Set in the heart of the Cold War, CounterSpy has players controlling a member of C.O.U.N.T.E.R., an elite spy agency tasked with preventing both of the world's superpowers (the Imperialist West and Socialist East), from launching a nuclear attack on the moon. Complimenting this game's insane premise are its highly stylized graphics and jazzy soundtrack. CounterSpy feels a bit like a James Bond film as retold by Peter Sellers' Dr. Strangelove. Every area, document and propaganda poster is dripping with satire aimed at both sides of the conflict and we absolutely loved it.
Each mission will give players the option to choose which world superpower they want to infiltrate. The main objective is to steal the nuclear launch plans hidden in every level, which are the same regardless of where they came from. This boils the decision of which side to infiltrate down to the respective superpower's DEFCON level and the number of launch plans and extras that can be found within the mission. Diligent players will be sure to find the weapon blueprints and humorous military documents kept inside safes and lockers for added points and cash. Players can also find formulas scattered about, which can be unlocked for a variety of results, such as making enemy fire and security cameras less effective. The levels are procedurally generated, meaning that no two playthroughs will be identical, lending the game some needed variety and replay value.
It doesn't take long before the game begins to offer a decent amount of challenge, and being able to sneak around quietly is key to getting through an area in one piece. Players will have the ability to neutralize enemies with melee attacks and a silenced pistol is one of the first weapons that can be unlocked. The game makes things a bit easier by giving players a clear indication as to which direction enemies are facing while offscreen. The fact that the agent automatically snaps to ledges makes climbing around levels and finding alternative paths an easy task, however it soon becomes apparent that there isn't always a way to avoid direct enemy contact.
Thankfully, the agent can take cover behind certain walls and objects with a press of the circle button. This will swing the camera behind the agent, allowing the player to view the level and aim their weapon in a 3D space. This alternative view is the only way to combat certain enemies, as the opposing soldiers aren't confined to the same 2D limitations as the player. It's incredibly easy to roll from cover to cover, which will help when trying to sneak by a room full of guards or when avoiding enemy rockets and grenades. Entering cover is also the easiest way to survey guard locations, movement patterns and a security camera's field of view.
There are more advantages to sneaking through levels than simply avoiding conflict (which is important, as your agent won't last long in a firefight). Alerted guards and security cameras will raise the base's DEFCON level. Once the threat level reaches one a nuclear strike is imminent and players will have one minute to reach the computer console at the end of the facility to halt the launch. Holding up a high-ranking officer is another way to lower the threat level, though it requires players to clear the room of other guards first. A superpower's DEFCON level will remain intact once the player has completed their mission, which is one of the factors to look at before selecting where to go. Choosing to infiltrate a base with a critical threat level may prove to be worth it if there are several launch plans or officers available.
Aside from the typical leaderboards, CounterSpy also challenges gamers to top the scores of rival players. The rival's username and score will be displayed underneath the player's current total throughout their mission, letting them know how close they are to surpassing the other player. This feature is completely optional and serves as a nice incentive to gather as many of the mission's hidden extras as possible.
Overall, CounterSpy offers a well-crafted experience with straight-forward gameplay that makes it easy to get into, but features enough unlockables and replayability through its randomly generated levels to keep us entertained for hours. The relatively short levels and overall challenge make this game surprisingly addictive, though some may be left wanting more. Even with the variety in level design, the game's novelty may wear off quickly, as every level contains the same objectives and a change in weaponry or unlockable upgrades may not be enough to hold everyone's interest.
Still, we thoroughly enjoyed this game's silly take on the Cold War, as well as its clever blending of various gaming mechanics. CounterSpy is now available for the PlayStation 4, PS3 and PS Vita, and supports cross-buy and cross-save, meaning players can enjoy this title on any of their current Sony platforms with minimal hassle.
+ Seamlessly blends 2D and 3D, stealth and shooter
+ Procedurally generated levels offer nice variety
+ Satirical approach to the Cold War had us laughing
- Mission objectives are very repetitive
- Enemy AI isn't always the sharpest
- Enemy corpses tend to glitch around the room
This review was made possible with a download code provided by SCEA.