CounterSpy Review

Posted August 26, 2014 by John Newby in Video Games

Spies and stealth tend to be hit or miss experiences in video games not named Splinter Cell. Countless companies have tried to create games that truly capture the wonder of James Bond, Mission Impossible, and the Man From U.N.C.L.E., but most of these games have been abject failures. Thankfully, Dynamighty has joined the pursuit of better spy games with their first release, CounterSpy.

Drawing inspiration from classic spy films and TV shows, CounterSpy follows a hidden spy agency named C.O.U.N.T.E.R. in their pursuit to stop a Cold War-era nuclear attack. However, CounterSpy replaces the United States and the Soviet Union with more fictitious names. Both of these superpowers share a diabolical scheme that involves launching nuclear missiles at the moon, causing C.O.U.N.T.E.R. to send their top agent on multiple missions to stop this plot.

In order to achieve his goal, the agent has to attempt secret missions against both superpowers to sabotage their plans. Your agent progresses through the procedurally generated levels by silently dispatching enemies with hand to hand combat and silenced weapons. Each successful silent attacks leads to more points and a lowered DEFCON level. In addition, the stealthy attacks turn CounterSpy into more of a puzzle game in that your agent has to progress through many areas filled with enemies and security cameras without dying or alerting anyone. Most of the security cameras can be quickly destroyed with a single bullet, but later levels include armored cameras that can only be destroyed with explosions. The previously mentioned puzzle aspect is incorporated with smaller approach choices, such as sneaking through some available vents or going in the main entrance. Not all of the levels have the extra vents for sneaking, but each level does have some form of alternate path.


A well-placed headshot solves all problems.

Of course, stealth isn’t the only option for completing the missions. Your agent can also progress through the levels using a variety of loud powerful weapons like specialized shotguns and automatic rifles. This method is a lot of fun, but it also comes with significantly more risk. Aiming is very difficult to get used to, so your agent will die more often while alerting the guards. Once the guards are alerted to your agent’s presence, they will try to raise the alarm and the DEFCON level. If your DECON level goes past 1 at any point, then your agent will have 60 seconds to race through the remaining portion of the level and disrupt the nuclear launch. Running out of time means that you have to use a “continue”, much like older NES and SNES games.

Luckily, both play styles are made easier with secret spy formulas and gadgets. The agent has four weapon slots at all times, three of which can be filled with guns, sleep darts, exploding gel, or the persuasion dart—a gadget that turns enemies against each other. The agent can also complement these weapons with up to three formulas that enhance his ability. Some of the formulas make your agent more powerful or quiet while others disrupt security cameras and lower the DEFCON level.

CounterSpy also takes cues from NES and SNES games—not to mention Shadow Complex— in that it is a side scrolling action game. However, not all of the action happens on a single dimension; the levels in CounterSpy have multiple cover points hidden throughout the level that can be used by tapping the circle button. When the agent is in cover, the perspective shifts to a third person viewpoint to make aiming easier. One fantastic use of this cover mechanic is the integration of enemies on multiple levels. For example, your agent may be hiding in cover from an enemy in the 2d perspective, but 4 others may be wandering around in the 3d perspective. To top it off, another set of enemies may be hiding up on a platform, waiting to set off an alarm once you start killing the soldiers. Certain battles can become beautiful dances of death that juggle multiple perspectives.

Mixing and matching the formulas with different weapons can produce entertaining results, but it can also become quite expensive. CounterSpy offsets this cost by hiding vaults throughout the levels that contain money, new formulas/weapons, and important intel. Certain levels also integrate an online portion of CounterSpy in which your agent finds a dead rival agent (someone from the leaderboards) and loots his body for money and intel. These hidden vaults and rival agents provide an extra incentive for exploring the levels instead of simply rushing through and killing everyone. Exploring the levels also adds time to the game, but it’s still relatively short at 3-5 hours.

Dynamighty is a newer company, but they have the pedigree to create fantastic products. David Nottingham and John Elliott, the co-founders of Dynamighty, both worked together at Lucasarts, and Nottingham also previously worked at Rockstar. To create the splendid art style, Dynamighty hired Mark Holmes who previously worked at Pixar. Holmes’ work on films like The Incredibles and Monsters, Inc. can be seen with the abruptly shaped characters and vibrant color scheme. Additionally, Holmes created absolutely gorgeous backdrops for the levels, ranging from desert vistas to snowy mountains.


An example of Mark Holmes’ fantastic work.

CounterSpy may be a shorter game, but it’s still worth the price tag of $14.99. The procedurally generated levels add replayability and uniqueness to the campaign, and the soundtrack alone makes you feel like an old school spy. CounterSpy is made into an even better deal when you consider that buying the PS4 version also unlocks the PS3 and Vita versions, complete with their own trophy sets. The PS3 version may not run as buttery smooth or be as beautiful as the PS4 version, but it’s still very well made.

Buying CounterSpy is your mission, and you should definitely choose to accept it.

About the Author

John Newby

A random dude obsessed with coffee, blue heelers, and most nerdy things. Big fan of Star Wars, Borderlands, Arrow/Flash, and a whole lotta video games. The Saboteur is underrated, and Silverado is the best movie ever made.