241: World of Spycraft

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World of Spycraft

Most videogames about espionage present highly stylized accounts of what it's like to be a spy. But one mid-'90s gem had the guts to offer an unflinching simulation of real CIA operations. Anthony Burch revisits Activision's Spycraft: The Great Game.

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Heh, I actually have that game lying around somewhere. I don't think I've played it since '98 though. Maybe I should give it another go :)

That game sounds really interesting. If I ever find it, I'll give it a go. Maybe Good Old Games will put it up for sale eventually.

Played it back in the day but didn't get most of it since English isn't my first language and I was pretty young back then. I replayed it a couple of months ago, and loved it to bits. Great, logical puzzles that perfectly fit in with the story. My love for the game was reinforced by the ending, which is brilliant and made me feel really dirty no matter what I chose.

In 1985 there was a game that managed to capture the essence of spying, namely: sitting at a desk and reading files:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fourth_Protocol_(video_game)

Facinating. Well, if I ever get the opportunity, I'll give it a whirl. Thanks for the info Rev!

Yeah this reminds me of that EA game where they call your actual home phone and such. I was always interested in it, but never gave it a try. I wish I had.

This also sounds pretty interesting. Too bad there is probably no easy way to get this going on a mac.

To me, Covert Action (the game) still takes the cake.

Pity it's not on Steam. I want to play this now.

Seriously, this sounds pretty cool.

Must have a go at this, sounds awesome!

I always Enjoy reading Anthony Burch's articles. a nice new look at an older title. Aces mate Aces.

Hi Anthony! Welcome to The Escapist. I like the concept of realism and moral choice options of the game. Almost every other spy game is just as you mentioned some rugged 5 o' clock shadow bearing, eats nails for breakfast bad ass or some suave, rich, gentle, and good looking ladies man both types with enough weapons, gadgets, intelligence, and charm to save the world or destroy it completely. There are not enough spy games of this caliber and that may not be so bad but we all including you must enjoy these types of high quality gems that find our way to us every now and then.

Great job on the article and I hope to read more from you here and on Destructoid.

Nicely written, though I would like to point out I had to skip some bits of the article - namely where you started the sentence with 'take the ending for example' - dont tell me that, I'm going to hunt this game down now ;)

Great article and I was considering buying it, until the ending was given away of course. I don't remember reading a spoiler warning.

Otherwise it sounds like an interesting title, something to have for those days when I just wanna use my noggin. I wish that developers these days didn't play down to their audience so much.

Wow, I didn't expect Spycraft ever to really come up. A couple months ago, I was reading Oleg Kalugin's book about his experience in the KGB, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I looked further in to his life, only to find that he had made a game. I was, however, hesitant to go and find it, as it had been made in 1996, but after this I may just have to find it. Before this I'd never really heard it mentioned.

Oh man, I played this game several times on my 486 DX4-100...A trip down memory lane.

This was one of my favourite games of the 90's, thanks for bringing back the memories.
I think I even have the overly large 4 CD Case somewhere, it was green and hopefully my 4 year old hasn't destroyed it...

This sounds pretty awesome. Never heard of it.

Should definitely be a regular thing to bring old underappreciated games in to the limelight.

I seriously loved playing this game. I wonder if it still runs under Win7... I think I'm going to have to find out tonight.

(People interested in this game might also want to check out Uplink by Introversion -- it's lower budget and focused on hacking rather than spying, but at least in my brain they're filed as similar gameplay and a lot of fun. And Uplink is available on Steam.)

Sounds extraordinary. I'll be taking a look.

Nice article, definitely intrigued me.

I agree that in most "spy" games, you don't play as a spy.
You play as either a covert assassin or a James Bond type action hero.

If Spycraft gets on gog.com, I'll give it a look.
Fair enough. Thanks Anthony Burch.

Sounds interesting! Great article.

A really interesting article and a brilliant review of a game I've previously never heard mentioned or discussed. In entertainment it's often near impossible to find an accurate representation of a profession. Apart from the brilliant and 100% true to life Grey's Anatomy game.

