The scene is set quickly; you’re hired to infiltrate robot/AI tech firm Negabot Corportation. Their offices have been overrun and it’s your job to fight your way through the mal-programmed security bots to strike the source of the problem; a terrorist group lead by the mysterious gentleman, Mr. Showtime. As Negabot’s Development Manager, Yoneda tells you, Japam (Japan) is close to being entirely reliant on its outsourcing of IT tech, as it’s the only area in which it can compete with the rest of the world. You need to save the company so grab your briefcase and umbrella and get ready to hand out some business cards. Take that bemused look off your face – you’re the most exciting kind of spy: a corporate spy!
A Salaryman Can’t Afford to run out of Business Cards. That’s Just Common Sense.
It’s a short, sweet and simple throwaway plot that contains lots of fun exchanges between the purposefully tropey characters. Self-awareness goes a long way and these guys know what they’re doing. The upbeat brand of speedy anime dead-pan/straight-man back and forth makes for a persistently entertaining backdrop to the action. The fourth wall-breaking references and quips are well handled and I really enjoyed antagonist, Chidori’s, snobby commentary on your progress as well as your quirky agency partner, Kanoko, dealing out crushing putdowns and generally winding-up Asaru. One of the brilliantly named bosses (Officers) is described as having ‘cutting edge AI but perfect business etiquette’ which gives you a taste of how daft things get.
The campaign is near-doubled as you have a choice between cool, straight-laced, underappreciated, Asaru or the manic, keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat, gunblade-wielding CIA agent, Amelia – both of whom have their own plotline. The game’s time in Early Access has clearly given the developers the drive to flesh out the content in time for full release.
An anime cast blasts out dialogue without pause, artistic blur effects and camera movement during story sequences and an overall high-energy pace keep you feeling like you’ve downed a full pack of Pro Plus. Between this and the ludicrous movement speed when holding down the dash button it’s getting to caffeine-induced heart attack territory. Embrace it.
No time for Downtime
While the game doesn’t stand toe-to-toe with Platinum Games’ great Bayonetta titles or gold standard for many; the Devil May Cry series (alright, some of them), it does bear distinct similarities in gameplay style. Frenzied third person melee combos can be whipped out at lightning speed and I always found them satisfying to pull off. The barrier for entry is low and I found the combo input to be very forgiving. Once you’ve unlocked a wider array of moves you can really get deep into the mechanics and options aplenty ensure gameplay is kept as interesting as a weaponised Segway (which, naturally, is in this game as an enemy and is as mad as it sounds).
Standard right-stick camera control applies, and it all feels suitability polished and buttery-smooth. Attacks are broadly handled through two buttons with combo variance applied in use of timing gaps and long presses, though additional weaponry becomes available allowing for greater depth (as I mentioned early, Asaru rocks a heavy umbrella after a couple of levels). Your combo juggling skills can be refined in the game’s ‘Dojo’ training mode, available between levels.
The run button sends protagonists Asaru and Amelia into a dash the Blue Blur would be proud of, allowing for quickly darting between enemies and projectiles, while closing the gaps to kick off the next crazy combo. Air-dashing and dodging around is an absolute delight and you always feel firmly in control. It’s worth noting that the framerate holds up perfectly, which is of paramount importance to a game of this genre.
There’s a gimmick introduced early on that I relied on to get me out of some rough fixes. When equipped with your ‘Overclock Watch’, hitting the trigger will activate the game’s take on bullet time – Overclock mode accelerates movement (by slowing down time) and allows you to perform explosive flurries of offensive carnage. I love the OP feeling and with meter management it never feels cheap.
With various difficulty settings, the game can be as difficult or as easy as you wish. Normal difficulty serves up a decent challenge in many sections so if you’re not confident with this speed of gameplay it might be worth taking it down a notch. Take a Sunset Overdrive ethos and keep moving. Spy Assault isn’t afraid to punish you if you don’t figure out the best plan of attack for each enemy type but checkpoints are frequent, so you’ll be thrust back into the fray faster than a government cutting taxes for fat cat friends.
While bigger hits have a bit of weight behind them, a lot of attacks feel a tad floppy. That said all the slow-motion cues, such as when you narrowly dodge, are very well executed. When taking damage there are pixelated glitches and screen tears aplenty, fitting the aesthetic seamlessly. The screen feels busy with the usual health bars, combo meters (with slick-as-hell names like ‘Business’ and ‘Economy’), big words and directional icons to let you know where enemy attacks are coming from. It’s par for the course, really.
Stylistically, though Assault Spy has a Superhot like quality in some aspects, I found the game’s environments to be fitting but fairly tedious in the clinical setting. That said, they’re merely rooms to allow the flow of combat to take point and I didn’t find it a big deal contextually. Moving room-to-room serves only to split the action for checkpointing, scoring and story beats.
There are some minor bugs, such as results screen display for longer than it should, and players being forced to hover around the front of a terminal or NPC before the button-prompt to interact decides to pop up. I’ve also come across a couple of instances of the subtitles disappearing (though this didn’t necessarily reoccur in the same places) but overall the bugs are infrequent and amount to nothing more than a passing frustration.
Graphics & Presentation: 4
Overall Score: 4/5
It all holds together really well as a high-score/time attack game and unlockable skills and buffs are plentiful. There’s plenty of meat on the bones and if you’re a fan of this type of action game then Assault Spy is a business-class reservation you should definitely book.
Format: PC – Steam
PC Rig used for Review: i5-8400, GTX1070ti, 16GB RAM, OS: Win10
Price: £24.99 (Steam)
Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: 02/10/18 (Steam)
Review copy provided by publisher