Review: CounterSpy

Sep 25, 2014

Preventing the Moon’s destruction is on you, agent. You’ll be supported by a small arsenal of weapons as you traverse randomly generated, 2.5D side-scrolling stages. Your mission: collect enough intelligence from either the two sides at war and stop this travesty from occurring. You must roll back the Doomsday Clock before a full scale nuclear holocaust occurs. Time is of the essence. Defcon must not reach 0! These are high stakes, but unlike most historical games, instead of being on one side or the other, you’re right in the middle. The warring nations are effectively the U.S. and U.S.S.R. but the game does not at any point acknowledge that. During an interview with PS Nation podcast, creator David Nottingham from Dynamighty made it clear the team wanted to avoid comparisons to history. Instead, they created silhouettes of these nations, which added a fun charm to the visuals and weapons.

Gameplay

CounterSpy is a stealth shooter with arcade and rogue-like repetition. Develop Dynamighty have fully embraced the Cold War era, creating a game that feels a lot like a Bond film in many ways. In terms of gameplay, imagine Bond in Goldeneye as he infiltrates a soviet bunker and stealthily takes down several bad guys. That’s the opening to every mission in CounterSpy. Like early Metroid games, you navigate the level left to right and top to bottom. The enemies in each “screen” are locked to it. They can’t leave that section of the map, nor can they hear the explosions you may cause outside of their own section. The enemies patrol spaces, have line of sight, and once provoked can phone in an alarm and hide behind boxes. They’ll fire machine guns, pistols, shotguns, and explosives. They’ll even lob grenades at you. Note: the enemies may be in the 0.5D aspect of the map. Think Z-axis, here. They are down a corridor or hallway that you cannot enter, but can fire upon.

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This is the type of gameplay that speaks to me. I love games like Uncharted and Gears of War that are very much about finding cover and laying waste to the bad guys. Similarly to those games, the weapons have amazing feel to them. Each are unique in how they present feedback to the player. If you enjoy shooters where the guns have “grit” then this is your game.

 

Visuals

CounterSpy is gorgeous. The stealth mechanics are well supported by a fun, natural change in perspective. The characters are identifiable as soldiers, captains, lieutenants, etc. by their attire and color. And each solider type has a slightly different game about them. The levels themselves are procedurally generated with various bonuses hidden throughout. You’ll find that the “screens”, which are compiled to form a level, are repetitive quickly. While disappointing, it does help you master the game more quickly. The design of the screens’ computers, posters, cabinets, etc. fits perfectly within the Cold War meets James Bond effect Dynamighty were going for.

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Final Thoughts

CounterSpy is fun, engaging, and a game you can master. Unlike bigger, $60 games - this isn’t one that you have to invest your life into in order to become great at it. As adult gamers with a lot going on in  our lives, CounterSpy will bring you a sense of joy and empowerment as you get better and better at it quickly. CounterSpy is available on PS4 and Vita as a cross-buy and cross-save title, for only $15.

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