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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Stealth Action

 

Publisher

Atari / 1C

 

Developer

Haggard Games

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

October 16, 2007

 

 

- Novel setting and perspective

- Accurate WWII-era Soviet weapons

 

 

- Counterintuitive interface

- Clumsy controls

- Dated graphics and sound

- No sense of connection with the main character

 

 

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Death to Spies

Score: 4.0 / 10

 

death to spies          death to spies

 

Before the Cold War, the Soviet Union 's most feared intelligence organization was the NKVD, the agency which handled counterintelligence activities before the KGB was formed.  Within the NKVD stood the infamous Fourth Directorate, also known as SMERSH (a contraction of the credo "Smyert Shpionam"or "Death to Spies!").  SMERSH agents performed all manner of assassinations, kidnappings, interrogations, and other activities in the name of "protecting the Revolution."  Even Leon Trotsky, one of the three men who'd helped mastermind the Bolshevik Revolution with Lenin and Stalin, became a target of SMERSH and was assassinated in Mexico in 1940.  With a history as murky and blood soaked as SMERSH's was, you'd think that an interesting game might have come out of it.

 

Death to Spies does fairly well when it comes to modeling its characters, vehicles, and weapons.  However, the detail isn't quite as good as what Medal of Honor: Airborne recently provided.  They might have been top flight three or four years 

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ago, but they seem a little rough now.  The physics seem to be handled with an equal level of detail.  Grenades bounce, bodies roll into boxes or fall down when clobbered, knives flip forward and smack into targets with abrupt stops.  The briefing screens are spartan but convey information to give you a good general

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sense of your overall objectives.  And running in parallel to this is the slightly muted, almost distorted sound delivery.

 

It is in the gameplay that Death to Spies commits its greatest failures.  It's as if somebody decided to make a mash-up of the Commandos series and Splinter Cell, then proceeded to take out all of the fun and replace it with a skewed sense of "challenge."

 

death to spies          death to spies

 

The first great sin comes from the controls.  In addition to being wildly scattered across the keyboard and counterintuitive, the accuracy of weapons such as knives and grenades seem a matter of whim.  The crosshair for the screen isn't as accurate as it should be, and while you have a whole training mission to tease out the elevations you need for reasonably accurate placement of grenades and throwing knives, it's still a hassle.  Rifles and pistols aren't quite as bad, but they're still a little iffy when it comes to putting steel on target.  The next major gripe is that once you begin a mission, reviewing your objectives is cumbersome.  You can call up a vector map, but its details are not as helpful as the manual makes them out to be.  Movement of your character feels needlessly slow and clumsy, as if your avatar maybe had a few shots of vodka before deploying.  Even running on a flat road feels like you're moving through mud.

 

The cutscenes attempt to tell a story in flashback but this does little to make you feel any kind of sympathy for the character you play; you simply don't care if your character lives or dies, and for a stealth-action game a lack of investment in the character is a deathblow.

 

The idea of WWII espionage and sabotage efforts on the Eastern Front is ripe with possibilities for a game, but Death to Spies bungled the execution on this one.

 

- Axel Cushing

(December 7, 2007)

 

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