by Ben Petchey
reviewed on PC
Lesson in how not to make a stealth game
When you think of stealth games, your mind naturally envisions interesting maps, nail-biting action and that moment of bliss when you successfully pop a bullet through your target’s head. Alekhine’s Gun tries to recreate these moments, but fails to hit the mark due to terrible AI, gawky controls and poor attention to detail.
If you’ve ever played a Hitman game, you’ll recognize the controls immediately. However, Alekhine’s Gun doesn’t pluck the controls from the new Hitman titles, it instead felt like playing a dim-witted version of Blood Money from 2006.
It’s worth mentioning that as well as the controls, the game also looks like a game from 2006. There seems to be a mixture of old and new textures for some reason, and guards are all identical. Their faces look like papier mâché spheres with a picture of some poor bloke’s face pinned over it – truly horrifying. If the PS2-esque look had been a conscious decision, that would have been OK – but it’s obvious this wasn’t what the developers were going for.
The absence of intelligence in artificial intelligence
The first mission appoints you the task of infiltrating a Nazi-controlled castle during the World War II. After throttling some guard puffing on a fag and nicking his uniform, you head inside. Once in there you are given three different objectives: assassinate an officer, assassinate a surgeon and destroy a magnetic tape.
Suited up in my Nazi attire, now inside the castle, this is where things start to fall apart. The disguise mechanic is a frequent occurrence in stealth games – Hitman especially. So going into the castle I was fairly confident that if I acted as inconspicuous as possible, there would be no trouble. Boy, how wrong I was.
In Alekhine’s Gun, guards will begin to fill a discovery gauge when they spot you – fair enough. You would expect, walking away from the guards and hiding would free you from their gaze – except it doesn’t. A guard grew suspicious of me as I entered the castle, I quickly headed upstairs and hid behind a wooden box, out of sight. Looking down, I saw that the guard was staring directly at me – through the box, discovery gauge still filling. So, how do you stop this from happening? Turn around. Yep, that’s right, spin around and face the other way. You can go anywhere you want so long as you’re facing away from everyone else. Heck, stand with your face clipped through the wall if it helps.
OK, so you’ve worked out how to “trick” the guards, but now you need to take them out to get to the specified targets. How do you do this? Well, this is where things go even further downhill. You have two options when trying to lure guards away from their group: switch off a light and wait for one to come running, or whistle – that’s it. On paper, you’d think you could make this work, but don’t be fooled. Switching the light off does work, one of the identical guards will come strolling over to switch it back on. But when you try and sneak up behind them to take them out, they quickly spin around and their discovery gauge starts filling up, often resulting in your quick death.
If you thought that was bad, whistling is even worse. For your whistle to be heard, you have to be really close to the guards. When your whistle is finally heard, about 4 or 5 identical guards come jogging over to see what’s going on. Then you’re left with them awkwardly standing in a doorway rubbing their chins out of pure confusion with no way of getting by.
Alekhine’s Gun fails to deliver the main thing it set out to deliver: stealth. There’s no reliable way to lure guards away from their group, no way to silently take out guards other than to use a wire or a knife, and no way to tactically go about a mission since each level is horridly linear. Is it any wonder then that one would attempt to go in guns blazing? This doesn’t work either. The shooting has no recoil, feels floaty and is genuinely a miserable time.
A game to mourn for
Stealth games are meant to be challenging and should feel like a tense, punishing experience. But Alekhine’s Gun is stretch too far and instead punishes you because of its poor mechanics and terrible AI. I can’t help but mourn for this game. After all, who wouldn’t want a Cold War Hitman game?
Great time period
Terrible AI and shooting, awkward controls, linear levels