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‘Spy Hunter’: Classic game doesn’t translate to modern gaming devices

The original “Spy Hunter” came out in 1983 and, like the games of that era, didn’t rely heavily on story.

It was a top-down driving game in which the agent cruises along the freeway destroying enemy cars, blowing things up and avoiding death. It had a cool soundtrack and, if I see it in an arcade, I’ll play it because it’s still fun.

The newest edition of “Spy Hunter” from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has a lot in common with the original game; destroying enemy cars, cool music, explosions. But is it a worthy upgrade?

First, the good.

The game is action-packed from beginning to end. High-speed chases with explosions are satisfying on a primal level, and “Spy Hunter” delivers.

I liked that you could customize your weapons for each mission, even if the firepower was less than adequate sometimes. You have four weapons, one for each side of the car. You also have the help of an armed drone in a few levels.

Your car, the G-6155 Interceptor, can switch from supercar to speedboat or off-road assault vehicle at high speeds, Transformers-style. The roads sometimes branch off, giving you a choice between off-roading or hitting the water and improving the replay value.

Some of the missions require more than just firepower. “Spy Hunter” can, on occasion, be considered a puzzle game. You’ll have to figure out the best route to avoid being killed while also staying close to the vehicle you’re tracking.

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Now, the bad.

The story seems thrown in as an afterthought, and it’s surprisingly similar to the 1980s cartoon “Inspector Gadget.”

The heavily mustachioed chief sends you on a mission. He gives you a car that can change shapes depending on the terrain. Suddenly, a garbled voice threatens you over the radio, saying everything but “I’ll get you next time, Gadget.”

There was a lot of room for a good story to unfold here, and it didn’t. Video games have become an avenue for storytelling, and the fact that anyone would try to pass off this storyline today seems lazy.

Graphically, the game was less than impressive, and it doesn’t use any of the features of the PlayStation Vita besides the touch screen.

If you were dedicated, you could play the entire game in one sitting. It’s that short. Some of the levels use the same track, and there are no checkpoints. There were times I was only a second away from completing the level when I died, and I had to go all the way back to the beginning of the level after waiting through a long loading screen.

Another thing that bothers me is when games take the coolest action out of your hands to be cinematic. If you drive over a ramp, no matter the angle or speed, you will execute a perfect movie stunt. It means less if you can’t do it wrong.

There is a multi-player option, but only if you connect to your friends locally. Forget about playing with your brother in Michigan unless you’re there with him.

If “Spy Hunter” had been a $10 phone app, I would love it, but I expect a higher level of quality for $40 on a PS Vita or Nintendo 3DS. It’s the difference between watching reality TV and going to the movies. I just expect more from them.

Bottom line: C- “Spy Hunter” is fun, but is better suited to cellphones due to its lack of story and short gameplay.

Platforms: PlayStation Vita (tested), Nintendo 3DS

Online: http://tinyurl.com/chhmh35

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