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Assault Spy

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Wazen
Release Date: Oct. 2, 2018


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PC Review - 'Assault Spy'

by Cody Medellin on May 27, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Assault Spy is a stylish, fast paced, pure-action game with a dash of comedy where you dash, evade, and smash your way to the truth as the corporate spy, Asaru; or the reckless CIA agent, Amelia!

Action games like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry are rarely imitated nowadays. The fast-paced, high-combo 3D action game isn't that easy to replicate, with several games opting for something slower-paced with more puzzle elements, like the older God of War games. Titles like this are daunting to big development teams, so it seems highly unlikely that indies are going to give it a shot. Yet here we are with Assault Spy, an indie game developed by one person, and the title accomplishes that goal — within reason.

You play the role of Asaru Vito, a very competent corporate spy who's been running into a string of bad luck due to his new partner Kanoko, whose rookie mistakes have led to many lost contracts. With his last job also ending in failure, Asaru has been assigned the task of casing the hi-tech security firm, Negabot. When he arrives, he finds the place in the middle of a very hostile takeover from a duo of eccentric terrorists, and all of the employees have been forced out. He's now being roped into saving the very company he was sent to infiltrate.

The story itself is quaint, even though the reluctant hero trope feels familiar. However, the characters and bits of humor make the plot quirky and worthy of attention. Kanoko's carefree attitude and mistakes provide the game with some great comic relief, while the major villains do a good job of hamming things up. While Asaru goes for the straight man role throughout the title, his counterpart in American spy Amelia has enough of a cocky attitude to counter that. The emoticons displayed by most of the robots you beat up will make you chuckle. Even Asaru's choice of weaponry — including exploding business cards, a metal briefcase, and an umbrella — is odd but appreciated over more traditional fare. The decision to sprinkle the game with funny bits is appreciated, and the game is more enjoyable because of it.

As alluded to earlier, the core gameplay loop will be familiar to anyone who's played a Platinum Games title. Your basic attacks consist of a light and heavy attack, and the order and timing with which you press the buttons can unleash a bevy of different combos. This includes air combos, so it's common to launch the enemy into the air and then jump in for a few more hits while suspended. You'll have most of your fights in large office floors, and there's enough room for you to dash to and from enemies. The large amount of space might seem like you'll lose track of who's attacking you, but the game does a great job of placing indicators that let you know where enemies are and when they'll strike. Doing well in each fight gives you a grade and coins, which can be turned in at kiosks to give you more moves, a new weapon, and even the ability to call on Kanoko for an assist.

There are a few additional elements that feel good. First off, the game doesn't provide a traditional energy meter. Instead, you have a hit counter where you can only take a maximum number of hits per fight before failing. The game gives you some leeway in that some fallen enemies give you hit point refills, but for the most part, the system is made in a way that you'll get better at not getting hit. The letter rankings for each combo also give you a meter and a numerical percentage that counts down whenever you're not hitting anything, so it's a better way to gauge what's needed to achieve high-ranking combos. The game also has checkpoints after every fight, so there's not much backtracking to be done when you die or continue from an older session.

There's not too much to complain about from a gameplay perspective. The camera can get a bit squirrelly, especially with lots of obstacles in each room, but a lock-on function and the ability to destroy most things in a room make up for that. The enemy variety isn't that wide, but boss fights do a good job of making that a minor hiccup. Other than that, everything here plays well.

The main campaign runs at about six hours, which can feel a little short for genre fans. Luckily, Assault Spy takes this into account and compensates with the expected unlockable difficulty levels that make enemies stronger while reducing the number of hits you can take in a battle. The game also has a survival mode available, but the more appreciated addition is the ability to play as Amelia, which is a different experience altogether. She still goes through the same events as Asaru, but she has different cut scenes to go through. More importantly, her move set is different enough to create a very different experience, with more of an emphasis on blocks and counters rather than rapid-fire light and medium blows.

For the most part, the presentation is quite good. The soundtrack is full of pulse-pounding beats for every fight that keeps the tempo high to match the action, while the cut scenes allow the soundtrack to have more bounce to match the occasional levity. The sound effects match well, and the voice acting is quite good, although some will dislike that the only available audio track is Japanese. Meanwhile, the graphics are pretty nice, with the Unreal Engine being put to good use, and lots of shine and particle effects are present when you fight. The video glitch effect when you get hit is very clear to read, and while some may say that the game's text is rather large, it's a good contrast to some modern games, where the UI text can be too small.

The limitations of being a one-person development studio are seen in more than a few areas, though. Any character that isn't a named one will sport blank faces, and mouth movement isn't present for the major characters. Cut scenes seem to sport a slightly aggressive bloom to the point that some facial features are washed out. There are also times when some of the more common animations, such as wrist movement, can feel erratic, and walking looks odd because it features a slowed-down run animation.

Assault Spy is a hidden gem that you rarely see nowadays. It may look a little unpolished at times, but the combat system feels so good that you won't mind much about the aesthetics. The main campaign with Asaru may feel short to some since it clocks in at about six hours, but the unlockable difficulty levels and a different story perspective for Amelia gives the game some longevity that most don't expect from a game developed by just one person. Assault Spy is a great complement to any Platinum Games title, and fast-action fans should check it out.

Score: 8.0/10

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