When it comes to remakes, good ones are rarer than a three-dollar bill. Lucky for us Spy Hunter turned out even better than I had hoped. This neo Hunter is just a good action game tailor-made for adrenaline junkies like me. It swipes the trademark black cars, catchy Peter Gunn theme and retro machine guns from the original 1980s coin-op, but the rest is all new. Let's dissect it into its top four attributes. 1) Speed: Your tricked-out spy car is a movin' mother. Even while kicking up cafe tables, chairs and other destructible objects, the game usually stays fast and fluid. No big surprise considering Paradigm's racing background. 2) Levels: They're fantastic. You're only driving from point A to point B on each course, but clever shortcuts, speed-friendly road designs and diligent enemies keep each one exciting. 3) Story: While only a tad better than an episode of The Dukes ofHazzard, the plot is captivating enough. It also jibes nicely with the hunt-and-destroy nature of the game. 4) Action: Yup, this game is packed with it. Your guns and missiles are capable of wreaking havoc on nearly any commonplace object (windows, civilian traffic, etc.) that has nothing to do with your mission objectives, which is just mindless fun. You can create as much chaos as you want, and everyone likes to blow stuff up, right? This version is considerably darker (graphically) than its PS2 cousin, but don't let that deter you--it's just as much fun.
Since I'm the least-patient rush-hour driver in the world, this wholesale traffic annihilator really spoke to me. The remixed Peter Gunn theme sets the mood perfectly for the action, whose fast pace is only tempered by a handful of tedious missions. Some objectives read more like grocery lists than an order of espionage: Place five trackers, kill four trucks, get three partridges in a pear tree. Bah! I just wanna blow crap up and transform along the way, OK? It's worth fighting through it all--especially since the Xbox version includes the classic game and bonus tunes. Which raises the question: Why the hell wasn't this stuff in the PS2 edition?
It's not easy to take an arcade classic (read: old game), bring it up to modern-day three-dimensional standards, and make it work. And yet, Spy Hunter succeeds. Driving around like a jacked-up James Bond and blowing stuff up with my all-in-one wonder vehicle is my idea of a good time. The game controls well, looks good (but not great), and features some cool secrets. On the downside, once the single-player game is beaten, it's beaten. Spy Hunter features a healthy bushel of missions, but only the 2-player and retro original are worth going back for. Still, as a nostalgia-infused quick thrill, Spy Hunter works fine for me.
Download Spy Hunter
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
- P-200, 32 MB RAM
- Machine: NES
To start the game with all of the weapons, hold down the "A" button, the "B" button, the SELECT button and hit START. This only lasts until your first car crashes, but will put you well on your way!
Nostra, a multinational company headquartered in Israel, has a most dark and terrible ambition. They’ve constructed a series of satellites codenamed the Four Horseman, which, once launched, can blanket the Earth with an electromagnetic pulse that will disable all electronics and power worldwide. The International Espionage Section, or IES for short, is the only thing that stands between Nostra and worldwide chaos. Only their elite unit, the SpyHunter, can crack Nostra’s defenses, learn the location of the Four Horseman, and shut it down.
Driven by Alec Sects, the same operative who shut down Nostra’s activities in 1983, the Interceptor is a sleek, fast, and highly maneuverable spy car loaded with weapons and gadgets that let you inflict various forms of injury on the goons working for Nostra. A mission style progression lets you advance through the game, learning the controls and weapons of the Interceptor, all the while presenting you with a decent challenge and a smooth learning curve. Spy Hunter also has its share of extras, all of which you can unlock the further you progress in the game. As you beat each level, you’ll be timed and checked on objectives. If you manage to get all of the objectives for a given mission, and then beat the necessary time limit, you’ll unlock a special cheat in addition to the normal ending cut-scene that you get after every mission. With items like the Making of Spy Hunter, the Hover Spy cheat (it turns your car into a hover craft), and the Spy Hunter music video (performed by Saliva), there’s plenty of extras to suit any fan.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Spy Hunter couldn’t have an easier control system. The left analog stick on your PS2 controls the car movement, using the X button to accelerate and the square to brake. Since the game controls all those pesky things like shifting and e-brakes, you get to concentrate on simple, arcade style driving action. The car drives like a dream, cornering at absurd speeds and braking in an instant. Although it isn’t particularly realistic, the arcade style controls really suit this game well, and help give it that over-the-top flavor. Nothing can be considered complete until it’s been armed, and that goes doubly so for the Interceptor. At first armed only with machine guns and an oil slick, you’ll be awarded extra weapons and defensive items the further you progress through the missions. At first you get missiles and a smokescreen, but before long you’ll have swarm missiles, a rail gun, and a rear-firing flame-thrower. The weapons are all fairly easy to use, but it does take a little practice to get used to locking on with the homing missiles. The missions themselves are usually easy to beat, but difficult to conquer. Each one has multiple objectives to accomplish, the primary objective being the one you need to beat to advance to the next level. Beyond this, each level has a minimum number of objectives you’ll need to have completed (in all of the previous levels, total) before you can open the next mission. In every mission, you’ll have to fight through Nostra agents, tooth and nail, to accomplish your objectives. With settings like the Panama Canal, the waterlogged streets of Venice, and the Florida Keys, you’ve always got a beautiful background to watch while pounding the crap out of the bad guys.
