Sadly, The Rock does not appear in this game.
Spy Hunter is a former Midway property, popularized in the arcade in the ‘80s followed by years of reboots up until 2006’s Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson-starring salvo on PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Now, Warner Bros. and TT Fusion are teaming up to bring the series to 3DS with Spy Hunter, which is the third entry in the series to be simply called Spy Hunter. The original game was focused on controlling a weaponized car and racing along stretches of road, fighting enemies and surviving. Unfortunately, the new game doesn’t change up the formula much, offering the same car combat experience, this time with dodgy controls.
For the most part, the game consists of a series of missions where you take the combat-ready super car from point A to point B while surviving and fending off enemies, occasionally branching into off-road sequences through rough terrain or water. Ideally, you want to outrun your opponents, but if you can’t, you have to use your weaponry to deal with them. These instances of chaotic combat are fun, and the strategy that opens up as you unlock and upgrade your weapons is somewhat rewarding. You begin with four weapons, one for each of the four weapon locations (front, rear, side, roof), and the game regularly doles out new ones constantly. I was a big fan of the saw blades that would emit from the side of the car and the large front grill that messes up all comers with a giant explosion. While not all the weapons are that cool, Spy Hunter generally does weaponry right.
It doesn’t do the controls right, though. Button-wise, it all makes sense, with the R and L buttons for accelerating and decelerating respectively, and the face buttons for launching weapons. However, the feel of the car using the Circle Pad is loose and imprecise. The slightest bit of turmoil will ruin any chance of deftly using weapons while avoiding crashing. Overturning and having to stop to readjust can be an in-game death warrant, especially considering how dogged the enemies can be in hounding you.
The entire experience isn’t just old Spy Hunter with a new sheen, though. The game throws in a few new things, such as the air support drone, which lets you view the action from above and more easily plot your wanton destruction on opposing forces. The gameplay doesn’t change much when this happens, and ultimately it’s more a distraction than anything that adds to the experience. There are also a wide variety of achievements and the aforementioned upgrades, which are a mildly compelling carrot throughout the game.
Spy Hunter occupies that peculiar ground where it tries to be something new and fresh while not straying far enough from the original game’s formula. Because of that, it falls short on not one but two accounts. The game doesn’t feel fresh, and it slavishly follows the original’s game mechanics. A few fun moments show up every now and then, chiefly courtesy of the bombastic weaponry, but it’s just not worth playing the rest of the game to get to those fleeting moments of explosion-ridden car chase excellence.