During the 1960’s the world’s superpowers’ military plans were all kept well within secrecy and no one knew what each others’ intentions were, tensions were high and this became the Cold War and with the Cold War came espionage. This is where CounterSpy, the new spy side-scrolling action game from independent studio Dynamighty, takes it’s premise. In an alternative Cold War where it’s a race to which superpower can Nuke the Moon first (you read right). You star as an Agent of C.O.U.N.T.E.R. sent in to sneak, stealth and steal your way through the bases of either The Imperialist States (US) or The Socialist Republic (Russia).
C.O.U.N.T.E.R. is the top secret organisation that is put in place to stop either side from destroying the planet; your mission, if you choose to accept it, starts by selecting a command base to infiltrate. The information given to you before starting the mission tells you how many plans are available to steal and whether there are any bonus collectables such as weapon upgrades or skill upgrades. The game is based around the Defcon system, higher the Defcon the harder the mission is, but if you take the risk you will be more rewarded. Each mission gears you towards collecting nuclear launch plans which can be gathered by infiltrating either side.
The visual style takes inspiration from the retro aesthetics of the 60’s and certainly shows that attention was put into keeping the tone light-hearted. The retrospec style reminds me of early Spy TV-shows and James Bond movies, perhaps even with a bit of Archer thrown in there as well with it’s jazzy intro.
Once you've chosen which side to infiltrate you’re sent in via your little gyrocopter and tasked with collecting the plans within the base. The game uses a 2.5D perspective as well as cover based shooting, which changes the view point to ahead of you so you can scope out the enemies and plan your attack. Clearing the rooms makes it easier to search for plans as well as upgrades but the game is designed around stealth rather than all out action. The trouble is while stealth is encouraged once spotted all hell breaks loose and you've every guard in the room shooting at you, running away doesn't help; you can’t simply leave the room and return as this will increase the Defcon and then make it harder. Once Defcon reaches 1 it’s over; guards can radio in and increase the Defcon and dying also increases it, so it’s worth taking your time and aiming for the head for kills or sneak up behind for a neck break.
Aesthetically the levels are nicely designed with a cel shaded look and 1960’s interior design. One nice feature of the game, which increases replayability, is the procedurally generated levels so even if you start afresh it’ll be different each time. Leaderboards are also available and even has a new take on rivalries with other players. While there isn't any multiplayer there are Rival Agents, these are other players on the same leaderboard as you and if you complete a mission with a higher score than your rival you’ll be notified that his body will be in the next mission and you’ll get the chance to loot it for a bonus.
This is not a game for all out guns blazing, and if you go down that route the experience just becomes a clumsy cover-based shooter which ruins the whole idea of stealth. The use of cover isn't just for shooting; it also helps you spot out the enemies in the area. Cover is indicated by an arrow either pointing upwards or forwards. If you put yourself in the wrong place you’ll end up either exposed or not able to make a shot. There also isn’t any free camera when stood up so your only option to see ahead is by going into cover. This can sometimes end up feeling awkward and annoying, especially if you're going for an all stealthy approach.
CounterSpy may have it flaws but what makes it stand out is the visual style and design. What is needed though is a bit more filling. Missions are short, and the main story (which is done by Days in-game) can be completed within a couple of hours. The longevity of it all is increased by the player and whether you want to continue on after the main mission and collect all the weapon parts and skills.
If you’re a PlayStation and Vita owner it’s still a highly recommended title. The game features Cross-buy and Cross-save so if you buy it for PlayStation 4 you’ll get the Vita and PlayStation 3 versions too and at £9.99 it’s well priced.
CounterSpy (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
CounterSpy may have it flaws but what makes it stand out is the visual style and design. It is, however, short but with cross buy and cross save on PlayStation it might just be that Spy-filler your looking for.