Back at this year’s E3, I got to take a look at an upcoming PS3, PS4, and Vita game called CounterSpy. It was a conspicuously hands-off demo, one driven by a person familiar with the game while I looked on. I actually thought there was a great deal of promise in CounterSpy’s formula – and there is – but after going hands-on with it for the first time here at Gamescom, it made me wish I had known sooner that its promise and the quality of its gameplay aren't lining up.
In short, CounterSpy looks fun but plays rough. There’s a great nugget of an idea here – it’s a time-based Cold War-era spy game with shooting and stealth elements – but in the section I played, I was left frustrated by its inexact controls, bizarre shooting mechanics, and sloppy cover system. CounterSpy most certainly has a Metroidvania thing going on, with shades of Shadow Complex and Rocketbirds all over the place, but the demo didn’t remotely play up to the standard of the best games in that beloved genre.
CounterSpy is all about racing against the Doomsday Clock, a legacy of the Cold War indicative of the ever-present threat of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Not wanting to take sides in the historic standoff, you’re cast not as an American agent or a communist sympathizer, but rather as a neutral character from a shadowy organization determined to keep the peace between the world’s two arch-enemy superpowers. Your task is to disrupt both sides’ plans in the escalation to actual war in an attempt to avoid conflict completely.
In short, CounterSpy looks fun but plays rough.
Racing against the clock means everything you do in CounterSpy is timed; the urgency of it all is a nice touch. Every second counts as you slink around from area to area, and if you die, you restart nearby, but the time you wasted is gone for good. As I picked up the controller to begin playing, I was charged with getting to a rocket before it launched, and as I began to work my way around the non-linear corridors before me, I was eager to feel this urgency instead of just witnessing it. And this is when my excitement for CounterSpy diminished significantly.
CounterSpy is a side-scroller, but there are some caveats, with doors in the background that can be opened, and little areas in the background where you can take cover. Both of these features begin to expose CounterSpy’s poor controls, especially the latter. When taking cover, aiming at your enemies is sloppy and outright frustrating. Firing in the line-of-sight of your enemies is far easier, but of course, it’s counterintuitive to a game that’s largely predicated on stealth. This unique cover system is an idea that was probably left on paper.
This unique cover system is an idea that was probably left on paper.
Disappointingly – and confusingly – your CounterSpy agent cannot be moved with the directional pad, a confounding design choice for a side-scrolling action game. Another strange design choice is the complete lack of an in-game map, something I observed when I first saw the game in June. None of these issues were helped by the fact that the game wasn’t running well, though I do like how it has lots of collectibles to find, though, such as Security Keys, Money, and Weapon Blueprints. That kind of stuff should keep dedicated players busy for some time.
I met perhaps my biggest frustration when faced with the option to use melee attacks against enemies. If you’ve alerted the guards, your melee attacks literally never work. You can get stuck in an endless cycle of attacking, being rebuffed, and trying again. Enemies seem to be able to track you behind cover, too, with one guard shooting at the ceiling over and over again to try and hit me. When you sneak up behind an enemy in an attempt to take them out silently, doing the same moves in the same situations result in completely different outcomes. Time-sensitive games have to have a level of mechanical predictability to them, and I just didn’t get that vibe during my short time with CounterSpy.
If you’ve alerted the guards, your melee attacks literally never work.
CounterSpy totes a clean interface and a really unique graphical style, but underneath the hood, it’s a different story. Spending only a few minutes with CounterSpy conflicted the almost completely positive impressions I garnered from the demo I witnessed back at E3. Solid ideas are needed more than ever in gaming, and CounterSpy is most certainly predicated on a solid idea, but games must play well, too. Hopefully developer Dynamighty is able to clean CounterSpy up a bit before it launches on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita later this year, so that its gameplay meets its potential.
Source : ign[dot]com