Title  : Spy Hunter
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo GameCube, Windows
Publisher  : Midway
ESRB Rating  : Teen
Game Rating  : 9.0
Review by  : Ken Gagne

Gentlemen: on your mark, get set — Gunn it! 

Peter Gunn, the TV theme song, returns from the Eighties with the video game it is so well known to accompany: Spy Hunter, a modern recreation by Midway. [PS2 version reviewed here] 

It's the end of the world as we know it, if the evil crime syndicate Nostra has its way. International Espionage Services has deployed the G-6155 Interceptor vehicle, piloted by an agent last seen in 1983. Players will need the car's smoke screens, oil slicks, and missiles to complete the many missions that await. 

Though some of the original Spy Hunter's spirit is present, this sequel is almost entirely new. The overhead perspective has been exchanged for the now-standard view from just behind and above the car. Rather than infinite play, the game is now divided into mission-based levels where the player has some choice of paths, but the end result is the same. Some levels are aquatic in nature, for which the Interceptor adapts by converting to a boat; regardless of the terrain, a weapons van is often available to replenish ammunition and repair damage. 

The missions are scattered across the globe, each with a primary objective necessary for success. Secondary goals can involve finding hidden satellites, destroying enemy installations, and minimizing civilian casualties. Access to each consecutive stage requires a higher minimum of objectives met, so that as the game progresses, the margin for error narrows. Continuous replaying and learning of each course is essential to meet all goals. Exemplary performance unlocks additional extras, such as music videos, gameplay features, and more. This layout of gameplay works well to challenge gamers at varying levels while increasing the game's replay value. 

The game's action-oriented nature is reflected in its controls. Unlike racing simulations, players needn't worry about standard vs. automatic, or drift steering; with the Interceptor, it's just point and go. Reverse involves pushing down on the analog stick, which makes turning left and right difficult. The L1 and L2 buttons choose offensive and defensive weapons, while R1 and R2 fire. It would be convenient to map regularly-used weapons, such as swarm missiles, to their own buttons, but that option is not available. 

Spy Hunter tips its hat to its espionage lineage with a soundtrack heavily influenced by James Bond and the like. Whether you're cruising the canals of Venice or a South American rain forest, the tunes keep pace with the game's action. Variations on the Peter Gunn tune abound, though the lyrical grunge rendition of the theme does the Spy Hunter heritage no favors. Plenty of sound effects accompany the Interceptor's engine and weapons, and serve as audible clues of overhead helicopters and other aggressors. 

This PlayStation 2 game is a sterling example of how new and old can be amalgamated. The Interceptor may not have the best handling of any video game vehicle, but no car can touch it in the "cool" factor. So get back behind the wheel and prepare to be hunted.


This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 15-Oct-01