After a sleek and stylish premier on the Playstation 2, Spy Hunter finally makes its appearance on the Nintendo Gamecube. Polished and primed for this new system, Spy Hunter is the long awaited update of the 1983 arcade hit. This time around, you'll be taking the fight to Nostra in style, with a fully 3D vehicle combat game, featuring amazing graphics and a vehicle that'd make James Bond's jaw drop.
Your weapon of choice for this mission is the G-6155 Interceptor, the latest in state of the art vehicular technology. Featuring a variety of onboard weaponry, the G-6155 is the perfect car for the agent on the go, allowing any operative of the International Espionage Section to perform their missions with grace and ease. Its transforming capabilities allow the Interceptor to act not only as a high-speed sports car, but also as a jet powered speedboat, motorcycle, and personal watercraft. With machineguns, oil slicks, smoke screens, missiles (guided and otherwise), and other sundry weapons, the G-6155 packs enough punch to send the most determined villain home in a body bag.
Your mission is none other than to save the world itself from destruction. Nostra, a powerful multinational corporation, has constructed a series of satellites codenamed the Four Horsemen. After launching them into orbit, Nostra will activate a series of electromagnetic pulses designed to blanket the earth, rendering all electronic devices inert. Chaos will reign, and Nostra will be able to seize control of the world itself.
Of course, plans of such scope are rarely kept secret for long, and Nostra's intentions are no exception. The International Espionage Section, or IES, has deployed its famed Spy Hunter unit, with the express intent of bringing this villainous plan to its knees. With state of the art technology and an enemy with vast resources, the only thing standing between the world and the next Dark Age is you.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
At its heart, Spy Hunter is a racing game on steroids, tweaked to give you a satisfying arcade experience, all while keeping the ultimate control as intuitive and transparent as possible. At least, so I thought, before I tried playing it with the NGC controller. More on that later. Spy Hunter takes the complexity out of the racing by giving you a vehicle so forgiving that it' be a joy to have in real life. It can take sharp corners at the highest of speeds, outrace an F1 car, and blow helicopters out of the sky, all in the space of a few seconds. Very enjoyable to drive, it's definitely my favorite part of the game.
Each mission in Spy Hunter, of which there are 14, is not only quite long, but also very detailed, with little repetition and copied design. From the swamps of Florida to the IES test track (where you get to run the Interceptor through its paces), it's a joy to race through each level. Along the way, you'll need to complete a series of objectives to accomplish your mission. The primary objective lets you advance to the next stage, provided you've completed enough objectives overall, and each of the secondary objectives adds to your overall stats, as well as letting you unlock a cheat if you manage to complete all objectives and beat the level in a certain amount of time.
What game would be complete without enemies? This title is filled to the brim with them. From Mortar APCs to high-speed Gondola, and the occasional errant motorcycle terrorist, you won't have need for more enemies. Many of the stages are quite difficult enough without their continued persistence.
Even so, the Interceptor isn't defenseless. Packing only an oil slick and machineguns to begin with, later on you'll get a smoke screen, flamethrower, rockets, missiles, swarmer missiles, a rail gun, and even larger machineguns. More weapons are unlocked with each level you beat, and given the increasing intensity of the enemy attacks they're definitely needed at each stage. They're separated into defensive and offensive weaponry, and careful use of their capabilities is absolutely necessary.
Much like the difficultly of locking on with homing missiles on the PS2 controller (which required you to click the analog stick), the GameCube controller has 'issues'? controlling Spy Hunter. First, the weaponry is controlled with the left and right trigger buttons, but instead of just clicking them like the PS2 version, you'll need to depress them fully. In order to even access your defensive weapons, you need to hold down the Z button, that little sliver of a button above the right trigger. Can we say annoying? Aside from that, the only other complaint I've got is that going in reverse is quite difficult in this version. I managed to do it a few times by accident, but the fact that it's hard to get the interceptor to back up is quite aggravating, especially when you manage to get stuck on a small piece of land. It might not seem like much, but if you're wondering why this review doesn't have quite as many points as the PS2 version, look no further than these controls.