If you’ve got the two controllers, you can play two player, head-to-head Spy Hunter. Once you complete all of the objectives in a given mission, you can use it in the multiplayer game, racing head-to-head on a split screen against your friends. Success is gained only by beating your opponent to the finish line, but unlike most races, you can blow the crap out of your friends with all of the Interceptor's onboard weaponry. This is one of the portions of the game that could’ve used a little work. With the ability to a) use an I-Link cable to connect two TV’s and PS2’s, and b) a cheat code that turned the game into a pure racing game, Midway could’ve had one hell of an extra to offer fans who were willing to beat the game.
Another PS2 title with great graphics, Spy Hunter combines complex, attractive levels with highly detailed enemies to make a wonder for the eyes. The interceptor is perhaps one of the most attractive parts of the game, part race car, part speed boat, and all style. If you’ve ever wished you had a Bond car with a little more oomph, you’ll get what you’ve always wanted in this high powered package. Add that to the car's already amazing transformation sequence and you’ve got something to stare at. A lot.
Spy Hunter has all of the audio you’d expect from a racing/action game like this, including the strong focus on engine noise, and the distinctive whirr/click of the transformation sequence. The car has its own voice too, in Leonie, the onboard AI. She’ll let you know when your weapons are running low, when your armor is almost depleted, and she’ll even be nice enough to let you know when you’re looking at a sharp turn ahead of you on the course. There is one more thing though, the one thing that makes Spy Hunter the distinctive game that people remember from 1983. The musical piece "Theme from Peter Gunn" (composed by Henry Mancini), known also as the theme to the motion picture "The Blues Brothers," makes its return as the Spy Hunter music. Originally used as the Spy Hunter theme in 1983, Midway has done an update on the old piece, improving it for this next generation title.
Originality / Cool Features
It’s not just a car, it’s a motorcycle, it’s a boat, it’s a transformer. The Interceptor’s coolest feature, highlighted in a ‘bullet-time’ sequence during the first level, is that it can transform. Leap into a water section and you’ll get treated to a short sequence that turns the Interceptor into a high-speed powerboat. Its wheels retract; the front end is pulled back, and control fins pop out of the sides of the craft. If you suffer too much damage during the mission, the car ejects part of the frame, turning into a single person motorcycle. With a higher top speed than the Interceptor has, it lacks certain weapons and the boost ability of the car mode. Oh, by the way, the motorcycle has a boat mode too.
With the exception of Ico, this is the most fun I’ve had playing a PS2 game ever. With dramatic, arcade style action and a cool car that just won’t quit, Spy Hunter is definitely an instant classic and well worth purchasing for anyone’s collection. The only real drawback to the game is that I could’ve kept playing a lot longer (14 missions just ain’t enough, even when they’re as long and as detailed as these), and would’ve liked the multiplayer capability more if it just had more options instead of one race mode.
- Alex Buonsante of Plains, Pennsylvania, has relayed a method of getting ten free cars. If you hit R, SELECT and START simultaneously at the start of the game, when the timer runs out you receive the bonus cars. Keep in mind the number of times that you've crashed to that point will subtract from the bonus. Thanks for that one, Alex.
- Also, have you ever wanted to drive on water to avoid enemy cars? As you can see from the picture above, this is possible. After exiting from a weapons van, simply pull to the right immediately. You'll be able to drive over water or rough terrain without effect, until the road widens out again.