Wednesday, September 3, 2014

"Waiting on Destiny..." pt. 2 - CounterSpy

Our Destiny is close...

Many have been counting the days, and we're down to four... and a bit. And as you can read or have read in Part 1 of this two-parter mini-series, with the impending arrival of something much anticipated, I always have that Jones for something, anything, to play, but am reluctant to invest too much in a bigger game. 

In Part 1, I subtly recommended Trials Fusion to pass the time (besides doing something really worthwhile with your life, but who DOES that anyway?) until Destiny arrives on Tuesday.

Today, here's another little Gem to ease your minds and itch those fingers, a Playstation Exclusive, Indie Cold-War Stealth-Action game named: 


The first thing you will notice, is the art - because calling it an "art-style" would simply not do it justice. It's something between Spy vs. Spy and Cold-War Comic Books, and it's just stunning, both in its execution and its inherent, tongue-in-cheek character.

Granted, the Cold War was not necessarily a "funny" time - although in hind sight, the enormity of this most boastful of conflicts could seem a bit ridiculous. It's no coincidence that the biggest single thing that stopped the two nuclear superpowers from annihilating each other (and the world) was called "MAD": Mutually Assured Destruction. Gotta love those acronyms, you really do...

CounterSpy's Setup is not too historical. CounterSpy is meant to be fun, and does not take itself too seriously - but in its setup, it already makes a fair bit of a statement. 

As an agent of C.O.U.N.T.E.R., you work against BOTH superpowers, the Imperialist Aggressors and the Socialist Aggressors, who plan to launch a nuclear strike at the Moon (You know, where that Wizard came from...). It's quite refreshing to have you NOT fight the "Red Menace" for a change - or at least, not exclusively. 

Being with COUNTER, you are tasked with infiltrating Military Bases on both sides and recover secret plans to stop the impending doom of mankind. Because if the Moon goes "Boom"... yes, you get it: Doom. Helping you in that endeavor is, once you've unlocked the respective blueprints found on missions, a healthy mix of Weapons (Stealthy and Not-so-Stealthy), Boost-Formulas you can buy for one mission, and the most deadly weapon of all! No, it's not that Barbara-Streisand-Mech from Southpark, and Michael Bolton has nothing to do with it. It's your MIND!

At it's heart, CounterSpy is a 2D Stealth-Action Game, but it comes with a 3D twist: Once you get into specific Cover, things turn 3D, and previously unreachable enemies become members of an animated shooting gallery. Don't let yourself be fooled, though, this does not turn CounterSpy into a 3D Third-Person-Shooter. It's more of a "Puzzler", in that aspect. 
Since you cannot change the camera when in cover, and enemies you can't see or shoot can most definitely can and will shoot you, each encounter has to be approached with a bit more tactic than you might think, choosing when and where to go into cover, or use the wider, yet flatter, view of two dimensions. 

Here you will also encounter what might be perceived as one of the game's short-comings, but most of that stems from what we, the players, are used to expect when "going into cover". CounterSpy simply is not, and once you understand its quite unique boundaries, you'll have a lot of fun experimenting. 

Stealth is recommended (tip from the Devs: Holding the Roll Button will automatically snap you into cover when you get close enough, for quick and sneaky Stealthiness), and if that is not to your liking, a fast dispatch of alerted enemies will do you good. Because DefCon is rising (that's like "Winter is coming", only Cold-War-ish). Once you get detected or killed, DefCon rises in different ways(actually it goes down, with 0 being the maximum DefCon; hey, I didn't invent that system, blame the Imperialists!), and once it hits zero, you'll only have a limited time to reach the end of the level and stop the rockets' launch. 

The DefCon level is also persistent between missions for each side, and since the final mission will play out where the highest (numerically lowest) DefCon level is, you should do what you can to keep it low (i.e. high. Dammit!). 
One way to lower it, and another lovely comedic nugget, is to subdue an Officer instead of shooting him. Because, as every enlisted Soldier knows, officers are cowards, and without backup will quickly surrender in the face of adversity. And thus lower your DefCon Level by One.

Speaking of levels, the missions are randomly generated from existing "building blocks". Which means that you might see the many different rooms on each side of the Iron Curtain several times during a playthrough, but no mission will ever be the same - which is good for people that want to play again and again, but bad for those that want to perfect "runs" or something.
If you do like to beat other people's scores, the game gives you challenges from friends or others, score challenges you need to beat. If you do, you can find your beaten buddy in the guise of a deceased rival Agent somewhere in the next level for a big cash boost. And make no mistake. You might set out with the noble goal of saving humanity from its own folly, but everything, Weapons, Ammo and Formulas, everything needs cash.

In the following gameplay, I have tried to show as many aspects of the game as possible, going stealthy, semi-stealthy, failed-stealthy and loud. Yes, that was on purpose. I speaketh the Truth!

As much fun as it is, CounterSpy is not without its issues. Some smaller bugs, like wrong animations, enemies that see through walls or seemingly cheap "You could not help but be detected just by entering the room" moments, can be seen in the vid above, but my personal biggest gripe, are the loading times on the PS Vita (and, from what I read around the net, on the PS3, too). Because those are excessive. Like 60 seconds for a mission.

That said, it still looks awesome on the Vita, and even better on the PS4, something the videos do not adequately capture (as I don't have a PS3, I cannot judge on that). The gameplay is fun and diverse, often challenging, and only sometimes (mostly due to little bugs) a bit frustrating. 

With Cross-Buy on all three Sony Platforms (PS3, PS Vita and PS4), as well as networked cross-saves, the small-budget price and bite-sized missions of CounterSpy do make a great distraction from waiting on your... Destiny. Whatever it may be.

For a look at the skillful and stylish Moto-Cross Simulation "Trials Fusion" check out Part 1 of this mini-series Here. (There. At the "Here". It's a Link. Just trust me.)

I hoped you enjoyed what you read, and watching my (potentially embarrassing) gameplay (as always, please watch in HD). And if you want to show your support, why not use one of the links to Amazon UK before you want to buy anything there? I'd sure appreciate it.

... Or, I guess, you could tell me how awesome this was in a comment, but... well. You know.

For all your Playstation or Xbox or PC Gaming needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere...   

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