The original Spy Hunter hails from a time rarely seen outside of conventions or editorials nowadays: the arcade era, where massive cabinets lined the dens of gamer iniquity. Spy Hunter's lavish seated cabinet eventually spawned several sequels and reboots that kept the heart of the original release beating, but none quite so middling as what TT Fusion offers PlayStation Vita owners. No matter how many side-mounted missiles players fire or how often machine guns materialize from the Interceptor’s hood, the game simply lacks soul.
Just as your nameless, faceless, voiceless protagonist gets his mitts on the G-6155 Interceptor’s steering wheel, a rogue agency attempts to steal the prototype vehicle from its tightly knit research and development team. A raspy voice – the only voice work in Spy Hunter – invades the comm system demanding players hand over the car in exchange for their lives. Try as I might to understand what else the mystery figure was saying, I heard little through the garbled static of the game’s horribly compressed audio, but this villain could have the Interceptor for all I care. The ambush serves as the machine's first test drive, and proves the developers should have gone back to the drawing board.
I was often fighting the Interceptor’s controls more than rival SUVs and Mustangs, as the prototype seems incapable of driving in a straight line. When physics take over, Spy Hunter will leave you dumbfounded and aggravated. Ramming enemy vehicles hardly puts a dent in the Interceptor’s bumpers, but scraping a civilian van instantly detonates one of the six mini-reactors that fuel the car's health. Lose all six before completing a level or rendezvousing with a repair truck and you restart the mission over. Enemies are not afraid to get in cheap shots, too. A solitary nudge from hostile SUVs throws your car into a wild fishtail you’ll rarely recover from.
A quick double tap of the accelerator will give the Interceptor an extra speed boost, but there's no outrunning Spy Hunter's mediocrity.
But the Interceptor has plenty of built-in defenses to wreck the opposition. Fire spews from the exhaust pipes when the flamethrower’s equipped, and when the other drivers start to box you in, a concussive blast delivered by the shocker sends these fools careening. Although machine guns, shotguns, and missile launchers get the job done too, who would select these armaments over ricocheting saw blades? Destroying a vehicle ends with a slow-motion camera pan of that car going up in flames, similar to the takedown camera in Burnout titles. Unfortunately, these brief moments remove all control from players, increasing the probability they will collide with the nearest rock face or guard rail. Eliminating pursuers also rewards research points, which can be spent on weapon upgrades or cosmetic paint jobs.
The biggest surprise came when racing through the environments. The setting hardly deviates from mountainous terrain, yet there’s multiple paths cut into the scenery for you to lose your assailants. The Interceptor has more than just a host of weapons beneath the hood, as the car instantly transforms into an all-terrain vehicle when the trail gets bumpy, or a speedboat when the chase takes to the water. And even if the goal of driving from one end of the level never changes, the routes never repeat. I would be more impressed if Spy Hunter lasted six to eight hours, but at two hours tops, how much of Spy Hunter’s lack of repetition can be considered a compliment? Although the commander orders you to disarm occasional bombs or gather intel, the supplementary objectives ruin the momentum by forcing you to slow down and wait in a designated area while the data uploads.
That’s provided the game works as intended. The audio got stuck in endless loops regularly, if not more than when the camera did not return to its third-person position during on-rails sequences. In these instances, you control a mounted grenade launcher ideal for taking out more well-armored antagonists, yet the camera glitch left me firing blindly in hopes that I would hit the targets.
Those poorly modeled wheels are supposed to be spikes...
Spy Hunter also crashed during a loading screen due to some GPU error, which seems odd considering the developers serve the visuals on a PS1 platter. The Interceptor’s concept art looks particularly striking, a masterpiece of automotive engineering for any gearhead to drool over. The Interceptor’s sleek curves rival Lamborghini’s more expensive mid-life crises machines, with a frame sharp enough to cut should you just look at the her wrong. Then you see the game in action. During actual gameplay, the Interceptor may as well be a poorly modeled Hot Wheels car surrounded by a single-digit frame rate. Not even TT Fusion’s opening or ending cinematics push the limits of standard-definition cutscenes.
The multiplayer might have been a fun distraction, if I could test this feature. The competition only supports four players via ad hoc connections, meaning you must gather three others in the same room, each with their own Vitas and copies of Spy Hunter, an insurmountable task for the most well-connected of video game journalists.
Spy Hunter had potential. Just imagine Burnout’s multiplayer, except one car has access to machine guns and the other drivers must ram it off the road while evading gunfire. That thought alone gave me more enjoyment than my afternoon spent finishing Spy Hunter. I believe everyone should play a bad game every so often as a measure of quality and appreciation for what goes into making AAA titles. But I would not recommend Spy Hunter to the most desperate of Vita owners. The handheld has suffered enough thanks to dismal first- and third-party support, and Spy Hunter should be put out of its misery.
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: TT Fusion
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign), 2-4 (Local Multiplayer)
Platforms: PS Vita (Reviewed), Nintendo 3DS