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Publisher: Aspyr Media    Genre: Sports
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: G3 @ 600 MHz    RAM: 128 MB    Hard Disk: 750 MB    4x CD-ROM

August 26, 2003 | Nat Panek

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The venerable Spy Hunter video game franchise has been around longer than many readers of this review. What began from Midway in 1983 as an arcade game with a cool airplane-style steering wheel and a foot pedal has evolved over the years into its latest incarnation as a Mac/PC hybrid computer game from Aspyr. This also marks Aspyrís first foray into the PC market. Even this represents territory covered long ago; Iíll be dating myself here in a big way, but I have fond memories of playing a version of Spy Hunter on my parentsí Apple IIe, a pre-Macintosh machine with a green monochrome monitor and sound that brought ďtinnyĒ to new heights.

Despite two decades of water under the bridge, not to mention quantum leaps in technology, there are elements of the game that remain unchanged. The most apparent is the low, driving thump of Henry Manciniís theme from Peter Gunn. People with any Spy Hunter experience started to hear this tune in their heads as soon as they finished reading the previous sentence. Itís the unmistakable background music to the game, and itís still there, albeit remixed a tad.

The other element that has survived from back in the day is the overall concept of the game. At its core, this is still a game about driving fast (mostly forward) shooting things in front of you and fouling up things behind you. Sure, the graphics have changed drastically but Iím left feeling kind of empty when I think about what could have been: a well-written, compelling storyline; being able to leave the car behind for some missions; non-linear, free-to-roam level design; an aerial component, maybe? Donít get me wrong -- Spy Hunter is a respectable driving-combat game but thatís about all it is.

Game play
As an agent of the International Espionage Section (IES), it is up to you to foil the plans of the evil Nostra organization for world domination. The plans depend for the most part on a quartet of satellites called the Four Horsemen, which, when activated, will deprive the entire planet of electric power and plunge it into chaos. How Nostra plans to control a world without electricity is left up to the gamerís imagination.

In any case, your quest to stop this dubious plan will take you all over the planet, from Central America to Germany and London to the United States and more places in between. The tool you will use to accomplish your various missions is the G-6155 Interceptor, ďthe most advanced counterintelligence vehicle ever developed,Ē as the manual points out. This Lamborghini-esque automobile possesses the ability to morph from a car to a speedboat and back again, as the need arises. It does this automatically; thereís no need to go frantically searching for a button as you fly up off a ramp and over a body of water. The car and boat forms have slightly different handling characteristics, and the boat is slower in general, but the weaponry is the same. Itíll still get you where you need to go.

The G-1655 has one other morphing trick up its tailpipe. When the vehicle becomes badly damaged, a warning will sound, and the car will start shedding panels. When itís done, the end result is a motorcycle that can go quite a bit faster than the car, but which does not have any of its defensive capabilities (weíll get to that shortly). Similarly, when in boat mode, the vehicle can transform into a jet-ski if it becomes too badly damaged. The cycle/jet-ski can only take a few hits, though, and once you lose it, itís game over.

The car is initially outfitted with twin 9mm machine guns and a supply of unguided missiles; more and stronger weaponry becomes available as you progress through the game, including bigger machine guns, guided missiles, an EMP gun used for disabling electronic devices and a rail gun. The car sports some defensive armaments as well, like the good old oil slick and smokescreen. Also available is a flamethrower, which you can use to toast anyone who makes foolish tailgating attempts.


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