Spycraft: The Great Game

I remembered this game from when I was a teenager. I remember watching my friend play a little bit of it during a sleepover and then I never heard about it again. Cut to seeing it on GOG.com. I bought it for under five dollars and just this past weekend I decided to try and play it.

The game is a full-motion video title that came out at a time when FMV was all the rage. FMV games are typically adventure games that incorporate actual video into cutscenes and gameplay. I have only played a handful of these but I find them fascinating. In this game, you take the role of Agent Thorn, an operations agent for the CIA. You are a rookie agent who gets thrown into the field when a Russian presidential candidate is assassinated. You and your team are tasked with tracking down the killers and uncovering the conspiracy that has infiltrated the CIA. Along the way, you get caught up with the KGB, the Russian Mafia, MI6, and American mercenaries. You meet dozens of interesting characters on both sides played by decent actors in glorious FMV.

The gameplay is rather interesting and is really what I remembered from my previous fleeting experience. The bulk of the gameplay is divided into two categories: puzzles and dialogue. The puzzles are all based on forensics and analysis of data. I will give a couple of examples. The first major one is using a trajectory plotting tool to figure out where the shooter was. Then you use facial-recognition software to figure out who the killer was from a photo taken of the window where he shot from. Then you use evidence from the photographs and eyewitness reports to determine what the likely firearm used was. From there, you have to track down how the experimental weapon was stolen through an entirely different set of puzzles. As a former sound designer, one of my favorite puzzles was scanning background audio of phone message to figure out where an informant has fled to. There are plenty of really neat games to play.

Dialogue gameplay is where you question other characters and navigate through dialogue trees to get the information you need. One particular one that I loved in the game so far is an interrogation of a female agent. You are given the option to torture her by a senior agent but are warned against it and reminded of the Geneva Convention. You are presented with several different strategies as you interrogate her. You can go ahead and torture her, you can merely threaten her with torture, you can come on strong with threats, you can fake her into believing that her lover has already been caught, you can imply that this lover has already betrayed her, and you can imply that her cooperation will benefit her and/or her lover. I chose to fake her lover being caught (with a really good-looking photoshop) and then let her believe that it was in her best interest to cooperate. She did.

There is also a combat system but it does not seem to come into play a lot yet. I plan to only resort to violence when the game forces me to. So far, I’ve been able to outsmart any bad guys.

The game was made by Activision with cooperation by former CIA Director Willaim Colby and former KGB Major-General Oleg Kalugin who actually both play themselves in FMV cutscenes. This accounts for the game really feeling like you are in the CIA and faced with a lot of the moral dilemmas that they faced. It is a fascinating world but of course, they made the game a lot less morally gray than real life. The real CIA is not to be trusted. Additionally, the depiction of the easy access of any intelligence database in the world (FBI, ATF, Police, Interpol, etc.) is frightening. It can only be worse now. All of that aside, it is a really fun game with a compelling story.

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