Captured by the game
Antique Code Show Take my money! Spy Hunter at the arcade was definitely school of hard knocks, just trying to stay alive meant keeping my foot on the brake as the Peter Gunn soundtrack, with it’s chugging beeps, ricocheted around my head.
Arcade moneyspinner turned console favourite
Ported to my NES, the whole Spy Hunter experience was more fun and decidedly less expensive. My mission was to race down the highway taking out enemy vehicles in a blaze of glory that, in retrospect, seems at odds with the clandestine and covert dealing you would expect from an underground operative. OK, I know James Bond likes to put himself about a bit but maybe my trigger-happy ways account for my almost constant need for my only ally the weapons truck.
Keep on truckin'
The game itself has a simple principle, drive fast, avoid crashing and kill baddies. I start off speeding along the highway in my G-6155 Interceptor. I try to avoid smashing any civilian cars even though they seemed determined to get in my way and cause collisions. But hey, the faster I drive, the higher my score. So I have resist constantly laying on the brakes for fear of hitting something.
I get a short grace period at the beginning of the game to learn the ropes, which is counted down at the bottom of the screen. After this time is up, enemy cars start showing up thick and fast. I have to contend with the Switch Blade with buzz saws attached that slash my tyres. And I can’t fire at armour-plated cars that, as I need to knock them off the road or use my handy fallbacks – the oil slick and smoke screen – to survive.
Need for speed
Beware the boss limo with a shotgun and, as if my spy life wasn’t hard enough, there is a pesky helicopter that bombs me from above. Such assaults mean stealthy swerves are essential to avoid sections of exploded tarmac. I always have the feeling I am the hunted rather than the hunter and am scared of everything showing up on the screen.
Thank god for my weapons truck (Knight Rider, anyone?), which drops its ramps to restock me at convenient times with different missiles, smoke bombs and oil slicks. If I wipe out any civilian vehicles the weapons truck doesn’t trust me anymore and I to have to make do with what I’ve got.
Top down gaming of the early 1980s was never about the graphics. Indeed, all I see apart from a bunch of vehicles are some trees, tarmac and a bush. Lucky there is a boat mode to keep my attention, as the road splits and I can enter a boathouse do to battle on the water just like the Everglades boat chase in Live and Let Die.
I never stayed alive long enough to see the seasons change to winter in this game, but I am pretty sure icy roads never make for good driving conditions. I guess in John Le Carre's book, I was the spy who never made it to the cold. ®
Developer Bally Midway
Publisher Bally Midway, licensed by Sunsoft for NES
Release Date 1983
Platform Arcade, DOS, NES, Amstrad, Apple II, Atari, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum
More info Available on the iTunes app store.
More Retro Games
Return to Castle
|Ten... 8-bit classics|
Many an hour at the students union...
.... was spent between three of us trying to get the high score on the Spy Hunter machine, where you got to enter your three letters if you got into the top 20 I think it was. Me (KAS), my mate PNC and the mysterious RAJ (who neither I nor PNC ever met) were the sole occupants of the leader board, and spent the best part of two years trading the number 1 spot.
The fact that we never once saw RAJ - who clearly spent as much time on it as we did - kinda added to the otherwise tenuous "spy" aspect.
A top-20 game lasted well over an hour, and you were absolutely knackered by the end of it. Other guys would come up and ask "how many fking games of that are you playing?" to be met with the reply "just the one mate, hopefully be a while yet though".
As for the snow and ice, yes it was difficult. It was always a relief to get through the other end of that part.
Good times, and I definitely got my money's worth out of that machine.
(and to PNC and RAJ, if by some fluke you happen to read El Reg, cheers! The constant battle for number 1, the frustration when you just fell short, the satisfaction from getting the top score, the picture I had in my mind of RAJ in particular seeing a new high score on the screen - that's what made it such fun)
Black Helicopter because, well, it just seems appropriate for Spy Hunter.
Excellent bit of music
I loved Spy Hunter, esp it playing Peter Gunn. Pity I was pretty useless at it!
Re: BIG HAPPY SMILE
Outrun was good, but not quite the best. Why? Lack of turbo boost and guns. I give you: Chase HQ.
back when games were ROCK HARD, and it was an amazing achievement to get through the first level!
this was a particularly difficult game, but oh so worthy of those 10 pences I had so few of
But no mention of the...
Ability of your car to transform into a boat, and then blow up as you miss the ramp to get out of the water and back onto the road :)
How much time did I waste on my C64 in the 80's :)