I haven't come to expect a lot in graphics from Midway, but I was happily surprised at how nice the PS2 version of Spy Hunter looked. The GameCube follows in its wake, but just barely. Strangely, the NGC seemed to handle the reflection effects and ground textures quite differently, leaving some parts of the game quite pixilated, yet apparently handling frame rates much better, as I saw a lot of improvement over the movement illusion from the PS2 version. All in all, it looks a little less impressive, but does seem to perform better overall.
There isn't really much in the way of voice acting, other than the wonderful voice of your onboard computer, so I wasn't really paying that much attention to the audio. Still present is the wonderful original Spy Hunter theme, the little audio extras like the Saliva music video, and the updated version of the Spy Hunter theme that make the game oh-so much more enjoyable.
Even though it isn't as friendly to multiplayer as most arcade style titles, Spy Hunter still has a few good tricks up its sleeve. With simple head-to-head competition, you can gun your way to winning the race by either destroying your opponent, or beating him to the finish line. My favorite part of the Spy Hunter multiplayer experience is the Chicken Hunter mode, which rewards you with points for each chicken you successfully turn into road kill.
All in all, although I was surprised at the graphical problems present in this version of Spy Hunter, I was happy the game stayed mostly the same. Good multiplayer features expand its replayability, but the lack of good control really holds this title back. All in all, if you've got a GameCube and a PS2, I'd suggest getting the PS2 version. If you don't have a PS2, definitely get this one, as Spy Hunter isn't a game to pass up.
Remember the 1980's? Big hair, fluorescent colored spandex, fast food that was actually large enough to fill your stomach, oh, and MTV was just becoming popular (back then they actually played music consistently for hours). Those were the days' well kind of anyway. Did you along with everyone else play the hugely popular arcade game Spy Hunter (if you weren't born yet it's probably hard to imagine a time without gaming consoles, where you actually had to pay MONEY for each game you played)? Well I have good news for you; there is finally a remake of the game that is available for the Xbox.
Spy Hunter can be remembered by the steering wheel console that contained a gas pedal and gear shift. The steering wheel was loaded with four buttons: Machine guns, Missiles, Smoke Screen, and Oil Slick that helped you get through each level when needed. The game also included something that everyone remembers'the music. It continuously looped the song "Theme from Peter Gunn" in the background during gameplay. In fact, most people probably associate the existence of the song to the game, but I digress.
The plot is to stop the evil group, Nostra International, from taking over the world. They are planning to release hell on earth and you (Spy Hunter) must stop them. Basically you have fourteen missions you must complete. Each mission has a primary objective that must be completed to succeed. Each mission also contains various secondary objectives that give you overall objective points. As you gain more objective points you are able to unlock new levels. For the most part you drive around avoiding civilians, blowing up enemy stuff, avoiding getting destroyed, and re-gaining your health by driving into the weapons Van/Boat.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The general concept of the original is still maintained in this new version. You must drive vehicles through a course very quickly and avoid being destroyed by enemy vehicles and stations. The big new improvement is the vehicle, the G-6155 Interceptor. It is an automatically morphing vehicle that transforms into futuristic versions of a car and a boat. Upon receiving a lot of damage the vehicle will automatically transform into a smaller lighter vehicle either a motorcycle or a jet ski. This is actually pretty cool and helps break up the monotony of the game.
The fully-equipped vehicle has a few offensive and defensive weapons that can be upgraded during the game. For offense you wield: 9MM guns, 15MM guns (upgrade), 25MM guns (upgrade), Unguided Missiles, Guided Missiles (upgrade), Swarmer Missiles (Type II Interceptor only), EMP (Type II Interceptor only), and the Rail Gun (Type II Interceptor only). On defense you are protected with: Oil Slick, Smoke Screen, and the Flame Thrower.
