Bally/Midway's classic top-down car combat game gets a 3D face-lift with this version of Spy Hunter for home computers. Players once again drive through deadly streets behind the wheel of a gadget-equipped super car known as the G-6155 Interceptor. Familiar elements include a Weapons Van that outfits the car with the latest in high-tech weaponry, the return of enemy vehicles "The Enforcer" and "Mad Bomber," and Henry Mancini's classic Peter Gunn theme, re-recorded by rock group Saliva.
Players will also be able to use machine guns and missiles on offense, as well as oil slicks and smoke screens on defense to elude enemies in pursuit. New weapons include a rail gun, flamethrowers, which leave behind two streaks of fire, and an EMP gun, which instantly shuts down electrical equipment such as bombs. Another new feature is the game's more structured design, consisting of a series of missions with multiple objectives instead of the unending play found in the 1983 original.
Missions are divided into two objectives: Primary and Secondary. Completing the primary objectives allows players to advance to the next mission, while secondary objectives help unlock additional missions. Goals typically involve destroying a certain number of targets and reaching a destination within a specific amount of time. To help complete certain missions, the G-6155 can transform into a motorcycle, watercraft, or speedboat with a press of a button.
When Midway first announced it was remaking 1983's classic Spy Hunter a few years back, there was both anticipation and hesitation. Plenty of classics have been remade over the years, but many of them have turned out to be nostalgia killers, either by changing the formula too much or offering nothing more than a facelift. While the second remake (the aptly named SpyHunter 2) has currently been receiving merely average reviews on consoles, the first was a hit with good reason. It was fast, it was fun, and it walked the fine line between classic update and stylish makeover.
Now, almost two years after it graced the consoles, that new version of SpyHunter has made its way to both the PC and the Macintosh. As a PC owner, you'll get the usual ups and downs of playing a game that was originally designed with a gamepad in mind. While the graphics can be cranked up to 1600x1200, the rest of the game remains virtually the same, right down to the two-player split-screen option and no online support. This means that, despite all of the good things about the console versions, the same problems (and a few new ones) have made their way onto your monitor.
Players take control of the G-6155 Interceptor, the infamous car that can switch between sports car, speedboat, and motorcycle on the fly. The same Nostra Corporation from 1983's classic plays as the antagonist, and it's apparent that twenty years of training these goons still can't stop you, the super agent with aim. Over the course of the game, you'll receive various upgrades to your vehicle, allowing for smoke screens, guided missiles, and the like. The challenges have you globe trotting from Germany and France all the way to the Florida Keys and Panama. There's plenty of variety, but there are also rather substantial problems.
First, nearly every asset from the console versions has been directly translated over to the PC. This means that the cutscenes and the entire menu system are all a grainy low resolution. What's worse, the background bitmaps used on the levels (the mountains, the sky, etc.) are also trapped at 640x480, even if the game engine is running at 1600x1200. It's certainly disjointing. The civilian population is also basically cardboard. While the enemies are fairly well-animated and look good enough, the backdrop is onion paper thick. Civilian vehicles in particular seem like boxes with textures hastily thrown on.
Next, there's the issue of control. While you can use the keyboard, a gamepad is highly recommended. This isn't too big of an issue -- a quality gamepad is almost required for many console ports -- but there are certain things that just aren't implemented correctly. This is especially noticeable in the water-based areas. For some reason, the speedboat really seems to slip and slide all over the place, as if it's trying to automatically center itself. Since there's no way to enable or disable an auto-centering feature, it makes the speedboat more difficult to control than it should be. None of this weird misdirection was noticed with the other vehicles.
While the problems I experienced are certainly fun killers, there are some things to like. This is, after all, a port of a very enjoyable game. Although the difficulty level varies wildly and it's all fairly short, it's a good ride.
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