While the newer James Bond films have been exploring the ruthlessness of James Bond as a character, none of them have attempted to portray the men behind the spy who spend years poring over telephone transcripts or, as you describe as an example, endlessly staring at a picture until they see a vital piece of evidence, or even more likely seeing nothing.

This game is one of the rare ones that helps to enlighten those of us with no experience in that world beyond what we see on a movie screen, that there are men and women behind the facade of martinis and attractive women who have to make decisions that will affect the lives of thousands every day and make decisions that could very well haunt them for the rest of their lives for the greater good.

While your article did whet my appetite for this game, I'll have to give it a miss. I doubt I have the patience and most importantly the moral fibre to see this game through to the end and the inevitably agonising decision.

Talk about nostalgia.

I remember playing that game when I was a little girl, visiting my Dad in the holidays. That and Doom.

I often wonder if it had an effect on my development..

Well that sounds A LOT like Phoenix Wright...

this sounds kinda awesome.-..

now.. How do you get hold of this ? :)

Azure-Supernova:
Great article and I was considering buying it, until the ending was given away of course. I don't remember reading a spoiler warning.

The journey is often far more important than the destination.

Y'know, I've never believed that what I've seen in Splinter Cell, Alpha Protocol, or James Bond is what real spies do. I'm not saying that any of those are bad or unentertaining, but I've always had to keep in the back of my mind going the caveat "The real CIA/KGB/MI6 doesn't work like that." Still, it's nice to know that a truly realistic espionage game like Spycraft can be made.

Thanks for the interesting article Anthony.

P.S. I'm a big fan of Destructoid! A very cool website.

sylphmortem:
To me, Covert Action (the game) still takes the cake.

Covert Action was a pretty cool game at the time. I can barely remember the game mechanics... most of the time you where breaking into enemy HQs searching for clues, or you could wiretap phonelines in a minigame... there was more I can't remember, but I recall having my share of fun with it.

If I remember correctly, the spy in the bad disguse went to the office at either the end of the day or after hours. So it wasn't like he was going to run into a lot of people the person knew anyways. He just needed something that would hold up at a distance.

The wierd part is I think a good chunk of the mechcanics are used in the CSI and Law and Order games, and they're very much of a niche market.

I remember this game. I enjoyed my time with it, although I wouldn't throw down the same type of accolades as this writer did. The game definitely had a number of cool, original ideas, such as plotting the path of a bullet to pinpoint an assassin (with a program ironically called the 'Kennedy Assassination Tool' if I recall correctly) and having to figure out the precise amount of torture to force on a subject to get them to talk without killing them or having them laugh at your efforts. Still, it was a FMV heavy game without a great deal of intervention from the player, except for a few conversation options, and the mini-games were a bit few and far-between, and most of the gameplay came down to trial and error, like trying to doctor a photo to trick a suspect in custody and having to get all the sizes and locations of things EXACTLY correct, to where pixel size shaving is the difference between success and failure.

I'm still waiting on the Spycraft sequel. At the end the game proclaimed that the character would be returning in Spycraft 2. I wouldn't mind playing through the first one again, but I'm not holding my breath on that possibility.

Also, check out Floor 13 for something similar. In it, you're not a spy, but rather the head of a British Black Ops service. Gameplay is menu driven and requires you balance your departments resources with careful analysis of the reports you get back from your various teams (insertion, stake-out, kidnapping, interrogation, etc) to see what needs to be done.

As a warning, the game actually has a number of set missions, but will slightly randomize when they start up. At times, this means that the situation is literally impossible to succeed at as it requires more resources than you have.

Must.
Find.
This game.
Now.

Just thought of this game the other day, actually :) Definitely a nice little overlooked gem. Of course, a lot of my enthusiasm was due to the fact that it was the late nineties and OMG VIDEO ON MY COMPUTER!

Here's the intro, it gives you an idea of the feel of the game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ63E8R8kd8

I never got through any of the Monkey Island games, but this made sense.

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