I spy, with my little eye, a crappy game that makes me want to cry - Review By Mad Carl
Industrial Spy: Operation Espionage (or I-Spy for those of you who won't confuse the name with the cool old Bill Cosby / Robert Culp television series) is a tangled mess of a game that keeps begging for me to like it, even though I know better.
My relationship with I-Spy has been rocky at best. In fact, it's been a bit like that pretty girl you start dating, only to discover she possesses deeply rooted psychological issues and is destined to someday kill someone and claim her cat told her to do it. You really want to like her. You find yourself making excuses for her odd behavior and sometimes you even find yourself believing them. However, the day comes when you finally realize that no matter what you think or say or do, the woman is still a psychopath and she still isn't any fun to be around.
I-Spy takes you to the far-flung future year of 2000. Corporations have taken over the world and have, predictably, become evil monsters in need of being taken down a few notches.
You control a group of "Espion Agents" who work for "Blitzstrahl, the crack industrial espionage team with seven primary agents that you will utilize to crack some of the toughest industrial espionage challenges the world has ever seen." I'm always excited when they use the word "crack" twice in the same sentence on the back of the jewel case.
Now, right here, you can see what I'm talking about with the whole good/bad love/hate thing. You're in charge of a team of kick ass agents. Cool. It's the year 2000. Yawn. Give me something, anything that sounds even mildly more futuristic than the year that the game is released. Even saying it is 2015 is better than 2000. But anyway, let's get down to the nitty-gritty.
Your agents each have a skill set that makes them a specific cog in the machinery that is your team. Learning which agent is good at what is very important to survival. Need a hacker in this mission? Oops. You forgot to sign on Archangel. Hope Saunders' lackluster hacking skills will pay the bills.
If there's one good thing about the game, it's the character designs.
As you finish missions, you are rewarded with experience points. These points can be used to improve your agents, adding a welcomed touch of pseudo role-playing to the game.
Each mission has a snazzy spy-themed goal for you to reach. Not only are the goals intriguing, they are original takes on tried and true game/movie plot devices. You aren't just stealing a priceless painting -- you're helping the owners of the gallery with a bit of insurance fraud. Your spies don't just swipe the plans for a super laser -- you're there to get the dirt on just what the contractor's bid is to build the super laser. These may be only small story-telling touches, but they show that at some point in this troubled game's history, someone cared quite a bit about it and used a loving hand in its creation.
Later missions will sometimes take place in the same locale as an earlier mission. This not only gives the impression of your spy organization working up something of a clientele, it allows you to re-use some of the same tactics as in earlier missions. Having repeat locales also adds to the overall feeling of world continuity and story.
Finally, in the middle of an otherwise convoluted and hateful interface sits a gem of a character-switching mechanism. My first thought upon seeing this game in screenshots was "how do I manage all of my agents at once?" Easy. Hold the X button down and point the D-Pad at whomever you wish to take control of. It's seamless. It's flawless. If the rest of the game were as well executed as this one feature, then this review would read "Game good. Go buy now." Instead, I'm going to have to tell you just the opposite...
Gene Siskel used to have a ten word review for films that made him want to cry at their horridness: "There's two hours of my life I'm not getting back." If only two hours is all anyone in the world has lost to I-Spy, because then it would be over. The pain and suffering would end and we could all just move on.
The map is helpful in getting your bearings.
I have heard that "the only intuitive interface is the nipple." If that's true, then I have found the anti-nipple. After spending quite a bit of time with I-Spy, I have come to the conclusion that someone sat down and tried to develop a way of controlling this game that dares you to keep playing.
More text windows fly at you than can be counted. But that's fine. After playing plenty of games with the words "final" and "fantasy" in their title, I can deal with text windows. These windows, however, contain options that either do noting more than elicit a "beep" or lead to another, equally confusing, text window.
That "beep" I was hearing so often when I would tell my agent to perform an action, was my notification that the agent was all tuckered out from the last time he had used that particular skill. You see, the agents all have skill points. These skill points dwindle each time a skill is used and slowly replenish themselves. And I do mean SLOWLY. An agent can hack a computerized door lock, run down the hall and encounter another lock, only to have to wait a minute or more before they have their wits about them enough to begin hacking the new lock. This stop-go-stop-go stuff is a surefire way to kill the game's pacing, and it does.
Next: A Lot More Bad, and The Final Word