by Ingvi Snædal
previewed on PC
Nerdy gadget guy
Spy films tend to feature interesting relationships between the ultra-cool spy and his nerdy gadget guy. This has sadly been missing in videogames but that is about to change in Logic Artists' upcoming game Clandestine.
Clandestine is an asymmetric co-op stealth game with third-person, stealth-shooter perspective. In it, one player takes on the role of the spy, the other assumes the part of the hacker. The latter plays out through a virtual computer interface featuring camera feeds, GUIs of hacked computers, network maps, and a command prompt. The hacker's responsibility is clearing the way for the spy and constantly informing him of threats, clear paths, and other information pertinent to his movements and the success of the mission. The game is designed in a way so that the spy can't do anything without the hacker, and without the spy, the hacker is but a nerd poking around in a desktop. Reliance on one another is the driving force of collaboration and communication between players.
Set in the 90s - before the age of smartphones with the processing power of NASA's Apollo control centre - the game will feature dial-up modems whose signature sound will be familiar to anyone born before the rise of broadband connections. As this is a globetrotting spy-thriller, the game will feature varied locations such as an underground server bunker and the stylish headquarters of an IT firm. The spy will be able plug in remote modems to allow the hacker access to desktops found on the maps, from which he can then gain access to connected devices on the network. Otherwise, he'll have to get through connected nodes to reach his goal. As the mysterious enemy you seek is not initially aware that you are after him, every piece of evidence you leave behind, including digital, will lead him closer and closer to you. This means that the more aggressive the hacker's movements are within the network and the more people see the spy, the better prepared the enemy will be at the next location. All actions leave a tiny footprint. You wouldn't want to let them know that you're coming, would you?
After the cold war, suspicion still looms between the Americans and the Russians. When supposedly clean agents on both sides start dropping dead, the intelligence agencies of both sides want to find out who's responsible. Not willing to show weakness or admit to anything, the upper management decides to charge middle management with finding out. They then decide to use the misfits, the expendable troublemakers to get to the bottom of this mystery. After all, if they fail, no harm done.
Katia is an anti-government anarchist who gets arrested after taking over the CCTV system of downtown Moscow. Electrical engineer by education, she is presented with the choice of working for the government or going to jail. She isn't easy to work with as she hates authority, and that's how she ends up being sent to this new unit. Martin, the hacker, is extremely intelligent and hacks his way into oil industry infrastructure, which leads to his arrest. He is given the same choice, but as he knows very well how intelligent he is, people simply don't like working with him.
Less action, more stealth
The game seeks to honour the roots of the spy stealth genre by reducing the effectiveness of the action element. That is to say, you'll have a greater chance of success, and accomplish your mission faster if you stay hidden and work together. The hacker will be able to overtake security cameras, look for clues, access email accounts, unlock doors, overload systems, etc., etc., as well as bribe locals to drop supply packages and bribe rent-a-cops to ignore the spy as she passes by. The spy can also pretend to be an employee through dialogue and the hacker can intercept the call from the guard as he double-checks that information, confirming the lie. The spy wears a camera on the chest through which the hacker can monitor progress. Enemies spotted through this and other CCTV cameras will show up on the map and can be tagged by the hacker, allowing the spy to see their location even though walls. These are just some examples as to how this collaboration will work in Clandestine, making for an entirely fresh experience, provided you have someone to play with. If you're going it solo, however, there will be an A.I. hacker with you. How this impacts the enjoyment of gameplay, on the other hand, remains to be seen.
The developers decided to stick to pistols as they are the most realistic weapon for a spy to have. The pistol can be equipped with flash light, laser pointer and a silencer. Gas, flash, and fragment grenades will be available as well if you should find yourself in a real pickle. Gadgets and multiple ammo types will also be available, but keep in mind that when you quickload, you leave the last bullet in the chamber. This will play a part when you want to change ammo types for a quick take down, as you'll have to cock the barrel to remove the chambered round. A choice of outfit will be available as well. Katia can wear normal clothing that will draw less attention but limits her carrying capacity. A full flack outfit will be available, which will cause guards to immediately become aggressive, but does allow her to arm herself to the teeth. Perhaps that explains the guards' itchy trigger fingers? The game will also feature challenge maps, such as Cleaner, a Leon The Professional-esque “take everyone out” kind of challenge; Snatch and Grab; and Stealth mode, during which no one can spot the Spy.
Creating a good asymmetric co-op game is a balancing act which doesn't always turn out well. In most cases, one aspect of gameplay is simply so much more fun to play than the other and finding players to assume the less desirable role becomes next to impossible. With Clandestine, you might imagine the role of the hacker to be just that, but I for one can't wait to try it out. Not in the least because he will have a remote controlled sniper rifle at his disposal, which will be extremely difficult to control but will be perfect for forcing enemies into cover or taking out completely still targets. If done well, Clandestine might be just the game to play for a pair of good friends. Nothing builds friendships better than shared thrills and reliance on one another.