Someone Should Make A 60’s Spy Game!



Last weekend I sat down and rewatched the big-screen adaptation of The Man From Uncle. If you haven’t seen this Armie Hammer and Henry Cavill vehicle, well you are missing out on a good time. Superman and the Lone Ranger were hilarious as Cold War-era spies and managed to recreate some of that Robert Vaughn/David McCallum magic. As much as I enjoyed watching this entertaining film, I was still bothered by a nagging thought.

What happened to all of the cool spy games?

Back in the day, we had No One Lives Forever 1 and 2. This wonderful series created by Monolith Productions revolved around superspy Cate Archer and her arsenal of gadgets and weapons. NOLF was released around the era of Austin Powers but took the goofy 60’s feel in an entirely different direction. Sure, there were a few similarities with a big Scottish character, but that was about it. NOLF was vastly superior in tone and writing. The game even holds up quite well despite almost 20 years of time since release.

Since NOLF 1 and 2, there have been a few other spy-centric options with flavor. Alpha Protocol boasted phenomenal storytelling, customization options, world travel, and a psychotic Nolan North. Sadly, the shooting system and a few bugs derailed the experience. Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Conspiracy was decent enough but ultimately proved to be a run-of-the-mill licensed experience. And of course, there is always the mystery of Agent. That game is never coming out.

Let’s just avoid talking about James Bond games. Those would take up an entire separate article. Besides, Goldeneye and From Russia With Love are the only good ones.

By far, the best option for recreating the suave spy experience is CounterSpy. Dynamighty’s mixture of 2D and 3D with procedural-generated levels made for a fun experience that could be picked up at a moment’s notice, and the art style and music were both fantastic. More importantly, Dynamighty took direct inspiration from Get Smart and The Man From Uncle when crafting jokes about nuclear weapons and world-ending scenarios.

Unfortunately, the last great spy game came out in 2014, and it doesn’t appear that there are any on the horizon. Granted, many games in the past few years have included spy elements, but none have captured that suave, sexy feel of the 60’s TV shows or the gameplay of NOLF. It’s very disheartening.

Let’s try to amend this situation and figure out which factors would create a great game.

What Elements Will Make This Game Awesome?

First off, any spy property worth its weight needs a hell of a story and a few interesting characters to keep it moving. The espionage world is ripe with classic and modern-day headlines that could form a unique storyline. However, it is imperative to incorporate some doomsday weapon. I mean, that’s what every piece of spy fiction is about!

But what about the characters? Well, there are multiple examples of fun (psychotic) characters throughout various books, movies, TV shows, and video games. Alpha Protocol has the crazy Nolan North with chemicals, Brad Thor books have Scot Harvarth, Vince Flynn books have Mitch Rapp, Get Smart has Agents 86 and 99, and The Man From Uncle has Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. All of these characters are completely different but somehow bring in readers/viewers/gamers with unique characteristics, fighting styles, and senses of humor. In Rapp’s case, he doesn’t have a sense of humor–he just murders everyone in spectacular ways. But I digress.

All I’m saying is that the next great spy game should do the same with its characters. Interesting main characters can make or break a game. Just look at NOLF. Cate Archer was a super entertaining character, and she made that entire series better. This theoretical spy game will need a (preferably) humorous main male or female character, a witty boss–think Art from Justified–and some interesting villains and NPC’s.

And let’s mix up the story beats. I own many James Bond games, but the predictability drives me crazy. Every level starts out with Bond sneaking around a facility for a while, achieving an objective, and ultimately shooting hundreds of characters in an effort to escape. Sure, these levels are important. I just think that they should only be part of the experience. It would be very interesting to play an entire level simply wandering around a party to rub elbows and gain intel. You know, mix and match the quiet moments to create diversity. It would be fun.

The next thing on the list is character customization, which is something that Alpha Protocol did well. The main character was the quintessential spy and needed to change his appearance at a moment’s notice. This could be done by switching out facial hair and hairstyles in various safehouses around the world. Given the updated hardware that this game would be running on, this new spy game should bring back the ability to switch eye color with contact lenses, change hairstyles, and use a dozen or more outfits. Obviously, you need some tuxedos for those low key party missions, but you also need multiple sets of combat fatigues for various landscapes.

Of course, no customization is complete without various gadgets and guns. Any spy should have a plethora of unique gadgets for disabling alarms, unlocking doors, hacking computers, and of course, wooing the opposite sex. Besides, who wouldn’t want to utilize the exploding bubble gum from Mission Impossible?

As far as guns go, the spy game should have a solid collection of manufacturers and models depending on what companies are involved. Every player has their own preference of weapon, whether it’s in real or virtual . For example, I like the look and feel of a Smith & Wesson SD9 handgun while my wife prefers a Glock 19. Both are solid weapons and should be utilized as options.

Which brings us to the next element of a successful spy game.

The main downfall of Alpha Protocol was the skill-based combat system. Early on, you couldn’t just point and shoot at an enemy. No, you had to build that skill up and eventually become more adept. I’m fine with crafting your skills, but this should be an option at the safehouse. Throw in some training rooms and target ranges. Don’t make me question my ability to shoot a bad guy without missing and setting off an alarm. Also, an entertaining hand-to-hand combat system should be an option. Something between Sleeping Dogs and Metal Gear Solid. You know, just in case the ammo runs out and you want to look cool beating up those nameless thugs.

Finally, the most important element of a quintessential spy game is the world. Now, let’s keep this in perspective. We don’t need a massive open world with zero loading times to make the spy game interesting. In fact, I would actually prefer a game that functions similarly to Hitman or Alpha Protocol. Set the story in multiple locales and use a hub world as a jumping off point. Considering that this game should be set in the 60’s, you could use Cuba, Washington D.C., the USSR, and England as a few backdrops. Plus, these varying cities would provide different weather systems for the hardware. Who wouldn’t want to see the Kremlin during a blizzard or tail a contact through seedy Havana?

On a side note, I don’t think that this spy game should include vehicles. Let’s just focus on crafting a perfect experience before we worry about throwing in cars, boats, motorcycles, or helicopters. Baby steps.

So, these are the elements that I believe would make a phenomenal spy game, preferably one set in the 60’s. What factors would make up your dream game?