In the 80’s Spy Hunter was the game to play especially if your arcade was lucky enough to have the full sit-down version of the game that was actually shaped like the car. It had fast driving, a bunch of different weapons and a theme that stayed stuck in your head for months. I loved Spy Hunter; I just sucked really really bad at it.
Spy Hunter showed up in arcades in 1983, developed by Bally Midway you played the role of a spy driving a high-tech sports car. Your mission was to race down the mother of all freeways taking out enemy vehicles which later really seemed un-spy like to me. While it is true James Bond is known for his awesome cars it’s not like all he did was drive around taking out bad guys, but then again maybe that would have been better than Die Another Day.
Speaking of James Bond, the early versions of the game used the theme created by Monty Norman, but because of copyright issues Midway was forced to change the theme to a version of Henry Mancini’s, Peter Gunn. Strangely the theme only plays during certain parts of the game like the beginning and when you get a new weapon beyond that there is no music and only the in-game sound effects.
Now the game itself is not too difficult in principle, you start off on a highway in your G-6155 Interceptor which was modeled after the 1983 Camaro Z28. On the top of your screen you have your score and a timer counting down from 1000. During this phase you have unlimited lives to get use to the game.
Along the route you will run into civilian cars which you are not to destroy even though some of them seem to move into your path or try to bump you. It is truly humiliating when one of the civilian cars blazes by you even when you are driving at full speed. If you destroy a civilian car your score counter stops denying you of points for a while and your weapons truck will only show up once per area to give you new weapons.
Once your “free time” is over you will begin to encounter enemy cars such as ones with blades that come from its tires to slash yours sending you off the road. There are also armor plated cars which you can’t shoot, you have to knock them off the road or use a smoke screen or an oil slick. You also have a limo which will pull alongside you to shoot you in the face with a shotgun and finally a helicopter that drops bombs on you.
To help you out on your “Spy Hunting” your weapons van (which looks a lot like Optimus Prime) will come every so often and give you different weapons including an oil slick, a smoke screen or missiles. All these weapons have limited usage, but can be refilled if you live long enough and don’t kill any civilian cars. Your weapons van (which really is a semi-truck) will give you new weapons and refill existing ones.
The graphics were what you would expect from 1983, it was a top down game meaning you played from an overhead view and the landscape only had minor changes in color and a plant or two on the side of the road. The exception was when you switched to boat mode and fought on the water and when you entered the winter area where the ground was icy.
I personally only made it to the boat twice and the ice level once, this is because I sucked really bad. Also you could have all three weapons upgrades on your car at one time, but again, you had to not suck as much as I did.
The game was very successful and ported to pretty much every computer and console system of the day and a movie was even in the works starting The Rock, but there has been little news of its production of late.
Spy Hunter is classic action even though driving on the highway is not really Spy Hunting and your car is pretty lame at first and civilian cars drive faster than you and the switchblade cars sucked major ass and being shot in the face by a limo blows chunks and the music turned off making the explosion of my car audible to everyone and I ran out of quarters trying to get to the boat level.
You can find this game in its flash version pretty much anywhere and its worth trying out, there are other versions and a Spy Hunter 2, but the original was the best in my opinion and one day I hope to make it back to that icy level.