Spy Hunter Review for PS Vita

Spy Hunter Review for PS Vita

Don’t Join The Hunt

Classic reboots and HD refurbishments seem to be making a big push of late, with nostalgia continuously gnawing at aging gamers. Surprisingly, many of these updated gems of old are given proper respect by the developers, creating a perfect blend of old school charm and modern features. TT Fusion, however, did a less-than-stellar job with the latest version of the action driving game Spy Hunter. Every area of the game feels like a first draft, and I’m left with the impression that little was done in the way of focus groups or revisions by the developer to make this game better.

A major complaint, before I even get into the game, is one I noticed when reviewing the Vita version of LEGO Batman 2 – DC Super Heroes. The Vita’s graphics are far superior to the Nintendo 3DS, yet since both are handheld devices, both receive the same treatment from developers, which only hinders the potential of Sony’s new portable platform. When it comes to developing games for home consoles, the PS3 and Xbox 360 are the primary recipients, and the Wii receives the watered-down version. So why is it vice-versa for the Vita and the 3DS? It’s a plausible grievance, but it’s a rant I’ll pursue in depth at a later date.

Spy Hunter Screenshot

The entire storyline of Spy Hunter is simple in concept, but it gets buried in a mess of clichés. You play a nameless, faceless, voiceless agent testing out a new vehicle called the Interceptor. Your ride is decked out with all manner of weaponry and is the epitome of an all-terrain vehicle (it even travels over water). While taking the prototype vehicle through the tutorial obstacle course, an evil syndicate with its own squadron of vehicles busts through the compound to either capture or destroy the Interceptor.

The cast of characters dives right into the abyss of cheesiness. You’ve got a Defense Administrator that could easily pass as a KGB agent, Hitler’s twin for a Commander, and a vehicle technician that is a perfect cross between Elvis and Bruce Campbell. To top it off, the scratchy voice of the head of the sinister group who frequently interrupts your communication channel could very well be Megatron. It’s one thing to poke fun at clichés for comedic purposes, but you have to wonder what designer dug up these tropes and thought it was a good idea to include them in the game.

Spy Hunter Screenshot

The driving is fast and furious, with no room for a leisurely saunter through the vistas. It’s basically a point-A-to-point-B ride with the constant interruption of enemy vehicles trying to whittle down your armor. Many forks split the road, but I’ve yet to find any advantage to the “detours,” as they all merge back together into a single path anyway. There’s also a distance marker that supposedly leads to a checkpoint or target, but oftentimes you’ll pass that point with nothing but a new distance range popping on screen and no change in objective. And the checkpoints aren’t what you might think, as they are not respawn points should you die. Nope, if you get blown to bits just a few feet from the finish line, you must replay the entire mission again. Now, I’m all for a good challenge, but there needs to be a strategy for you to take away from your lost life and improve upon. Spy Hunter does not offer this, and victory is a greater percentage of luck rather than skill.

This flaw is due to poor car control and sluggish weapons. First, the driving. The Interceptor blurs past the scenery, but handles like it’s on a sheet of ice. Because of the speed, you’re given little forewarning of an upcoming turn and will inevitably steer too wide. You have a handbrake option, but that takes you to the other extreme, quickly reducing your acceleration to a halt and cutting the corner too sharply.

Spy Hunter Screenshot

The array of weapons available is impressive, and once you’ve unlocked more by completing missions you’ll enjoy experimenting with different loadouts to see how the four maximum choices complement one another. Machine guns and explosive grills arm the front of the vehicle, mines and flamethrowers for the rear. Shockers, shotguns, and shredders keep enemies away from your sides, while missiles, mortars, and other high-damage-yield weapons are controlled from the car’s roof. They all do a fine job incinerating enemy vehicles, but speed is the detriment in this respect also. You see, enemies close in, pull alongside, and pull ahead faster than it takes the Interceptor to stow one set of weapons and arm another. This easily gives your foes a free shot to take your health down a notch.

Completing certain objectives like staying healthy or finishing the level under a set time awards you with Research Points that can be used to upgrade the rate of fire, damage output, recharge time, and other weapon properties. However the improvements are negligible, as there is very little division between your destructive power and the enemy’s armor. You can also spend points on new skins for your Interceptor, but they are strictly for show and, save a couple, are nothing more than bland paint jobs.

Spy Hunter Screenshot

The visuals in general miss the mark. The detailing on the Interceptor and enemy vehicles is very minimal, as is the color palette. The environments are actually much more pleasing to the eye, and the framerate holds up well when they’re whizzing by at 150 mph. But you’re not supposed to stop and smell the roses, so much of this lovely scenery goes unnoticed. The gallery art is also well done, but the still shots are too few and far between to truly enjoy.

The music is also subpar. Granted, the sound effects of the various weapons and explosions are decent enough (though the Vita’s speakers deliver very scratchy sound quality), but the music is just abysmal. Like the original 1983 version, the game overuses the Peter Gunn theme song written by Henry Mancini, a classic secret agent tune. However, the tempo and remix are very dull, and the rest of the music score follows suit.

We’ve seen different permutations of the Spy Hunter series throughout its lifespan, from pinball games to a Dwayne Johnson movie that unfortunately got stuck in development hell (of course, that didn’t stop Midway from publishing an awful game based on the movie). The newest reboot by TT Fusion had the easy job of upgrading a game with a simple premise. I believe they didn’t feel the challenge was worth the extra effort to make it any good, and thus we have a game that may sell based on name recognition alone. It’s certainly not worth the forty-dollar price tag.

The visuals that matter (your Interceptor and enemy cars) are the ones that look the shoddiest. 3.0 Control
The handling isn’t the worst I’ve played, but it would have been nice to upgrade the vehicle itself and make the ride sharper. 2.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Not well-done at all. The sound effects are passable, but the remix of the classic Peter Gunn theme song is just plain boring. 2.2 Play Value
The game will take longer to finish thanks to a lack of checkpoints, but there’s little replay value. It’s certainly not worth the price tag. 2.6 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Transformation and Customization: Players now have more choice in their transformation and customization with greater hand controls, brilliant graphics, and enhanced action cameras.
  • Many, Many Missions! Replayability is enhanced through multiple branches based on vehicle type, multiple mission types, upgrades and rewards, and a wide variety of road types, various routes, and directions.
  • Savor the Destruction! Thrilling crash choreography with an action cam that slows down to show the destruction the player created.

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