those games, it uses their in-house CloakNT game engine. Unlike previous games in the series, Ultimate Sacrifice was a multi-platform release, developed both for PC and consoles (Playstation 2 and Xbox 360). Like Security Breach, the game is a run-and-gun corridor shooter, although it also has noticeable influence from the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series. It plays pretty much like Soldier of Fortune: Payback, and even uses a lot of assets (such as weapons and character animations) from that game. The game also has door-unlocking sequences using pipe-puzzles similar to those in BioShock. The plot involves a conspiracy by high-ranking members of the government and even elements of the Secret Service to stage a coup d'etat and perform an Amendment XXV replacement of the current president via assassination.

In Harm's Way had limited circulation and was generally received as So Okay, It's Average, while Security Breach and especially Ultimate Sacrifice were both critically panned across the board.

The United States Secret Service had no development involvement with any of the games, a fact which is disclosed in a disclaimer featured prominently in all 3 games.

The games provide examples of:

  • Achievement Mockery: As pointed out in this video, a few achievements mock you, and give you zero points for your troubles. "Expert Marksman" is achieved when you fire a whole magazine without hitting anyone. "Drop the pin..." is received by blowing yourself up with a grenade. "The Exact Opposite of Your Job" is unlocked by shooting the President.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The A.I. isn't exactly the brightest bunch in any of the games.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: The leader of the mob shows up at the very end of Security Breach to fight you and try to kill the President. He's got 500 health, compared to 100 to 250 health for regular enemies, and is armed with an assault rifle. He's not quite tough enough to be a full boss fight, but is still the toughest individual enemy in the game.
  • Body Armor as Hit Points: Seen in Security Breach, where you have Health and Body Armor. Unfortunately, while body armor protects against bullets, it does nothing to stop a baseball bat to the face.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Ultimate Sacrifice has an entire Secret Service field office involved in a plot to kill the President and install a new one through Amendment XXV; the finale has you gunning your way through them on Air Force One while trying to reach and save the President.
  • Checkpoint Starvation: In Harm's Way and Security Breach have no checkpoints, so if you get taken down you're kicked all the way back to the beginning of the level.
  • Elite Mooks: Hitmen in Security Breach are faster, do more damage, and can tank more bodyshots compared to any other enemies in the game. They're armed with pistols and are recognizable by their distinct blue suits and trilby hats.
  • Escort Mission: Well, it is the Secret Service after all. In Harm's Way lets you stash the protectee in a defensible room and have a couple agents protect him while you and a partner clear the way. Alternatively, you could stay by the protectee while ordering your agents to move ahead and have them clear the way. Security Breach and Ultimate Sacrifice, lacking tactical commands, have the standard "idiot who follows 3 feet behind you the entire level" type. Particularly bad in Security Breach, where you protectee can actually block you into a dead end if you're unlucky, forcing you to restart the level.
  • Final Exam Finale: The second-to-last major mission in In Harm's Way involves protecting the Vice President in a hotel. For some reason, the attacks consist of a mix of every single enemy type you've fought in all the previous game's levels, ranging from Middle Eastern gunmen and gunwomen to hitmen waiters to armed goons to mobsters.
  • Heroic Mime: In In Harm's Way and Security Breach, you're a faceless protagonist with no voice. Ultimate Sacrifice has you play as a specific character with frequent (often hot-headed) in-game dialogue.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: None of the games were ever optioned for digital distribution, and with their overall poor reception and relative obscurity it's unlikely they can every be found outside the remaining copies of the original retail releases.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: In Security Breach, the mob apparently has a small army of Jersey Shore rejects with baseball bats who are willing to charge straight at armed agents equipped with assault rifles.
  • Nintendo Hard: In Harm's Way is somewhat more forgiving that the original Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, or S.W.A.T. series, but it's still a tactical shooter where you can take relatively few hits and have no way to restore your health mid-level, and an instant-fail condition if your protectee dies. Security Breach and Ultimate Sacrifice are of a more mainstream difficulty level.
  • One Bullet Clips: Seemingly averted in Security Breach, where your spare ammo is listed as remaining mags rather than remaining individual bullets. However, reloading doesn't discard the remaining bullets in your current mag, playing the trope straight.
  • Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: All 3 games feature a prominent disclaimer that the United States Secret Service was not involved in and in no way officially approved the game.
  • Permanently Missable Content: Similar to Rainbow Six, in In Harm's Way, if one of your agents is killed, they're lost forever from your roster for the remaining missions of the game. There are no replacement agents, but the roster is generally large enough to last throughout the entire game unless you somehow manage to get every agent killed in every mission.
  • Private Military Contractors: A PMC serves as the stormtroopers of the Conspiracy in Ultimate Sacrifice.
  • Post-Climax Confrontation: The final real mission of In Harm's Way involves escorting the President through the D.C. sewer system in the wake of a WMD attack, while being attacked by a small army of heavily armed commandoes. The epilogue takes place after the WMD crisis is over, during a diplomatic party attended by the President. A lone gunman (who happens to share the same character model as Agent Smith, the number 2 agent in your character roster, and may or may not be him) pops up during the party and tries to kill the President, and you have to save him one last time.
  • Ragdoll Physics: In Harm's Way was an early adopter of Ragdoll Physics; however, due to the early implementation it's far from perfect, resulting in some often very goofy flopping around when a character is killed.
  • Regenerating Health: Seen in Ultimate Sacrifice, which was made in 2008 and had heavy influence from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
  • Tech-Demo Game: Security Breach features a number of graphics features that were a first for the time it was released, including bump mapping and real-time lighting (the game came out a full year before Doom³). The game's graphics are very advanced for their time, especially considering it's a niche budget title. Many of the environments look almost like they could be in F.E.A.R., which came out two years afterwards. 4D Rulers wanted to market their AMP Engine as an alternative to other commercial engines like Quake 3 or Unreal, and seemed to have pulled out all the stops to show what they were capable of.