reviews\ Jun 7, 2002 at 8:00 pm

SpyHunter - GBA - Review

Nostra International is at it again, looking to take over the world in typical bad guy/antichrist style.  Anyone who has ever played Spy Hunter knows that this game is all about the action, not the story, but Midway went to the trouble of including a plot for the game anyway.  Daemon Curry, President of Nostra International, is a man who is connected in the highest of places within every world government, and even has unimaginable power within the church.  The internal business mantra for Nostra International is “Fire will fall from the sky, rivers will run red with blood, and a war unlike any the world has seen will unleash the four horsemen unto earth”, it has a certain ring to it don’t you think?  But IES (International Espionage Services) sees this as more than just a guy trying to make a buck and in response to Nostra’s impending plans IES has assembled a team known as SPYHUNTER.  But will the tricked out G-6155 Interceptor automobile be enough to put a stop to Nostra’s dastardly intentions? 


Gameplay is not unlike that of its console counterparts, its just miniaturized and modified to work within the boundaries of the (comparatively) lowly GBA.  The transition into a 3D world has proven to work well for SpyHunter in the past and the GBA version is no exception; gameplay dynamics remain close enough to the original while providing enough innovation so that it is appealing to a new generation of gamers.  Expect to run into some old foes like bulletproof vans and switchblades, the onslaught of enemy gunfire can at times however be overwhelming.  Add that to the fact that damage can be inflicted to your car simply by bumping into the side of a road or object and you’ve got a G-6155 Interceptor that is far too finicky to be considered a viable solution to Armageddon. 


Most of the levels have objectives that require you to destroy designated objects, activate sat-coms, and navigate checkpoints.  Objectives are split into two categories: Primary and Secondary.  Primary objectives must be completed in order to progress while secondary goals are optional.  Thanks to Spy Hunter’s 3D universe you are no longer forced to move ahead through each level, rather you have the option of backtracking in order to complete objectives that you might have otherwise missed.  The only limitation to exploration is the fact that you only get a set amount of time before you have to restart the level (4-10 minutes.)  Luckily, the game includes a crazy taxi-esque arrow pointer that gives you a good idea where you should go next.


Controlling the G-6155 Interceptor is easy enough, ‘A’ is for accelerate, ‘B’ breaks, R-trigger shoots, pushing L-trigger will switch between weapons and hitting the L and R triggers at the same time will activate defensive weapons like smoke-screens and oil slicks.  You can lock on to enemies if you have guided missiles, pressing up on the control pad will switch between targets.  Overall, SpyHunter GBA does a good job of recreating the gameplay found in its console brethren, right down to the detail of quick-turns that are accomplished by turning with the brake smashed down.  You will also have access to an assortment of 10 different types of weapons, which include but are not limited to Guided Missiles, Swarmer Missiles, EMP Gun, Rail Gun, and a Plasma Cannon. 


The game includes 3 main modes (an arcade mode which can be unlocked): Normal Agent, Special Agent, and Super Agent.  Normal Agent is the default mode and allows you to control the Interceptor through set objectives, collect power-ups, and unlock new features.  In Special Agent you’ll be able to refine your driving and shooting skills, this mode will let you play through the same levels as Normal Agent but without the added pressure of Nostra enemies breathing down your back.  The objectives in this mode usually consist of such wacky objectives as ‘run over as many chickens as you can!’  Super Agent is basically like Normal Agent mode but the Nostra enemies are far stronger.  And lastly, but not leastly, is Arcade Mode.  Arcade Mode unfortunately is not the original arcade version emulated on the GBA, but it is a (read: lackluster) 3D recreation of it.  You’ll race down an endless road destroying enemies while accumulating points, this mode will not become available until you have completed all the primary objectives in Normal Agent Mode.


