If you judged the quality of the latest in the Spy Hunter series, Nowhere to Run, on how it's presented in the manual, then you might get excited about this mix of action and racing. Just look at the list of available weaponry for the of-foot portions of the game: hand cannons, rifles, machine guns, grenades, and more. Add that to the racing segments that cover both land and sea and feature weapons aplenty, and you've got a fairly stretched out adventure, nicely divided into handy dandy replayable missions. The problem lies in this "jack of all trades" mentality, where elements of nearly every genre creep into a game that does no one thing well enough to climb above mediocrity.
It's the way the game shifts from third-person action to racing that helps determined players stay the course through all 12 missions. The car racing mode offers throwbacks to the classic Spy Hunter, such as smoke screens, oil slicks, and other weapons, while adding new ones and an sporting an updated look. The boat racing segments offer more of the same--with a strong focus on weaponry and a stage layout complete with ramps, sideline targets such as gun turrets, and plenty of enemy racers. There's even a slow-mo mode that makes it easier to target enemies. The looser, drift-style controls combined with fast-paced level design, make the racing missions a welcomed breather from on-foot ones.
What better way to welcome a new concept to the Spy Hunter franchise than with the Rock himself? In Nowhere to Run, the opening mission finds him deeply entrenched in enemy territory attempting to save the mighty Interceptor from the evil NOSTRA. Decked out in the most tell-tale undercover garb (complete with fake ‘stache), the Rock is ill-equipped to handle cookie-cutter fare such as this, but he throws in a few lines and makes an otherwise generic adventure a little less so.
What better way to welcome a new concept to the Spy Hunter franchise than with the Rock himself?
Honestly, the initial hand-to-hand sequences are some of the most satisfying the game has to offer. Of course you'd expect to "smell what the Rock is cooking," and indeed you will, as he serves up backbreakers, neckbreakers, arm locks, and a plethora of finishing moves, along with a few basic punches complete with slow-mo finishers.
And for the first hour or two, combat rolling up to enemies and checking them "into the Smack Down Hotel" is simple and satisfying. As soon as weapons come into the picture, the sluggish aiming system spoils the novelty of the game. I would have preferred to go hand-to-hand all the way or shoot in first-person, as the dual stick, third-person controls make it difficult to enjoy gun battles. Sadly, the camera does nothing to help an already lost cause. Level design is nothing to write home about either, but it's simple enough to get through missions and on to the racing segments.
It's funny because playing a game like this should remind us how far we've come from the original Spy Hunter—a top down, insanely fast action/racing hybrid (and who could forget the Peter Gunn Theme?) What it really does is reinforce how a tired plot, star power, 3D graphics, and mish-mash of popular genres do not equal a hit. And they sure don't surpass a much older and much simpler concept. Take note developers: We don't need our games to be all things to all people, just enough to entertain and maybe, just maybe, make us think once in a while. If you have a hankering for some Rock, rent one of his movies. And if you must play the game, do so with a backup plan, you might find yourself an hour or so in to it with no desire to keep going