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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Fighting

 

Publisher

Sammy Studios

 

Developer

Access Games

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

August 31, 2004

 

 

- Costume system is innovative
- Good character designs and models
- Wacky chapter titles like "Loser in the Sky"

 

 

- Costume system is also awkwardly executed
- Too much time hunting for garbage cans
- Lame camera
- Rappelling sequences

 

 

Review: Alias (XB)

Review: Metal Gear Solid 2 - Sons of Liberty (PS2)

Review: Max Payne 2 - The Fall of Max Payne (PS2)

 

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Spy Fiction

Score: 6.2 / 10

 

"Stealth Action inspired by genre-defining espionage classics", reads the back of Sammy's Spy Fiction. I'm not entirely sure if marketing types realize that's a nice way of saying "this game is a huge ripoff of other, good games". So it actually is a pleasant surprise that, despite all of the blatant similarities (the title screen, the font, the spinning boxes of ammunition), Spy Fiction actually brings some new and interesting ideas to the genre. Whether they're executed well is an entirely different matter altogether.

 

spy fiction           spy fiction


Spy Fiction, created by Access Games, isn't a normal stealth game, at least in the sense that it isn't trying to play copycat with Splinter Cell. It does contain the prerequisite useless plot, involving illegal biological experiments and evil corporations with ridiculous names like NanoTech Dyne. The bad guy is your usual amalgamation of terrorist stereotypes plucked from Die Hard movies (crazy European accent? Check. Blitheringly psychopathic? Check. Evil glasses? Check. ) The plot isn't heavily engrossing nor is it really important to the enjoyment of the 

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game, other than a silly execution involving a crucifix at the beginning of the game, which is almost worth playing the game for. There are two characters to play as: Billy, the spy with the ridiciulous spiky hair, or Sheila, the blond with the slick-backed hair. Other than determining the gender of whatever rock hard body you'll be looking at throughout the game, your choice also minorly affects the paths in certain levels. Beating the game also requires playing through both characters.

 

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As opposed to the norm, Spy Fiction is more of a "spy" game, in that you don't really spend all of your time hiding in the shadows or running past blips on a radar. While there are segments that you spend sneaking past guards, more of it is spent meandering about in costume. You see, Spy Fiction's biggest draw is the ability to take photographs of any character in the game, then masquerade as them. This is essential to get anywhere, and actually takes up a majority of the game. It also allows for lots of cool moments, as any game where you can dress up as strippers and seduce evil, fat scientists really can't be all that bad. However, this is also where the game hits a few snags.

 

First off, you can't change costumes whenever you want -- only by hopping into a closet or some other receptacle can you switch disguises. None of these locations are listed on your otherwise detailed map, so it feels a little silly that you spend minutes at a time blundering around, trying to find a locker or dumpster so you can continue with your mission. Furthermore, you can't perform any action other than running when you're in disguise -- you can't shoot, you can't climb ladders, and you can't climb through vents. You have to rip off your costume and hope that you don't get spotted in the meantime. Even from a technical standpoint, it's a little awkward - every character has the same exact weird jogging animation. I suppose the developers thought that running around in disguise was far too easy, but instead of adding to the challenge, these quirks merely to serve to aggravate you.

 

And it WOULD be too easy if all you did was running around, snapping pictures, and strolling safely through enemy territory, so the developers tossed in some roadblocks that don't seem to make much sense. Even when dashing around in disguise, if you run too close to enemy, they'll inspect you. Most of the time, they merely let you go, but on seemingly arbitrary moments, they'll somehow realize you're a spy and call the guards. Granted, hiding from bad guys is easier than other stealth games -- since you have stealth camouflage that activates when you hide against a wall, all you need to do is clear the room, duck and wait out the alarm. This process also takes at least a minute of waiting, staring at the screen. God forbid you die - Spy Fiction also has to the unfortunate tendency to resurrect you in a spot where it's almost impossible to escape detection, enabling a cycle of death and reincarnation that's hard to break from.

 

spy fiction          spy fiction

Even if you manage to not screw up, there are still segments where you need to sneak, run and gun, and this is where even more wonky play mechanics come in. You have an auto-aim, which lets you hit pretty much anything by jamming repeatedly on the fire button. It eliminates some of the clunkiness inherent in these types of games, but given that it jars back between third and first person views, it's a little headache-inducing.

 

That's really the least of the camera woes. The viewpoint awkwardly switches between manual and fixed. Backing yourself in a corner will provide you with a completely useless view of the wall, rather than anything potentially dangerous. This is irritating in its own right, but the inadequacy of the camera truly shines during the rappelling segments. Yes, in an attempt to capture the excitement of a Tom Cruise movie from the last millennium, Spy Fiction makes you rappel down into a high security room as you try to dodge infrared lasers. Except that the greatest challenge comes from wrestling with the camera to find a view that won't get you killed. Some of these segments are also timed, as if the developers were encouraging you to loudly scream swear words at the television. There are also skydiving sequences, which aren't great, but at least are relatively inoffensive.

 

At least the visuals are acceptable. Graphically, Spy Fiction almost looks as good as Metal Gear Solid 2, which it had better, considering it came out three years prior. The characters, designed by fan favorite artist Renji Murata (of Last Exile fame) are all modeled extremely well, although the environments are fairly standard.

 

Had Access Games come up with a better way to implement the disguise system, and eliminated all of the minor problems, Spy Fiction could've been a winner. It's still more fun than titles like Alias or Rogue Ops, and might be a nice detour of fans for looking for something new, but otherwise ends up as a mostly annoying experience.

 

- Kurt Kalata

(October 18, 2004)

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