(PlayStation 4)

CounterSpy (PlayStation 4)

Game Review

CounterSpy Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Kell Andersen

From Russia with regret

CounterSpy is a strange beast. Developed by fledgling studio Dynamighty, it's an ambitious game that strives to bridge the gap between 2D and 3D stealth, while also attempting to juggle randomly generated levels. And while it plays host to some truly unique mechanics, and consistently brilliant presentation, it's unfortunately largely unsuccessful in this goal.

The title features a fairly rudimentary story: you work as a super-secret spy in an agency whose goal is to stop Russia and the USA from bringing about the devastating destruction of the entire world. In a crafty bit of social commentary, the game posits that the two countries have such similar plans for world domination that it doesn’t really matter which you infiltrate. Thus, you can always choose between taking a mission in Europe or North America. The differences between the two types of stages are largely cosmetic, but it does give you control over which rewards you collect in exchange for your daring deeds.

In terms of gameplay, the indie is, as previously mentioned, surprisingly ambitious. In many ways, it feels like the developer has attempted to take the stealth of the original Metal Gear Solid and flatten it onto a 2D plane. The levels themselves are randomly generated, and initially seem quite simple. However, when you take cover you’re instantly switched back to a more traditional third person perspective, which is used to line up and take shots. These clever perspective shifts give the levels a sense of depth, both in terms of gameplay and visuals.

Sneaking is obviously the name of the game here, with countless alarms and guards littering the title's many hallways. If you happen to trip one of these alarms, or fail to take out your attackers in a speedy fashion, a gauge will fill up, which, if ignored, has the potential to increase the defcon level. If either of the two spurring superpowers hits maximum defcon, it will immediately bring about a never-ending nuclear winter. Needless to say, you’ll get a game over when this happens. This structure creates a palpable atmosphere of tension, which only grows as the two giants inevitably creep closer and closer to certain doom.

However, the key to a good stealth game is the inclusion of a wealth of strategic options, and in Dynamighty’s first effort, there just aren’t enough. While several unlockable weapons and upgrades are available, encounters still often play in out in very similar ways. You’ll wander into a large room filled with around ten goons, find a convenient vantage point, and then attempt to take them out one by one. Oftentimes, you’ll fail, and then be forced to engage the enemy in a frustratingly dull firefight.

What’s more, the lack of clear signposting of what awaits you on the other side of an unopened door means that you’ll often innocently walk into a new room, only to be immediately spotted by a nearby guard, and then forced to mow your way through the remaining enemies. This can be especially maddening if you’ve made the misguided attempt at a totally stealthy playthrough, as you’ll soon realise that you’ve quite literally bought a dart gun to a bazooka fight.

To the game’s credit, when these systems work, they really do work. Quickly diving between cover and then popping out to fire off a few stealthy shots can be an incredibly gratifying experience. Sadly, the clunky moments far outweigh the rewarding ones. It’s a shame, as this fast-paced action clearly has the potential to make you feel like a suave and sophisticated superspy, but instead it makes you feel like a clumsy klutz.

Still, to say that the game is dripping with atmosphere would be a gross understatement. Rather, it is so utterly drenched in atmosphere that your platform of choice will likely buckle under the weight of its magnificent mood, and simply explode into a giant ball of cigars and shag carpets. We’re obviously being a touch hyperbolic, but the stealth-‘em-up really does have a smashing sense of style. It’s clear that every effort has been made to fully realise the potential of the 60s superspy theme; from bold and brassy jazz bands to a very subtle touch of film grain, the whole thing feels exactly like a James Bond movie – just not a very good one.

Conclusion

Despite its seemingly vanilla exterior, CounterSpy is a remarkably ambitious title. It makes an admirable attempt at creating a new kind of 2D stealth game, but unfortunately the results just aren't particularly compelling. While its presentation is dapper and divine, its gameplay is clunky, and the whole experience gets tiresome very quickly.

