Everyoneís beloved and malevolent spies have been killing each other in increasingly creative and hilarious ways for over 40 years within the confines of Mad Magazine. Spy vs. Spy branched out and joined Mad TV as well as getting a few videogames, like the 1986 NES version, which was the most popular Spy vs. Spy game released, and it still retains its legendary cult status. Now, here comes Spy vs. Spy to the Xbox in the form of a budget title from bargain publisher Global Star, and no one really seems to care. There is a story here, but itís completely and utterly meaningless, because all you do is pick a spy, follow some instructions from an organization and kill your rival spy, nothing memorable at all. Is the general consensus of apathy warranted or is this the sleeper hit of the year? Check back next issue... err... read below to find out!
To sum up the gameplay in one word is yawn, because thereís not really any depth and definitely nothing new here. Youíre a spy who uses some weapons: melee and projectile (such as machine guns and clubs), which you use to kill your enemies from a third person perspective. What you have here is a game like Unreal Championship, primarily targeted for multiplayer. Simply for the reason of just being there, a single player mode has been included. However, unlike Unrealís single player, Spy vs. Spyís is completely devoid of anything even remotely fun. More than anything, playing alone is a chore. After you choose your black or white spy, youíre sent on some boring missions to go to some boring things, such as picking up hidden plans and other various generic things. For the most part, the AI is awful, using dumb tactics, instead of wit to combat you. Perhaps one of the most annoying things is that many times you just donít know where to go or how to accomplish an objective. Itís best to just skip the single player portion of the game entirely.
If you have some friends or subscribe to Xbox Live, the game becomes slightly more fun, giving four players the opportunity to pummel each other in various over-the-top ways. However, if you lack friends and Xbox Live, there are always some brainless bots for you to pound on, which is fun for about 30 minutes. Each player takes the part of a spy. The first and second players choose between white and black, with the third and fourth players choosing either red or blue spies. The different outfits are the only differences between them. The multiplayer has two modes: classic mode, which is just all out battling; and modern mode, which adds some strategy to the game via giving each player their own base. You go around setting traps and shooting or pummeling your opponent. Multiplayer is somewhat fun, but for an extended period of time, it gets tedious fairly quickly. There are a few different game types such as Last Man Standing and Get Mad, among the classic death match, but despite five different multiplayer game types, the amount of variety is still fairly small.
A cel shaded cartoon style was used to give the game a similar feel to the comics, and that was a great design choice. While the aesthetic design was a nice addition, the graphics still arenít anything special. The environments are plain and lack detail. I wouldnít really call the graphics stylized either, as games like Jet Set Radio Future trounce this easily. The characters are nicely designed and also sport a very cartoonish look. As a whole, the design choice was a good decision, but there just isnít a whole lot here.
This department has very little attention paid to it. There is pretty much the bare minimum as far as the audio is concerned. There are no voices, but instead there are some random sound effects used for talking with some various grunts thrown in for good measure. Minimal bleeps and boinks are used for the majority of the other effects. Also, the soundtrack by Combustible Edison gets very repetitive and annoying very quickly, with just some recycled tunes looping. Custom soundtracks, especially in multiplayer wouldíve made the audio less painful, but alas, theyíre nowhere to be found.
The usual third person shooter controls are used here. The thumbsticks are used to move and rotate the camera. You shoot with R and use the face buttons for various things, such as switching weapons and traps. The controls are simple to pick up and play and theyíre pretty intuitive. If youíve played any third person shooter, you know what to expect here. Since the controls are familiar, it makes playing the game very easy and good for multiplayer matches, because there isnít a high learning curve.
Playing through the single player even once is a chore, and I canít imagine anyone going through it a second time, hell, itís best to just forget itís there, because suffering through it, is not worth the unlockables that are offered. The multiplayer is fun for a bit and also has four-player Xbox Live support, but the gameplay itself is pretty stale and it feels very dated. I doubt this game will get much play from anyone, because itís lacking in pretty much every department. For $20, you really are getting a budget title, not just in price, but the gameplay as well.
The saying is that ďyou get what you pay forĒ and that applies to Spy vs. Spy perfectly. Sure, there are worse $20 games you can purchase, but the main thing is that this game is very shallow. Instead of being a content-rich $20 game such as Phantom Dust, thatís as deep as an ocean, we get a mediocre action game thatís has the depth of a kiddie pool. The single player is awful and the multiplayer is decent at best. The game becomes very boring and tedious quickly, which is helped by the repetitive and dull music. Sure the game looks decent and controls great, but it plays poorly, making it just another sub-par licensed game doomed to wallow in the bargain bin. Save your $20, because there are countless other better budget games out there, and if youíre a die hard Spy vs. Spy fan, pick up some Mad Magazines instead, itís a better investment.Scores:
Gameplay - 6.1
Graphics - 6.7
Audio - 4.4
Controls - 8.6
Replay - 5.7Overall