Spy hunter GBA actually does a respectable job of recreating its console counterparts graphically, the atmosphere is rendered in true 3D form and is texture mapped, not unlike early Playstation games.  Unfortunately the G-6155 itself is comprised of 2D graphics, which is necessary to make the car look as detailed as it is.  For the most part Midway did a damn fine job in the visual department for this game.  I mean obviously the transitions between the land to water vehicles don’t look nearly as cool as they do in their 128-bit form but when taking the limitations of the GBA into consideration its apparent that the developers succeeded in a lot of way of recreating the spy hunter experience for the handheld market.


Not all is bright and rosy for this game’s visuals however, at times textures in the game are so dark that objects blend right into the background, the included brightness control is no help at all in these instances.  Not being able to see where you are going results in constant collision with the atmosphere, which in turn results in loss of precious health.  This is simply unacceptable.


Musically SpyHunter leaves little to be desired, all the obligatory SpyHunter theme remixes are in attendance and the game also includes sharp digitized voice-clips from your car that will alert you to energy critical situations and also mission objectives.  Each stage will have its own unique musical soundtrack that is actually quite fitting to the overall feel of the game.  Likewise, sound effects are more then adequate, everything down to the screeching of tires when turning on particularly nasty corners can be heard.


There is also a multiplayer link-mode, to play in 2-player mode you’ll need two Game Paks, which is unfortunate because it is rare that a friend will take a chance on the same middle-of-the-road game as you did.  But the multiplayer components are not much to write home about anyway, there is no racing or equally appropriate 2-player challenges.  They consist only of attempting to activate the most sat-coms or destroying the most enemies.


What all this boils down to is a game that while graphically impressive, fails to deliver on the goods.  Level design is boring, collision detection is downright shoddy, and the inability to see where you're going on some water based levels is simply ridiculous.  In all fairness though, SpyHunter GBA does have its moments and if you have a friend that owns this game I’m sure it would help to offset some of the issues found within the main game. 


Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 7.7
Maneuvering your car while activating sat-coms and firing weapons is very simple, gameplay isn’t the problem with this title.  The level objectives tend to be a bit generic and the level design is incredibly boring.  Too many variables in this game contribute to damaging your car, progressing is simply a matter of memorizing what is where and being able to avoid an onslaught of enemy gunfire.

Graphics: 8.1
True texture-mapped 3D graphics on a GBA game?  Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!  Lets hope that future GBA games follow suit.  There are some visual problems with SpyHunter however, like the incredibly dark color palette that all but makes the atmosphere invisible to the naked eye in some stages.

Sound: 7.6
Midway got the job done in the sound department, musical tracks are adequately appealing, sound effects were not overlooked, and the digitized voice-clips from Leonie are quite impressive.  The remixed Spy Hunter themes are starting to grow stale however.

Difficulty: Medium
Here is a game that is a prime example of difficulty being the fault of shoddy level design.  In some instances the game is quite hard, but not because your reflexes aren’t fast enough or because you blinked, but because you don’t know where your supposed to go or what your supposed to do, or in some instances you don’t even know where you can go since you can’t see anything.

Concept: 5 
Nope, sorry, conceptually this game is based on a game that is based on another game.  Rehashed isn’t the right word but it’s the first word that comes to mind. 

Multiplayer: 6.7

There is a multiplayer component but since the extent of what it offers is to simply allow 2 players to play the normal old game at the same time with the winner being the person who kills the most enemies or activates the most sat-coms, it is hardly worth mentioning.


Overall: 7.2

SpyHunter is a game with a lot of potential that it simply fails to live up to.  All the correct ingredients are there: tricked out car, world domination plot, and high-speed action.  But sadly, Midway overlooked a few too many issues before they green-lighted this game.  Collision detection problems, too dark color palette, and boring objectives are the main problems.  However, even a jaded reviewer like myself can find a lot to like with SpyHunter, like the hours upon hours of potential game time, super slick graphics, and various modes of play.  Overall I am gonna recommend this title, but don’t expect it to live up to the expectation created by its console counterparts. 


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