Do you like to drive cars that are equipped with missiles and machine
guns? Do you like churning gears in prototype cars that can change
forms on a dime? If so, you might want to take a look at SpyHunter,
Midway's latest release on the GBA platform. You pilot the G-6155
Interceptor, a sleek and elegant car that possesses numerous offensive
and defensive mounts. Your weapons armament basically guarantees you'll
come across a horde of enemies in the harrying eight missions.
SpyHunter is a Janus-like game, on the one hand an action title and on
the other, a racing game.
But ultimately, it feels more like an action title than anything else.
Each mission is structured such that you have to complete a primary
objective but the secondary objectives are, well, very secondary indeed.
They're the ones like avoid civilian casualties or run over some special
icons. As you progress through the missions, the only true objective
you need to achieve before passing the level is to destroy, whether it
is a truck or any other game object. The only racing elements I saw
were in the beginning, when you had to dodge pylons in the test arena.
Or perhaps the developers meant running over various satellite
communications icons to enable them. That, I think, is loosely based on
racing games. Thus, above all else, SpyHunter is an action fest. It's
more about brawn than finesse.
The pseudo 3D engine used to depict this is fairly remarkable. It looks
crude in the screenshots but the diminutive screen of the GBA eliminates
a great deal of the imperfections. It's not necessarily all about
finesse either. Some of the textures are rough, like the terrain, while
others, like the reflections of buildings in the water, are impressive.
Perhaps the others were sacrificed in order to keep the game running at
full tilt because SpyHunter runs well even though it's a game that is
prone to throw a half a dozen vehicles on the screen at once.
You start out each game with only the most basic weapons on the G-6155
Interceptor. Power-ups in the form of supply vehicles and floating ones
on the road are placed along the track as you progress throughout the
mission and the weapons you get are usually pertinent to the task at
hand. I mention the word track because in the end, while the developers
have thrown in civilian traffic, the game feels like an enclosed arena
of which one road is the only road to travel. This type of strictly
linear design fails to take advantage of the player's spatial grasp of
things and the objectives are also liable for not realizing the
eccentricities of three, no make that two dimensions. For one thing,
you can actually backtrack and move backwards to pick up objects or
complete objectives. However, if you pass the designated area without
finishing all the objectives in one go, the game automatically proclaims
(if it cares to), in its linear thinking, that you've failed an
objective, which is not entirely true because sometimes you can go back
and rectify that mistake.
Once you finish the mission stages, you can go through them again in
arcade mode and race traditionally against a timer. There's also an
option to play against another player (note singular), which boils down
to a mano-a-mano deathmatch with gratuitous weapons and copious use of
tried and true gimmicks like oil slicks. While the ultimate challenge
you'll get is from another human player, the computer drivers usually
put up a fight, mostly because they overwhelm by numbers. But
eventually, as with all predictable combat in an enclosed setting,
you'll learn their nuances and the quickest way to defeat them. Eight
missions, including the training one, is not a lot. In spite of the
liberty you get with regards to saving your progress in SpyHunter,
there's nothing to be earned in saving your finished games. If I
finished the game, arguably, I'd like to upgrade my car permanently so I
can fend off enemies better in the arcade modes or the multiplayer
component. This is a must in the later levels when they throw a swarm
of vehicles to harass you and you're without crucial swarm missiles.
The music soundtrack in this game pays homage to its 1980s roots.
Coupled with sound effects and you have an engaging title right here,
with polished visuals and lots of gratuitous action. Unfortunately,
that's all the hook SpyHunter is willing to give. The inclusion of
satellite communications and the process of enabling them is a game
device. It has nothing to do with spying and maybe a little with
hunting since you had to find them. You earn bonuses if you do all
these secondary objectives but it fails to really bring any espionage
conspiracy into the game itself. You get to play with a plethora of
weapons that not even Q provides for James Bond. However, the
monotonous tasks you carry out with these tools makes you yearn for
missions from M instead. The bulk of SpyHunter's content, the mission
play, feels clichéd, bloated and willing to get by on providing sheer
challenge of the frustrating, rather than intriguing kind.
Your car, the G-6155 Interceptor, corners faster and accelerates quicker
than all the other vehicles in the game. So we can come to the
conclusion that racing is fairly benign, unless it's against a clock.
That leaves only the action, which comes off as a repetitive exercise
against numbers. It's not badly done action. I only wish it was
arranged better. Not in need of more explosions, not utterly boring and
certainly not bad-looking; it's just, regrettably, dry. For a sequel to
a highly acclaimed 1980s classic, I'm left thirsting for more.