Real Talk By: Ms. Throwback
Counterspy, a side-scrolling stealth game released for the PS3, PS4, and Vita, takes us 25 years after the Cold War was supposed to end, and into a world where it never did. The cell shaded look of the title gives us a clean, crisp backdrop for our spy to act out his doings. The player works as a neutral entity fighting both sides of the conflict to stop the madness before the apocalypse happens. The color pallet is interesting in this game, adding to the effect of the cell shading. Black and white are laid over pops of color, giving us an old school feel to the Cold War vibe. The music direction is top-notch with classic spy-like riffs, and 50’s style action noises. While the style and era of the game compliment each other quite well from the very start, it begs the question of how well the rest of the title fairs.
Platforming aspects of CounterSpy are quite fun, and yet they lack some control. Generally I expected the title to run a bit smoother from the first impression I got opening the game up. One aspect that does work well is that the game switches from platforming to over the shoulder shooter, during kill sequences, very incredibly smoothly. The shooting controls are sometimes a pain to get just right. After a bit of a curve I got them down but definitely something they could’ve worked a bit more on to tweak. Enemy AI is slightly off too, sometimes I could run through an area without being noticed in obvious ways, and other times I barely entered the room and someone noticed me. It’s not something that ruins the game, but it does make it seem like it needed a little more time.
The player will find themselves combing over the same bases with different tasks. Shooting enemies, silent kills, avoiding cameras, finding cash, obtaining blueprints, and manning obstacles are keys to the success of the our elite spy. I really felt like there wasn’t any stone left unturned as I completed my tasks and I had a ton of fun doing it. Different missions take about 15 minutes each with a run time of 3-4 hours. Even though at the end of the title I was left with a little more to desire, as far as more gameplay, I appreciated the big surprise in a small package. It left the title with a pick up and play feel, which many times is better than an expansive experience.
I felt like the developers gave the players a good amount of choices in how to play the game. They didn’t specifically name the U.S. and Soviet Union as the antagonists of the Cold War, although the unnamed propaganda layering the walls suggests one or the other. This allows the player to be totally neutral in their approach about which side is actually the enemy. On top of that, the player can choose to attack his enemies guns blazing, or take them out silently, which is a fresh way of dealing with this type of game, and a welcome choice. Building guns and creating skills is another cool addition to the title, as well as a timer countdown which motivates the player to finish the current goal in a timely manor. This timer ends up launching a Cold War rocket and while it doesn’t end your turn, such as dying and having to start over, it does present consequences during future play throughs.
Overall CounterSpy is a unique game with some obvious faults. Thankfully those faults don’t take away the fun and feel of the title and overall I would recommend this game. There are very few times when a game is short and sweet, and I really did appreciate this title for what it was, a beautiful game with a fresh perspective. The artstyle and music are top-notch and while it could have used a tweak here or there, the developers deserve a pat on the back for the smooth transitions and player choices.
3.5 out of Five
+Player choices in how to play the title
+Beautiful art style and music
+Story line and presentation
-Controls need a pretty large learning curve
-AI can be questionable