Luckily this game doesn't have that complicated of a plot, so the gameplay and controls were all intuitive and easy to remember. I felt that each vehicle handled well and had a nice feel to the way it drove. For example, you could distinguish a difference between how the car handled on pavement and dirt and how that was different from the boat swaying in the water. The driving dynamics were simple and logical and were in the spirit of the original.
Since there aren't that many levels in the game, it is fairly easy to progress through them by just spending time playing, especially since there is no way to adjust the level of difficulty. Once you go through each level, you can pretty much remember what you need to do next time around to complete the objectives you missed. Speaking of objectives, it frustrated me that it didn't let you complete objectives independently of each other. For example, if you completed all but one secondary objective, the next time you played the slate was clean. Therefore, in trying to get the one tedious secondary objective complete, you are likely to miss other previously accomplished objectives, thus setting you farther behind than the last time you played. That just isn't very cool. In fact, I'd go as far as to say you'll probably get frustrated trying to get that last objective (especially since you need them all for multiplayer) and just turn the game off for a while.
The graphics were tolerable. Frankly, I'm just getting disappointed with companies taking a game that is available on PS2 or GameCube and just porting it to the Xbox' or at least that is what it feels like. The Xbox has really cool graphics capabilities that seemingly aren't used with this game, so it was just an average game to play. The graphics weren't horrible, but they weren't that impressive either. Since the game centers around navigating different cities it would have been nice to add impressive backgrounds or something to help distinguish what is around you, which leads me to my next point...
I felt that a lot of the levels were kind of dark or not very crisp, so it wasn't very easy to distinguish the borders of the road or what vehicles were ahead of you. You also can't change the view, so you never really get to see how cool the vehicle is or sit in a different position. Not a huge problem, but I usually prefer to do racing games in "bumper cam" mode or something so that I can get really close to things.
The audio was actually pretty cool. The aforementioned popular music theme is supposedly the "backbone" of the new sound. They actually had a decent band, Saliva, compose the music for this game so it was pretty fresh. Actually, the music was very similar in sound to the movie Mission Impossible 2, which is a good thing.
All of the regular sounds you would expect from a vehicle or weapons were up to par with any other game of this type, so no complaints there.
I was really disappointed in how the multiplayer was handled. To play any level in multiplayer, you must complete all primary and secondary objectives for a level to play the multiplayer games for that level. This is really lame, since you aren't really required to complete all objectives to advance in the single player game.
There are three games that you can play (once you unlock the level) on each level have varying objectives that must be completed to beat your opponent. These games are amusing and offer a different variation on the theme of the game.
There are two features that I feel are really worth mentioning in this game. First off I'll talk about the transforming vehicle. As mentioned above, I thought it was original to have a vehicle that morphed on-the-fly when you needed it. Plus the look of each vehicle was noticeably different yet functional; therefore it gave you the impression of something that really could be constructed...for the most part. I of course grew up during the 80s when Transformers were popular, so maybe that tints some of the coolness here. But regardless, it could have been much lamer by just having you switch vehicles on the side of the road or at the change of each level, so hats off to Midway for using some creativity here.
The second cool feature is the inclusion of the full original 1983 Spy Hunter version that is hidden within the game and can be unlocked. Not much more to say here, but that it is really neat to be able to play the older version and to notice the similarities and differences that are part of the new version.
So you are probably wondering why if I didn't rag too much on the game, I gave it an average score. The game was just average. It was entertaining to play, had nice features, intuitive controls, and was a nice adaptation of the original, but it just lacked that exttra something to score it as a "keeper" in my mind. With the objectives beiing poorly designed and the graphics only being medicore for the capabilities of the Xbox, this ranks as a weekend rental in my mind. You will be interested in the game for a while, but it just doesn't have what it needs to suck you in to play it continuously non-stop for more than just a couple of days.