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User Comments (20)

Davros79

#2

Davros79 said:

U having a laff kell? Haha this game is great. "Clunky" gameplay ? I found it to be fast and very fluent . And aiming from behind cover whilst conserving ammo is very skilfull.

Counterspy for me is a 8/10 at least.

Push square

Entwined 9/10

Road not taken 7/10

Counterspy 5/10

Seriously guys you are making fools outta yourselfs as reviewers!, counterspy is excellent .LoL

Davros79

#4

Davros79 said:

Considering some of the trash indies that have scored much higher marks than Counterspy , then i think 5/10 is harsh.

Azikira

#5

Azikira said:

@Davros79 You have to realize that this is the reviewers opinion, and not a simple factoid sheet. Everyone has biases towards one thing or another, so the only opinion you should truly regard is your own.

Davros79

#8

Davros79 said:

@Azikira i do realize its a opinion, im just questioning the scoring system compared to other indies which have been reviewed. IE i thought counterspy was very good, but thought entwined and road not taken were poor in comparison (v different games IK)

Also Azikira if " The only persons view you should truly regard is your own" Then what the bloody hell are you doing in a counterspy review topic?????;-)

Rogue76

#9

Rogue76 said:

Good review. I think you were fair with the strengths and weaknesses of the game and also acknowledged the effort that was put into the game. I haven't played very much of the game, I can see what you mean about walking into a room and not given a chance to hide, and it soon becomes a shoot out.

I think based on the amount of effort that was put into the game, there is probably a bit of a disappointment that some of the mechanics of the game didn't work out as it was intended. Certainly doesn't make the game unplayable (and I don't think you were saying that) just disappointed.

odd69

#11

odd69 said:

Nah, this game aint fooling me. N64 graphics on purpose ?Nes would have been better. The gameplay looks so boring. everyone raves on this, but for me personally it fails to interest

KomrathDE

#12

KomrathDE said:

For me this game is 8 or 9 out of 10 :-) I never had issue with the mechanics and the gameplay is nicely paced — I got few times detected right away, after entering the room, but hey, that's probably what's being a spy going to be, right? I pretty much like the cross-buy/save, because I can play on the go on my Vita and then just jump into the gameplay on my PS4 when I'm back home. Also remember that levels are randomly generated, so you can get some hilarious or very dull levels (I once got a long-long level with like 5 vertical levels, so much fun!)

Paranoimia

#13

Paranoimia said:

I agree with @KomrathDE - I've been really enjoying this on both Vita and PS4, and have had no issues with any of the gameplay. I decided to play one quick game on the day I bought it, on my Vita in bed. Next thing I knew, the battery was dead and it was gone 4:30 in the morning.

Also, for those of you who go nuts for trophies, the PS4 ones appear to be separate from the PS3 and Vita versions, so while they are the same, there are two sets to be earned. Not sure why that is. I bought MouseCraft the other week and that had one set of trophies across all three platforms, but these are popping separately. The trophy lists also appear separately on PSN, one for PS3/Vita, another for PS4.

GameAce

#14

GameAce said:

This was a game I've been looking forward to. It didn't quite meet my high expectations, but I'd still rate it a 7.5 or 8/10.

N711

#15

N711 said:

@Davros79 I think its general on the internet reviews tend to put forwards the reviewer opinion instead of giving the reader more objective information allowing the reader more space to make their own opinions. This site is not too bad imo but I do think scores are useless and should be limited to 5 stars or the like

Azikira

#17

Azikira said:

@Davros79 I often agree with most of the reviewers here, unlike other websites. Plus I like to hear of any good or bad features before snagging a game. :3

THIS_SITE_SUCKS

#18

THIS_SITE_SUCKS said:

Games like this need a demo. I'd buy and have bought games based on my enjoyment of demo even if they received average reviews.

Ginkgo

#19

Ginkgo said:

Such as shame. I had real potential. Still tempted to give it a go on vita. Some of the positive comment suggest I may still like it.

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