FBI Hostage Rescue is an unplayable mess of a game; it feels like a really bad amateur mod that was released before it was finished. One of its many problems is that it can't decide what it wants to be. Is it supposed to be a run-and-gun action game? Is it supposed to be a streamlined tactical shooter? That lack of clear vision makes the game a muddle from the start, and from that first misstep, things just go from bad to worse, adding up to more gameplay and technical problems than you could possibly count. In fact, these problems are so bad that we were literally unable to get past the very first mission of the game, despite numerous attempts.
The game gives you a series of 10 single-player missions with no alternative single-player modes, difficulty settings, or multiplayer options. Your goal is to enter areas where hostages are being held, blast the bad guys, and lead the hostages to safety. Before your mission, you read a briefing and view a schematic of the area you'll enter. That perfunctory nod to realism is quickly forgotten when you find out that, quite implausibly, you'll have to do all the fighting and rescuing on your own.
Worse still, you'll have to complete FBI Hostage Rescue's missions within strict time limits. Sneaking into a building, slowly picking locks, locating terrorists, and escorting hostages within five minutes, for example, is asking way too much. Making matters worse, even if you eliminate all the terrorists, you still have to lead the hostages back to a rescue point within the time limit.
You do gain an extra two minutes each time you rescue a hostage, but that doesn't much matter. The hostage artificial intelligence and pathfinding are so atrocious that you'll spend almost all your time trying to shepherd the hostages around. You'll be tearing out your hair as hostages repeatedly get stuck on objects, get stuck on thin air (seriously), walk the wrong way, stroll right through closed doors and seemingly vanish, and perform other idiotic or physically impossible acts.
In the first mission, one hostage decided to run up a fire escape instead of following us to safety. We eventually found him trapped on the roof, where he couldn't navigate his way down. Playing the mission again, a hostage got stuck under a platform, and it took a few minutes of fiddling--with the mission timer ticking all the while--to get him out. Then a second hostage got irretrievably stuck somewhere else. Playing again, we tried rescuing just one hostage at a time instead of two or three at once, but the first hostage kept walking in the wrong direction or disappearing through closed doors, forcing us to chase all over after him. Despite our best efforts, we could never get him to exit the building to safety. These sorts of problems occurred over and over, making the mission impossible to finish.
To add insult to injury, further gameplay problems crop up everywhere you look. There's no way to tone down the high mouse sensitivity. Unlocked doors sometimes open on their own accord and sometimes don't. They'll frequently open partway, pushing you backward from the doorway every time you get near; then they close and repeat the process ad nauseam. This makes the simple task of walking through a doorway a slow, arduous task. If it weren't so pathetic, it would be funny. Even when there's no object blocking you, it's easy to get permanently stuck in place on scenery, requiring you to restart your mission. Sometimes the game will crash to the desktop for good measure.
Assuming everything is more or less working properly for a moment, you get to fight using a small variety of generic weapons that you select before each mission. Where most semirealistic shooters would add strategic depth by making you carefully choose just one main weapon before each mission, here you can easily lug around a shotgun, submachine gun, and sniper rifle all at once. You also get to use smoke and flashbang grenades, implying that there's some sort of tactical subtlety to be had here.
From our ill-fated experiences, that's not the case. The tiny time limit means running and gunning seems to be the only real option. Charging right up to enemies and blasting them in the face is apparently the order of the day. You don't have to worry about hostage-takers outsmarting you since they mainly just stand around and talk to themselves, giving away their positions.
FBI Hostage Rescue's presentation doesn't fare much better than the gameplay. Characters repeat the same lines over and over, though the weapons at least sound acceptable, albeit generic. The visuals are plain, ugly, or just plain ugly--take your pick. Aesthetics aside, you'll also find that major clipping problems abound, and your field of view is claustrophobically narrow with no way to adjust it.
There's no reason at all to buy this game when you can play similar but vastly better games like Counter-Strike, SWAT 3, or Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield. FBI Hostage Rescue feels amateurish, sloppy, and incomplete. Avoid it unless you've really been hankering for a blue coaster that says "FBI" on it.