Title  : Spy Hunter 2
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo GameCube
Publisher  : Midway
ESRB Rating  : Teen
Game Rating  : 5.5
Review by  : Ken Gagne

Spy Hunter, a classic coin-op of the Eighties, was successfully remade into a modern title that captured the spirit, if not the mechanics, of the original. 

Developers often hunt for innovation to enliven sequels. But in this case, what made the original Spy Hunter remake a triumph has been abandoned, leaving publisher Midway with a mundane and unspectacular husk for PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox, and Nintendo GameCube. [PS2 version reviewed here] 

Players still engage in vehicular combat as they progress through global stages, fighting terrorist cells. Though the concept is the same, the execution is not. The faults begin with the vehicle of choice, as vintage Interceptor super spy car has been remodeled for this sequel. The original G6155 has been emasculated into a far less effectual, "new and improved" G8155. The amount of damage the main vehicle can sustain is minimal, shedding its shell at a moment's notice into weaker motorcycle and jet ski models that look like rejects from a Terminator movie. As any of these units become damaged, their capacity to locomote decreases; what good is a crippled spy vehicle? Even the ability to traverse rough terrain is impaired, requiring players to manually engage an off-road mode. The speed boost, once a finite but renewable utility, is now granted a set number of times per level. 

The changes don't stop with the wheels. Formerly a loner, Alec Sects, the man behind the wheel, has teamed up with a female spy, and though Bond set the precedent of working with attractive counterparts, Alec has always been a mysterious loner. Making him part of a team has, in my eyes, weakened his "cool" factor in this sequel. Granted, he always had help from the mysterious weapons van, but its form in this game is just silly, especially when players briefly take control of its turret. 

The game structure has also been altered from the original's controversial requirement to complete multiple goals to access further levels. I found this style added depth to each stage, requiring gamers to fully explore and master each course beyond the primary objective. Along with perfect execution, the pre-rendered entrances, exits, and passing attempt at a plot cemented the game's cinematic spy style. 

Spy Hunter 2 is more focused on getting players from start to finish without looking back. Secondary goals are just that, and are no longer essential to unlocking further development. The story and non-interactive graphic sequences are mostly absent, shedding the polish of its predecessor. 

The graphics have also been reduced from their original quality. The vehicle itself has become a more solid mass of gray, lacking the lustre and detail of the prior Interceptor. An intuitive health meter, decreasing with damage, has been replaced with a damage meter that increases. The cockpit view has been completely eliminated, and the rear view mirror is just small enough to be useless, while still taking up a portion of the screen. Pushing down on the analog stick completely reverses the camera, but this angle cannot be maintained while simultaneously steering left or right, rendering it, too, useless. 

Years after the Sony PlayStation 2 came out, I finally found for it a piece of software I liked: Spy Hunter. To see what has become of the sequel truly saddens me, but there's no sense hunting for quality that isn't there; Spy Hunter 2 is the game that came in from the cold with none of the entertaining qualities of any of its predecessors.

This article is copyright (c) 2004, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Tech News, 27-Jan-04