CounterSpy heats up the Cold War with tense sneaking and shooting

counterspy lead

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Daring escapades, mind-blowing gadgets, world travel, and a litany of attractive mates are all common perks of a silver screen secret agent’s life. But I believe the true allure of being a super spy is the confidence and ability to react to any situation, and deal with each curveball thrown your way with skill and panache. And if that means kicking a little ass when you need to, so be it. CounterSpy ($5) shares that philosophy, challenging you to stay alive and react to the threats that emerge in an array of side-scrolling stages. You’ll sneak around, ambush unsuspecting guards, and prevent a nuclear missile strike—all with taps and swipes.

Enticing espionage

counterspy headshot

A well-placed headshot with a silenced pistol will do the trick, but sneaking up for a melee takedown will save precious ammo.

CounterSpy was first released for PlayStation platforms, but its streamlined scope and compact missions make it an ideal fit for portable play on phones and tablets. You’ll infiltrate bases in search of missile launch plans, which are snagged from bulky, Cold War-era computers before they explode. Problem is, the locales are crawling with armed guards and security cameras, so brazenly firing a rifle or sprinting freely through corridors will only get you seen and shot. Then the nukes launch and the communists win. 

In other words, don’t do that. Being smart and deliberate with your actions is the key to success, as you scope out the threats in each room and wait for your chance to strike or continue on quietly. That means ducking behind cover when available, shooting out cameras, silencing guards with headshots and silent takedown moves, and not smashing up computers while enemies are within earshot. You’re bound to deal with a panic-inducing frenzy of gun-waving guards at some point, but careful play can largely avoid that. And it’s much more satisfying that way.

Be the unseen invader

counterspy gameplay

Many rooms have multiple levels, which make for even trickier interactions. Not only must you be careful about where (and when) you move from one floor to the next, but making a ruckus can also alert nearby guards above and below.

counterspy weapons

Being thorough is crucially important, as finding secret intel not only earns you bonus cash, but also unlocks special gear. You’ll want to stock up between missions, as well as purchase formulas that enhance your abilities in the field.

counterspy cover

Ducking into cover (by tapping twice a spot where you can duck out of sight) is essential not only for hiding from the enemy, but also getting a better view of what’s ahead. It breaks from the typical 2D perspective and lets you clearly assess threats before making a move.

counterspy graphics

The minimally textured environments are eye-catching and effective. CounterSpy doesn’t spend too much time on narrative, aside from a quick intro sequence, opting to instead focus on the sneak-and-shoot action.

Why it’s worth your money

CounterSpy delivers excitement in small, mobile-friendly doses. Each mission takes maybe seven or eight minutes to complete, and you’ll need to clear about five or six of them to find enough intel to unlock the last level and finish each adventure. Play sloppily and you’ll start the campaign over from scratch. String together several completed missions, on the other hand, and you’ll have a compete adventure in about an hour. The broken-up design makes it perfect for playing on your commute, lunch break, or even unnecessarily extended sessions in a bathroom stall.

Additionally, the randomized level arrangements mean you can play the campaign over and over with a new experience each time, and higher difficulty settings provide much more challenge for hardened snoops. CounterSpy could use more finesse with its controls, however: I had occasional inputs register incorrectly, which adds a frustrating layer of clumsiness. Luckily, it’s not enough of an issue to take the shine off of this smart spy affair, which can pump some tense, tactical action into your day’s more mundane moments.

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