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Game Over Online ~ SpyHunter

GameOver Game Reviews - SpyHunter (c) Midway, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher SpyHunter (c) Midway
System Requirements Game Boy Advance
Overall Rating 70%
Date Published Wednesday, June 12th, 2002 at 08:26 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

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.


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