Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: August 19th, 2014
Available on: Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita
The Cold War always makes for a good setting for spy thrillers. CounterSpy takes this setting and mixes it with a good chunk of humor to create a unique and clever atmosphere around its 2D stealth mechanics. Does the game manage to hold up as well as the atmosphere though?
CounterSpy is a 2D stealth game in the fact that you can only move left and right, and sometimes up and down at ladders or ledges. Despite this you still need to pay attention to the foreground and background as enemies aren’t limited to this movement. While you may not be able to wander over there directly to fight them, you can avoid them with carefully planned movements. Or if you do get caught you can take cover and specific points. When you do so the game switches perspectives, instead becoming much closer to a third person shooter. You can hide behind cover and take four guns with you to fight off anybody you alert.
Getting caught isn’t the end of the world in CounterSpy, but you do want to avoid it when possible. If you get seen on camera or let an enemy radio in about you then you’ll lower the faction’s defcon level. Lower it all the way and you’ll cause them to start a countdown requiring you to finish the level ASAP. Fail, and it’s game over. Since the defcon level doesn’t go down between missions you can choose to invade the other country to keep from setting one off. Each level is randomized, so in theory you won’t be getting used to the same layouts to just memorize your way through. In practice, the game just has a few set rooms that it repeats, making memorization still possible. Despite this fault, you still want to explore levels though as you can find formulas for one-time boosts to your agent, or blueprints for new guns.
The most important thing you can find is documents that give the missile plans. Your goal is to find about 25 between the two countries so you can advance to the final mission. All in all it’s a short game that only takes about 3 – 4 hours to finish. The lack of replayability kind of sucks as once you finish the game there’s little reason to turn it on again. You do unlock some harder difficulties, but otherwise there’s nothing else. While there isn’t any online modes, there is one interesting online feature. As you play you’ll be assigned a ‘rival’, which is actually just another player. If you manage to pass their score then on the next level you play you can find their corpse and can loot it for a huge cash bonus. It’s nothing major, but it’s a neat little extra.
CounterSpy’s story also hits a few bad notes. The game puts you as a random agent in an organization called C.O.U.N.T.E.R. Their job is to stop The Imperialists (United States) and The Socialists (The U.S.S.R) from launching nukes at the moon to knock it out of orbit. It’s simple and should be comedic, but it pretty quickly gets tossed into the background and only pops up to remind you what you’re doing. The game also keeps hinting at a twist, so I was kind of surprised when I hit the end and it never actually happened. Still, it’s not important enough to ruin the game, it’s just a disappointment.
Despite its short length and bad story, CounterSpy is still a lot of fun to play. The 2D stealth/third person shooting hybrid works out surprisingly well, and the fun setting and exploration does stand out. It may be a little much at $15, but if you see this game drop below $10 then I can’t recommend it enough.