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Spy Hunter




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Midway hunts down the past and brings it to the future, reviving a classic franchise and old-school gameplay.


Spy Hunter evokes many memories and images in the hearts and minds of many gamers. Back in the 80's, this was one of the most popular videogames, a staple in the arcades. Spys have always maintained a certain "cool factor" and back then, there wasn't much in the way of accessibility to "cool" - the James Bond franchise wasn't fully available on video, any home videogame was relegated to pixilated jumping or shooting of aliens, and TV shows were not doing their part (although the Avengers was shown in some markets in syndication).

Midway decided to bring back some of its coin-op properties, and one of the ripest for a remake was the Spy Hunter game. Designed as both a sequel and a remake, this new home version of the classic game looks to bring a new audience weaned on spy culture some classic gameplay and still holds true to its roots. Today's audience


Spy Hunter for the new millennium ditches the top down perspective from the arcade. This change is due in large part to the technology of today's "next-generation" gaming platforms. Taking a "third person" perspective behind the vehicle changes the nature of the game, but Midway did a great job of keeping the gameplay intact, so this new style feels completely natural in the Spy Hunter world.

Picking up 20 years after the first game left off (the second game really isn't referenced, it wasn't that popular), NOSTRA is back, trying to take over the world. It's up to you to put a stop to the evil organization's plans.

The game opens with a training mission to get players familiar with the controls. While I usually try to skip this part and head straight into the game, Spy Hunter is set up in such a way that it is impossible to do so. This turned out to be a good thing, as I needed all the help I could get. Figuring out how to target enemies while avoiding obstacles may not be the hardest thing in the world, but when you're trying to avoid civilian casualties, it's not always as easy as it seems.

Primary gameplay will consist of getting from point A to point B (generally considered the objective), with various missions (usually secondary) to complete along the way. One objective has player attempting to take out some towers (with the help of some guided missiles). Secondary missions are also featured, and in this same objective, one secondary mission involves activating the SATCOMs throughout the course.

Objectives range from taking out an attack helicopter and getting out alive to taking out a second G-6155 Interceptor - the car that is employed by the player. The G-6155 Interceptor is truly the star of the game, able to change from a car to a motorcycle, or a to a boat and a jet ski. If too much damage is taken, various bits of armor are blown away and a new iteration of the vehicle is moving down the road (or waterway).

To replenish the armor (and spent weapons) there will (usually) be a weapons truck somewhere on the road. All you have to do is drive up to it and into the back. Seconds later, a bright shiny new looking automobile is ready to hit the road - and the bad guys as well.

The game is fast paced with enough variety in missions and objectives to keep you playing for a long time. Each objective's mission is worth a point, and these points determine progress. Total completion of the game will require you to finish each of the secondary objectives. You'll want to. After a certain number of points are accumulated, another objective is opened up. If you are unable to perform certain tasks and keep missing a few missions throughout your objectives, eventually, you won't be able to progress in the game.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Spy Hunter is the secondary mission completion. Say you go through an objective, complete the primary mission, and one of the three secondary missions. You go through the objective again (knowing you can do better) and complete the primary mission, and the other two secondary missions, but miss the one you completed earlier. The game does not credit you for the secondary missions already completed. Each objective has to be completed perfectly for each of the missions to be credited. It can be done, just with some practice.

Graphically, the game isn't the greatest thing to hit the Xbox. When developing for multiple consoles, it's always easier to program for the lowest common denominator, and that just isn't the Xbox Thankfully, Midway did give this game a bit more attention than it did to other arcade games that hit the Xbox. The framrate is smooth, the environments look nice (as they blur by) and the little details such as missile targeting and smoke screens really stand out as being "coded with care" although the same is true for the other platform versions of the game.

Interspersed between some of the missions are some FMV scenes that serve to move the story along, and give some depth and understanding to the missions. These all look great, and really serve to bring the player into the game world even more.

The Spy Hunter theme gets old real quick, and thankfully that's not the only thing you'll be hearing. The music in the game is really good, and fits in with the spy theme really well. Good cinematic spy music. The sound effects are also well done. The squealing of tires and rat-a-tat-tat of the machine guns sometimes gets a little repetitive, but overall, it sounds like it should. Really, what did you expect to hear? The only downside really is the lack of customizable soundtrack - a feature that nearly every Xbox game should incorporate.

Handling of the G-6155 Interceptor is fairly standard, except during certain missions with multiple objectives. The Xbox controller just isn't designed for this. The "A" button accelerates your vehicle, the right trigger fires the primary weapon, occupying your thumb and index finger pretty much the entire mission. If you need to employ a defensive weapon, you need to take your thumb off the "A" button, and move it all the way up to the "black" button, and back. A third party controller is encouraged.

Weapons range from your standard machine guns and guided missiles to an EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) and Rail Gun (obliterates the entire target in front of you).Defensively, your standard oil slick and smoke screen return from the arcade days of yore, but a new addition is one of the cooler weapons, either defensive or offensive - the flamethrower. Sometimes, instead of going through with the mission, you may find yourself just driving around firing off weapons trying to see what you can blow up it's that much fun.

The enemies in Spy Hunter are mostly variations on a theme - cars and trucks, helicopters, and boats. Each specific type has certain armaments and weaknesses to watch for and exploit. Sometimes it is better to employ defensive weapons, sometimes an offensive strategy is better used, and there will be times when it's wisest just to but the pedal to the metal and just drive like a maniac avoiding everything in sight.

Completing the missions will not only allow progression within the game, but unlocking multiplayer games as well. A mission has to be completely finished (secondary missions and all) before it can be utilized in multiplayer. Unfortunately, on 2 people can play. The Xbox has 4 controller ports, and they should be used.

The games are relatively simple, not that deep, but fun. These were definitely coded in as an extra. They are basic racing style games, but you must complete all objectives within a given mission to unlock the course in multiplayer mode.

One great thing about the Xbox version of the game is that it has (as unlockable "secrets") various bits that you won't find included in the PS2 or GameCube versions. There's an extra video by the band Saliva, concept art, a "Making of" video, and perhaps the greatest of all the original arcade version of Spy Hunter. Now gamers can relive the original mission that started it all.

Spy Hunter is an excellent driving/action game. Whether or not you remember the original arcade version, Midway's update will satisfy that craving you have for some fast-actioned gameplay. The game takes a while to play, due to the necessary completion of every single objective, but it's worth it, since you're rewarded at the end of it all. The game most definitely give you a return on your investment, and then some.

Daniel "monk" Pelfrey
Wonders if the sequel should be called Spy Predator...

Spy Hunter: The Scores













The Final Word:  Spy Hunter is fun. It will take some time to finish, since you have to get every single objective (and you may get frustrated in the process). If you spend full price for this game, you'll definitely get your money's worth since you'll be playing this one for a while. The gameplay is great and should satisfy both driving and action fans. Old school enthusiasts are virtually required to pick up a copy.

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