Review: CounterSpy (PS4/PS3/PSV/PSTV)

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Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation 3
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy Yes
  • Cross-Save Yes
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: CounterSpy
Format: PlayStation Network Download (PS4 1.5 GB) / (PS3 1.3 GB) / (PSV 538 MB)
Release Date: August 19, 2014
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Dynamighty
Original MSRP: $14.99 *This is a Cross-Buy title
ESRB Rating: E10+
CounterSpy is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, iOS and Android.
The PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PS Vita versions were used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Gameplay:
Think The Man From U.N.C.L.E. or In Like Flint. For you younger folks, think about the early scenes in Austin Powers. Cold War espionage in the 50’s and 60’s was portrayed with a unique style and look, and CounterSpy captures it perfectly. Most of the game is played in a traditional 2D sense, sneaking through air ducts, hanging from ledges, and performing karate chops on unsuspecting enemies after you’ve snuck up behind them.

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Two superpowers both have atomic capabilities, and you’ve been tasked to infiltrate compounds on both sides to acquire documents such as missile blueprints, radio frequencies, and other vital information. As a spy, your weapons are decidedly compact and mostly built for stealth and small combat (with slight exceptions.) You get 4 slots to carry weapons during a mission, and 3 slots for “formulas” which can give abilities such as better resistance to damage, better aim, and even total silence when running. As you earn cash in your missions by finding objects, photos etc. hidden throughout the compounds, you’ll then be able to use that cash to buy more ammo, choose what formulas to use per mission, and even pay for new weapons once the blueprints have been acquired.

One thing that sets CounterSpy apart from your typical 2D game though is that you’ll be able to go into a stationary 3D view when in cover at certain times, allowing you to control an aiming reticule for precision shots. Aiming is very easy to control and if you have patience you can even keep an aiming circle in a specific spot while you’re in cover. The longer you leave it be, the more accurate your first shot out of cover will be. This mechanic brings a lot to the game and is not only unique, but definitely makes you think more about how you’ll take the enemies down, since you’re not simply looking at a two-dimensional field anymore. When you get farther into the game, you’ll actually be able to use a dart gun that makes the victim fire on his own cohorts, and it’s quite fun to use.

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Overall, stealth is key though, which normally doesn’t play to my strengths as a gamer. But in CounterSpy, the stealth element is straightforward and not a hindrance. The levels are randomly generated, so you’ll never get that “been there, done that” feeling when playing, and like the focused gameplay mechanics, you’ll get to focus on what’s really important, playing the game.

Controls are excellent on all three platforms and they never give you any frustration. Button presses are quite responsive, and things like jumping and climbing-down are extremely smooth. You even automatically duck down when you need to get into smaller areas. Levels hide all kinds of goodies so if you see some object blocking your view of a wall, walk over to it because there’s probably a hidden area or air duct right behind it. The best part too is that there’s no time limit, so you can play at your own pace.

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The core goal in CounterSpy is to stop either side from launching their missiles, and this is tracked by what DEFCON level either is at. Once the timer for DEFCON 1 is activated, you’ll have sixty seconds to activate the Abort at the end of the level. If you miss that, well, Game Over. The DEFCON level can be decreased by the use of a specific formula that you can equip, or by holding a gun on an officer until he surrenders, which automatically lowers it one level. The DEFCON level increases if an enemy calls for backup or if a camera spots you, among other things. You’ll definitely have some tense situations later in the game when you need to go in already at DEFCON 1. Luckily, the pre-launch screen will tell you how many officers are available in each mission, giving you an opportunity to lower the level.

Visuals:
I’m a huge fan of the visual style in CounterSpy. It’s got that feel we’d see in old cartoons, and there’s definitely a hint of The Incredibles in there too (which makes sense, since ex-Pixar animators worked on this.) This is also where you’ll see really the only difference between the three platforms, and that difference is simply in the frame rate. It’s definitely smoothest on PS4, with PS3, and Vita looking almost identical. The game looks fantastic on all three though, and since it’s Cross-Buy, even if you don’t have a PS4 now, when you finally get one, CounterSpy will be waiting for you.

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Audio:
Again, the music is so perfect for the genre, with riffs sounding very similar to spy movies and TV shows, and it fits perfectly. One of my favorite things in the audio though, is the dialogue. Be it random announcements to the henchmen, or the fact that they’ll occasionally call out to their fallen teammates (“No, Tom!!!!”), it makes it even funnier that these random henchmen are being given somewhat of a personality by having a name. I can say that I have no criticism of the audio design at all, it’s perfect for this game.

Online/Multiplayer:
CounterSpy is a single player game, but there are plenty of online leaderboards that actively pit you against other agents. Even cooler is the fact that if a rival agent died in a specific part of the timeline, you might have the chance to find the body and recover items. Also, since everything is randomly generated, the implementation of Cross-Save is a bit different than usual. An online profile will be created for you, and linked automatically to your PSN account. But, this profile can also be linked to the Mobile version of the game, which unfortunately was not available in time for this review. It tracks things like what weapons and formulas you’ve unlocked, different stats, and which blueprints and items that you’ve uncovered, and it all syncs automatically. This way, you don’t have to choose “save to cloud” before you exit the game.

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Conclusion:
After playing this at past events, I was pretty confident that I’d enjoy CounterSpy, and I was right. Dynamighty has built a fantastic game that makes exploration and stealth fun. The visual style lends itself so well to the genre, and the writing is top-notch. There’s a great emphasis on being able to play the game instead of fighting it, and since the levels are randomly generated, there’s a ton of replay value to be had. Don’t miss this one!

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature and the Share functionality on the PS4. No PS3 screenshots are included.

PS Vita Screenshots

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PS4 Screenshots

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  • Stephen Tower

    Great review Glenn, looking forward to this one.

  • Janaris

    This game looks great I will be picking this up soon

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  • ChazzH69

    I love this game and the review is spot on. I’ve played it on the Vita and PS4 but cannot decide which I prefer, it plays so well on each system.

  • David Sodee

    Might have to pick this one up !!