I still remember the first time I encountered the original Spy Hunter game in arcades when I was a kid. That horrible yet amazing computerized version of the Peter Gunn Theme is one of the sounds that triggers instant memories of dumping quarter after quarter into the machine in order to keep driving the most amazing car I’d even seen.
Get ready, agents. It’s time to strap in to the Interceptor once again.
Spy Hunter has never been big on story; most players are just happy they’re driving an awesome car. That’s the basis of the reboot here as well. You play as some nameless guy driving the latest incarnation of the Interceptor. While test driving the prototype, the home base is invaded, and a mysterious voice who happens to sound just like the vocalist from Dimmu Borgir begins laying threats across to you and your organization. You and your mechanic/technician/truck driver escape to carry out remote operations to take down the enemy threat.
Your car was always fancy, but it happens to be extra fancy this time around. The Interceptor still carries the ability to change from sports car to off-road vehicle to speed boat simply by falling into the appropriate terrain. Old weapons usually limited the player to just basic machine guns and deterrents like smoke screens and oil slicks. The new game has machine guns, missiles, flamethrowers, mines, shotguns, shockers and even more.
Perhaps the coolest part of this iteration of Spy Hunter is the customization of your ever-important car. Before each level begins, and at checkpoints within each level, you have the option of switching out which weapons are equipped on your hood, roof, sides and rear end, as well as an overall emergency tool such as a cloaking device or energy shield.
Weapons are unlocked as players progress through the game, and each weapon can be upgraded three levels higher, increasing damage output or recharge rates. Upgrades and new paint jobs are purchased using credits obtained in the levels themselves.
Each level guarantees 1,000 credits simply for finishing the level, with bonuses awarded for completing the level in a certain amount of time, only taking so much damage, finding hidden objects in the levels, etc.
This would also be the perfect way to add in some sort of leaderboard aspect of the game, but there’s surprisingly no such feature here, which is a shame given the arcade roots of the franchise.
The levels themselves aren’t terribly diverse or anything. Most of them just come down to surviving enemies until you get to the next weapons truck. There are a few levels that try to set themselves apart, by adding in a time limit or having the player run a section of the level while manning a UAV or the mounted turret on the weapons truck.
The UAV is pretty cool because players use the touchscreen in order to mark targets before ordering the strike. The sections of using the turret on the truck are mind-numbingly frustrating due to the fact players only have a laser on the gun itself to use for aiming. It’s very difficult to actually tell what you’re trying to hit.
One of the selling points is the fact that paths in each level are branching, but the “branching” really just amounts to splitting a road into two roads and rejoining them shortly after. I don’t think the developers know what “branching” actually means. Even the level structure itself has a few levels that branch off from the main line, but they don’t offer any specific reward, nor are they required for the story. They’re only really good for offering another opportunity for some extra credits.
There was something eating at me, though. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Thankfully, I have a test for this.
Whenever I can’t put my finger down on what’s bothering me about a game, I always seek a different point of view. I have a friend play the game and give me their opinion on it. They don’t look at things as critically as I do, so it’s easier to spot obvious flaws. After a few levels of Spy Hunter, you know what they said?
“This isn’t bad. I think I still got $15 left in my PSN wallet. Maybe I’ll pick this up.”
It hits me. Spy Hunter is a decent game, but it’s hard to justify the full price of admission. Whether you play this on 3DS or Vita, it’s still a full $39.99 game. While the actual value of the game will definitely vary based on the player, I find it hard that many people can feel satisfied dropping that kind of money on a handheld game that can be beaten in three hours, and offers almost no replay value.
And it’s not just a lack of content, it’s the overall quality of the game. Sure the game might look great for a 3DS game, but that means it’s lacking from what’s expected of a Vita game. There are a handful of graphical glitches and poor texturing that just make it feel like Spy Hunter would have been the perfect downloadable game to play to a gamer’s nostalgia senses. But as a full retail title? I think I’ll pass.
I’d feel a bit disappointed if I had bought this game for full price. Don’t get me wrong, the game is great and I love the modern take on a classic experience, but there just isn’t enough content here to warrant the full asking price. I may be nostalgic, but I’m not a fool.
If you can manage to find this game on sale at some point or in a bargain bin, I definitely recommend looking into it. But while it’s still full price, I have a hard time imagining there’s a soul out there who would look at this game and think it’s worth the same thing as, say LittleBigPlanet Vita or Kingdom Hearts 3D, both of which carry the same price tag, but offer infinitely more value.
This review is based on a copy of the game provided to us for review purposes.
Spy Hunter is a good game, but there's a lack of content that makes the retail status of the game questionable. This would have been much better as a downloadable game at half the price.