Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run Hands-On
We climb into and out of what is allegedly the world's most sophisticated spy vehicle as we get our hands on Midway's next Spy Hunter game for the first time.
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If Midway's long-running Spy Hunter series is known for one thing, it's the Interceptor vehicle that players have been using to hunt down enemies on land and water since 1983, when the game first arrived in arcades. That was six years after James Bond took the controls of a Lotus Esprit submarine in The Spy Who Loved Me, of course, but the fact that the Interceptor could transform from a sports car into a speedboat and back again in an instant made it one of the most desirable arcade automobiles of the era. In recent Spy Hunter games, the Interceptor has gained the abilities to function as a motorcycle or Jet Ski after one of its more conventional forms takes a lot of damage, but it's only in the upcoming Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run that the Interceptor's doors can be opened so that you can climb out of the thing. We recently had the opportunity to do just that while checking out a demo version of the game at a recent Midway event in Los Angeles.
The Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run demo at Midway's event included a handful of levels from early on in the game that afforded us an opportunity not only to put the Interceptor's various forms to good use, but also to pursue bad guys on foot--The Rock style. That's right, folks. In case you haven't heard, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is now the face of spy hunter Alex Decker, not only in the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run, but also in the movie of the same name, which is expected to hit theaters sometime in 2007. Johnson is known to enjoy video games, and he's certainly no stranger to lending his likeness and voice talent to them. He appears to have taken things one step further in Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run, though, and our time with the game left us wondering if we were playing as The Rock rather than as a character portrayed by him.
After racing through a brief driving level that tasked us with destroying armored vehicles on the streets of Paris, we climbed out of the Interceptor for the first time and put The Rock through his paces as he came under fire from a helicopter circling above. The on-foot controls in Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run are standard third-person fare, with the left analog stick being used for movement while the right stick is used to look around and aim weapons. The requisite forward rolls, crouching, and ability to lean against walls are all present, as are a number of melee attacks--many of which wouldn't look out of place in a wrestling game. There's nothing wrong with a government agent throwing punches and sneaking in the occasional head-butt, of course, but learning that Alex Decker likes to incapacitate enemies using gorilla press slams, spinning back fists, and other moves that have likely been given names by the WWE at some point definitely came as a surprise.
When playing as The Rock, we attempted to spend most of our time using ranged weapons, but they were actually less effective against many of the enemies than the aforementioned punches, head-butts, and wrestling moves. The enemies' artificial intelligence was definitely lacking in the work-in-progress version of Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run that we were playing, but it was still quite satisfying to take out an enemy in a high window while leaning around a wall on the ground, or to corner an enemy before tossing him a grenade. The camera zooms in to give you a Resident Evil 4-style over-the-shoulder camera perspective when using ranged weapons but keeps its distance from the action the rest of the time.
One of the most memorable levels that we played on foot during our time with Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run tasked us with finding the controls to open a dam close to where we'd moored the Interceptor moments earlier so that we could proceed to the next boat sequence. After flicking the switch, we took the controls of a stationary gun turret and used it to protect Decker's friend Karin, who was running across the top of the dam and coming under fire from helicopters. The explosions that you'll see when taking down enemy vehicles at any point in the game can be pretty spectacular, and the Burnout-style cameras and slow-motion effects that interrupt the gameplay occasionally to show them off can make them even more satisfying. Objects that you can interact with in the game, such as the gun turret, are highlighted with blue "sparkles" that make them a lot harder to miss than they might be otherwise. Other examples that we encountered ran the gamut from door handles and the dock where we moored the Interceptor, to bookcases that could be pushed onto enemies and a table leg that could be shot so that a couple of explosive barrels would roll down a slope into an area where there were numerous enemies.
In a way, Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run's melee combat isn't limited to the levels where you're on foot, because the Interceptor comes with chariot-style wheel spikes that can be used to mess up any enemy vehicles that get too close. Like the spikes on the wheels of the enemies in the original Spy Hunter, yours aren't permanently in the offensive position, but unlike those in the 1983 game, they also don't appear to be effective when they are.
The other armaments on your Interceptor will include a front-firing machine gun, a missile launcher, and a new salvo weapon that lets you target multiple enemies simultaneously. The salvo weapon is unusual in that using it slows the gameplay down for a few seconds so that you can attempt to target as many enemies as possible before it's fired. The mechanic works pretty well and would perhaps best be described as bullet time for vehicles.
Before our time with Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run came to an end, we were able to take a quick look at one of the sequences in the game that has you riding the Interceptor's motorcycle form. The motorcycle isn't nearly as well armed as the car, and it has significantly less armor, so success looks to mostly depend on your ability to avoid enemy attacks and obstacles. The level that we played, for example, took place inside a lengthy tunnel where enemies had set up traps in the form of blue and red lasers. The blue lasers could be avoided simply by steering left and right, but the only way past the red ones was to slide the bike down onto the floor, which would have made a real mess of the paint job, but it looked really neat all the same.
Given that approximately 50 percent of your time playing Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run will be spent on foot, it's conceivable that your enjoyment of the game will be influenced by your feelings toward the game's leading man. Regardless of The Rock, Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run is a promising action game that looks certain to improve upon its lackluster predecessor, and we look forward to bringing you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.