Forgotten Gems of Gaming: SPY HUNTER

Perhaps not the most complicated game, even for its time, but Spy Hunter provided some intense, high paced gameplay that kept players entertained.

Spy games were apparently very popular in the, graphically challenged, early days of the game industry. The arcade game Spy Hunter, was a 1983 racing game that proved popular amongst fans as it was later released on the vast array of consoles at the time; Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Nintendo Entertainment System and the BBC Micro to name a few. It has also been celebrated with various re-releases on more modern consoles and mobile phones as well as appearing in Microsoft Excel 2000 as an Easter egg.

In Spy Hunter the player takes on the role of a spy, which is a little odd as it seems to be the player who is being hunted. The spy takes control of various cars based upon the players progression through the game. The aim of the game is to score points by driving along the road, which is inhabited by both civilian and enemy cars, points are scored by the distance traveled and by destroying enemy vehicles. Points are effectively deducted if the player destroys a civilian car, the civilians have the sense to avoid the road completely in the later stages, leaving just the spy and the enemies to fight it out alone. The view is a top down vertical scroller, looking at the tops of cars on the road, like an extremely linear version of the original Grand Theft Auto. The game progressed, or scrolled, very quickly meaning that fast reflexes are critical to get through each stage. The main aim is to see how far the player could progress through the game, allowing them to score more points, witness new terrains, use different cars and face more enemies. These were the days when a change in terrain meant a different colour road side, still it never failed to excite. One of the most dramatic sections of the game sees the player drive into a boat house and instantly change into a speed boat, able cruising across the water, when the road runs out.
Being a spy game, the cars do more than the usual, the first is equipped with front-mounted machine guns with infinite ammunition. These are not the only weapons at the players disposal; oil, smoke screen and missiles all become available later in the game. These weapons are available from the all-important Weapons Van, the players only friend in the cruel world of spy cars. The Van appears at the side of the road, it then accelerates until it is at the same speed as the player, then it puts out a helping hand in the form of a ramp, that the player can drive up to enter the van to temporary safety. Perhaps not the most complicated game, even for its time, but Spy Hunter provided some intense, high paced gameplay that kept players entertained. The game represents a time in gaming when the aim of the game was to €œSee how far you could get€, where progress was the goal, and to get a little further each time was the success.

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