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Spy Hunter

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about action movies over the years, it’s that car chase sequences kick arse. I have too many fond memories of Sean Connery doing mad stunts in those little Q Branch issued cars in every James Bond movie. I remember the car chase sequences from both versions of the Italian Job and the French Connection. Just talking about any of those famous scenes will likely bring a tear to many fans’ eyes. But for some reason, that awesome blend of high profile spy action and excellent driving technique have been shafted on this latest wave of consoles. And in yet another sad story of an over-hyped game, Spy Hunters not only fails at living up to the standards of movie action sequences, but also is utterly devoid of any form of fun.

As with any mainstream spy movie, this game comes complete with a somewhat lacking plot involving an evil megalomaniac and his evil corporation held bent on world domination. The illustrious Daemon Curry has created Nostra International, a highly influential company that spans all over the globe. And although this massive corporation crates all sorts of beneficial services for mankind, it’s really just a front for a much darker purposes. Apparently, Mr. Curry thinks that he’s the next messenger of the supernatural, ready to unleash an unholy war that will cover all of Earth. He’s assembled countless assassins and operatives around the world, and has constructed some sort of super weapon that will bring the modern world to its knees.

Okay, so you’re dealing with a wacko that’s named after some spicy food. He’s going to annihilate mankind through his operatives and some powerful weapons. What can you, a member of the elite International Espionage Services, do to stop them? How about some intensive hand-to-hand combat training in case you meet up with some of those assassins? How about some background for in depth covert operations? No, the IES gives you something totally expected yet still unpractical: a car. You’ve got the keys to the G-6155 Interceptor, the latest in spy gadgetry and offensive firepower. Apparently, it’s up to you to save the world by driving haphazardly through various missions and obstacles, eventually taking down evil in the process.

There’s just one tiny little problem though. Your car may be the most advanced piece of government vehicular weaponry, but it drives like a lemon. For some reason, you have extremely limited control over your car of destruction. Maybe it’s the fact that the controls themselves sometimes lag when you make a boost, or maybe it’s just that the car occasionally shifts from drive to reverse when you’re making a sharp turn. Whatever the reason, there’s a fair chance that you’ll be watching in wonder as your lovable hunk of metal collides with walls, barriers, cars, and just about anything else in its way. Now, this wouldn’t be such a problem if the courses were just a little bit more expansive and less restrictive. Unfortunately, you’re crammed into confined courses with almost no room for maneuverability. And since the controls are pretty much shot from the start, you’ll be running aimlessly into things whether you want to or not.

If you even manage to get used to the controls, you still have to deal with the mission at hand. Just like with any other spy game, Spy Hunter’s missions come complete with a whole checklist of objectives that you need to perform in order to progress. Sometimes it’s shooting down enemy cars with the fully equipped automatics or the missile launchers, attach GPS trackers to important targets, swerve you way through heavily populated areas, or whatever those folks back at headquarters tell you to do. Now, this concept could have been fun, like a rehash of Agent Under Fire or something. But the game designers still manage to screw it up by imposing very single objective as you make your way through the course. If you manage to finish a level, you may be able to progress to the next one. Oh wait, you missed that destroying that one car? Looks like you’ve got to go back and restart again! And even if you do get all the objectives completed, you’ll still be treated yet another monotonous course with usually the same objectives. Thus the Circle of Life starts anew, with you doing the exact same thing all over again. How’s that for replay value?

Of course, you can’t deny the coolness of a spy vehicle. This thing comes equipped with all sorts of weaponry just waiting to unleashed on your unsuspecting foes. Also, the car can change into a speedboat and a motorcycle when the situation demands it. Using some pretty decent animation graphics, you get the full effect of the transformations as they occur. You can see the metallic glow and the light contrasts change as the car shifts into another form. It’s a real shame that the rest of the presentation got butchered. Sure, you’ve got the Peter Gunn theme to take into consideration, but everything else turns out sub par. All of the courses and subsequent animations come off as incredibly choppy and lack the quality of so many other driving games we’ve seen this generation. It’s as if all the attention was placed on the car while everything else was virtually ignored. It’s this lack of balance that makes for both a poor presentation and fast boredom.

Sorry to tell you Midway, but you botched both an excellent idea and a classic game series when you tried to revive Spy Hunter. Maybe if there was a little more time spent on the actual physics of a car rather than its shimmering beauty, then maybe things could have turned out differently. As far as driving games go, this is a must-skip. Even all of you driving game fans out there should avoid this. Don’t be fooled by the glitz and glamour of the famous spies that continue to blow our minds with their cool gadgets and fancy driving stunts. But if you want some quality spy driving action, go watch some movies. This game is utterly devoid of it.

4 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

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