Spy Hunter is an action-packed vehicular based game that shares the same title as the 1983 arcade game. This new Vita release revisits the unique combination of driving and shooting. Does this blend of gameplay still hold up, and, above all, was the attempt to revitalize this franchise well executed? Short Answer: No.
In Spy Hunter, you take control of a vehicle prototype called the G-6155 Interceptor. This super advanced car does things no normal vehicle can do, including the ability to remain undetected, to drive on land and water, and carry multiple weapon types. It’s the kind of thing you dream about for undercover and super-secret missions. The premise sounds like an easy recipe for a great game, but, unfortunately, Spy Hunter falls short of any video game’s intended success.
How the game plays is where Spy Hunter all but falls apart. Before getting into the bad, it’s worth noting there is a little bit of good. Missions vary enough to keep players invested. Also, the sheer joy of blazing down a road and blowing stuff up is always at least somewhat of a good time. There are a handful of weapons that are changeable on the fly, but certain weapons soon become preferred for their obvious efficiency over others. These weapons are also upgradeable, and support devices like shield and invisibility are eventually unlocked. This gives some motive to continue playing and earning your way to an even more powerful car.
For the bad, some of the design choices made for this title are unfathomable. While driving, you are spontaneously interrupted by pop-in heads and text that you probably won’t care to read. It is a poor attempt to move a narrative forward, and ends up being incredibly disruptive during a game that is very fast paced. Sometimes these interruptions aren’t a bother, but other times they may happen at moments such as drifting around a tight turn. Doing exceptionally well in a stage for things such as scores and trophies will more than likely require you to memorize when exactly a text block will appear, and that is simply no fun.
Also, what breaks the game down further are the controls. They are very sensitive, and when you have narrow ramps to hit or areas to go through, you end up crashing the Interceptor. Crash the Interceptor enough and you’re finished. Most failed attempts at missions will come from damaging your car through the unforgiveable controls and not the firepower of enemies. By the time you’re toward the end of the mission, you will be praying you don’t overshoot a turn, or crash by making a slight misread on the road.
Aesthetically, Spy Hunter is not a pretty package. Cutscenes look as if they were thrown together and the above mentioned blocks of text evince laziness at best. Menus are unpolished and graphics are disappointing when considering the power of the Vita. Quality of graphical power should never be a deal breaker, but when lack of effort is apparent, it becomes a jarring issue.
What saves this game from a lower score is that it at least isn’t completely broken. However, it is really too bad that this second attempt to reboot an arcade classic falls into such deep mediocrity. A lot of Spy Hunter doesn’t work, and what does is only passable. There is nothing found in this package that is exceptionally memorable. As if years of absence aren’t enough of an obstacle to battle back into gaming relevance, this latest release buries this series even more. Spy Hunter, sorry to say, but maybe things will better next time around.