Developer(s) – Dynamighty
Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment
Counter Spy is a 2.5D side scrolling stealth game with randomly generated levels, also coming with somewhat of a Metroidvania feel to it; though granted it is much more linear than a traditional Metroidvania game. I found that despite some concerns, there were a good few interesting mechanics that brought a fair bit new to the stealth genre, and I ended up enjoying this somewhat more than many other stealth games I’ve played in recent years.
Graphics – 7/10
Like the Sly Cooper series, the game incorporates cel-shaded visuals, which whilst this technique has been used inexplicably more frequently in video games over the last three generations, does give it somewhat of a unique look in it’s general colour scheme and has a very positive influence on it’s conceptual design too. It’s compellingly deceptive as well, in my opinion, since at first glance, it looks like it may only be suitable for kids, most probably attributed to the fact that a fraction of the development team were once under the employ of Pixar, but in fact, this game is anything but upon further inspection. It may not be as subtly done as Nintendo has done throughout many of their games, but it still works quite well here.
Gameplay – 7/10
The game simply revolves around picking a side; playing through each randomly generated level and recovering enemy plans in order to advance the story, with the added side quest of collection schematics for new weapons throughout each level. In comparison to many other stealth games, it actually works distinctively well. It’s easier to discover points of advantage, or elements that can be used to execute a surprise attack, like the explosive barrels, largely due to the visuals. Most importantly, it works to more effectively eliminate the need to reload the game every five seconds like in other stealth games.
Controls – 10/10
Since the 2D side scrolling formula had been long-since perfected by the time this game came out, there should have been no problems with the game’s control scheme, and so there isn’t. However, the game introduces a lot of unique mechanics to the 2D side scrolling formula, which are also perfectly executed, such as the cover-shooting mechanics and the facility to perform stealth attacks. In a way, it reminds me games like Operation Winback and Headhunter.
Lifespan – 7/10
One playthrough can last a mere 3 to 4 hours. However, there is an unprecedented amount of replay value to be had with this game, since levels are randomly generated. Theoretically, it could be made to last for as long as player interest, but in my opinion, its questionable how long player interest can be made to last, since they will be doing essentially the same thing and gathering the same items with each playthrough. It depends on how many times the player wishes to be challenged. The game certainly won’t fall short of this, as each playthrough will present a different challenge every time.
Storyline – 5/10
Set in an alternate world in which Russia and America are at war with each other, the player character picks a side and lives out one of two stories told from either side, and must work to bring the other side down. Though at first thought there may seem to be diversity to it in that respect, the majority of the story is simply told through readable documents presented in between each level, and its much easier to skip than a cutscene in my opinion. In this way, not a lot of time or opportunity is given to the player to actually take into consideration the events that are taking place everything simply seems to happen in the background unless players are inclined to take the time to read each pre or post-mission document. By proxy, it would seem like a step back into how story used to be told in gaming; via the instruction manual.
Originality – 7/10
Despite not having an open world, and not a great deal of side quests to accommodate for how linear it can feel, this game still introduced a lot of interesting and original mechanics to the 2D side scrolling genre, and they all work together flawlessly to bring something quite new to the table. It also leaves open a massive amount of opportunity for the developers to build on this formula even further, which I believe they could do quite easily if indeed they did want to make more of a franchise out of it.
Overall, Counter Spy is one of the more standout stealth games I’ve played in recent years, and one that I would recommend. It addressed some of the issues I had with the entire genre, and whilst the desire for perfect stealth may kick in enough to compel players to reset the game once in a while, it’s nowhere near as bad as many other stealth games have warranted.