As you probably know, Retro Magazine is the coolest magazine in the world for folks interested in retrogaming. If you’re not already subscribed to it, I may have to come over to your place and slap you with a fish. For the next issue, I’ve been tapped by the editors to put to put together a feature article on spy games. Spy games? What the heck does Matt know about spy games? Sadly, not a lot! However, I’ve been giving myself a crash course in the genre and trying to get to know these characters:
- Duke Togo (Golgo 13)
- Gabriel Logan (Syphon Filter)
- James Bond (GoldenEye N64)
- Michael Thorton (Alpha Protocol)
- Sam Fisher (Splinter Cell)
Sadly, I only recognized one name from this list: Bond, James Bond! Thankfully, I have played all the way through GoldenEye, albeit on my DS rather than the N64 (though I’m pretty sure I own it for both). I’ve always been a James Bond fan–I grew up watching Roger Moore-era Bond movies that we rented from the local VHS place. The fact that the VCR came in a cool suitcase seemed appropriate for watching a secret agent movie!
It’s been interesting learning about the other characters on the list, however. Duke Togo is based on an old manga series, which I’ve ordered from Amazon. Apparently, he’s a remorseless killer with zero morals, which ought to make for some fun reading. 😉
Syphon Filter was a major series on the PlayStation, which is probably why I missed it. Sadly, it still looks like a PC version was never released (please correct me if I’m wrong). I do own a PS and a PS2, though, so I should be able to get this game up and running to give it a spin this weekend. The YouTube videos I watched about it made it look really awesome. While I don’t normally like stealth games, it seems that this series doesn’t focus so much on that stuff and does make room for more run-and-gun play.
I wasn’t at all surprised to see Alpha Protocol on the list. I’ve played it briefly after picking it up during a Steam sale for something like $5. I thought it was very sad that the game didn’t turn out well, particularly after interviewing Chris Avellone about it before its release. He was really psyched about it at the time, but it didn’t have a great reception due to bugs. I’m wondering if there are patches or mods out there now to correct these. From what I understand, it’s a good, if not great, game once you get past the bugs.
At any rate, Alpha Protocol is the only spy CRPG I’m aware of, though it wouldn’t surprise if there were earlier ones. What always struck me about this was that there are tons of pen-and-paper based spy RPGs out there; the fact that there aren’t more computerized versions seems odd. I still don’t really understand why there are not more.
I’ve played lots of Tom Clancy games, but never made it all the way through one. They tend to get too difficult for me at the later stages. Still, I enjoyed the idea of a strategic FPS. I’ll have to go back and try to remember what it was like playing Sam Fisher.
At any rate, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this genre and what kind of information you think I should research and include in the piece. I’ve emailed them already about the omission of Solid Snake and Metal Gear; I’m guessing that was just a slip of the mind (after all, even I know about him).
In our book Vintage Games, we introduced the stealth game with Castle Wolfenstein, an old Apple II game designed by Silas Marner. However, you play a prisoner in that game (I don’t recall if you’re supposed to be a captured spy or just a soldier).
Anyway, if you have a moment, please share your thoughts on the spy genre, your favorite games, and the spy characters you like best.