by Ben Petchey
reviewed on PC
Clandestine takes place in 1996, shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. You play as either Katya or Martin, field operatives deployed on dangerous missions across both Europe and North America. Honestly, it’s hard to keep with the plot, albeit basic, due to being distracted by the rigid, imprecise cut scenes. Toss bad voice acting into the mix and there's no hope of immersing yourself in the story.
The game boasts 'Asymmetric co-op'; meaning one player sneaks around the level and does all the shooting, while the other opens the doors, disables cameras, etc. The operative, Katya, can shoot people, perform silent takedowns and has a whole arsenal of gadgets and weapons to assist her. The other role in the game is the hacker, Martin. As the hacker you play on a sort of desktop computer display, showing a live camera feed, a top-down map of the level, a hacking screen, and a log of your hacking activity. Your main role is to be the second pair of eyes for Katya, spotting enemies and cameras before they spot her. You also provide pin codes for doors, and hack computers to get access to private emails.
As Katya, you can approach levels any way you please; it’s possible to sneak past enemies, avoiding confrontation, alternatively, you can run in, guns blazing. The game encourages neither of the play styles, but both are as frustrating as the other.
Controlling Martin, you have a completely different view to those playing Katya. Martin's screen is split up into four sections. You can view Katya's live first-person feed, or use security cameras to get your look in on the action. You will use the top-down map of the level to locate cameras, locked doors, password protected computers and enemies. Clicking on a locked door will highlight the firewall you must break through on the hacking screen. You then navigate the grid-based map, breaking through firewalls by pressing 'E' all whilst avoiding the Admin node that roams around the grid. Being caught by the Admin on the server will kick you out for a few seconds. These few seconds can be crucial to the success of a mission.
Game gone rogue
Clandestine is a perfect example of a game that has a strong concept behind it, but unfortunately falls flat before hitting the mark. I found myself becoming more and more frustrated at the game as I played. The frame rate is poor and inconsistent, the gunplay is almost too basic, and you will find yourself missing headshots you – know - you shouldn't have. The poor gunplay makes it difficult to be tactical at all, due to the fact that you have to be within arm’s reach to get a clear shot of an enemy.
Often after shooting a camera to disable it, I would walk past it without worry, only to find that the camera still spotted me anyway, tripping the alarm, getting me killed. Getting Martin to disable the camera by pointing at it and pressing 'F' - harder to do than you'd think due to your aim needing to be very precise - would sometimes only disarm it for a few seconds, tripping the alarm, and thus my death. After alarm went off, enemies that were not present in the level before would spawn in and kill me instantly. Checkpoints are no help either; often respawning me right in front of the agro enemies, putting me in an infinite loop of spawn and death. I also found myself spawning in new levels with little health, making it impossible for me to sprint. Worse, there is no indication of your health, or any way of restoring it.
The cover system is basic and you're never quite sure which surfaces you can take cover on and which you can't, causing you to often end up awkwardly face-to-face with an enemy. Pressing the space bar allows you to turn around corners in cover, it is also the same button to move away from cover. This often resulted in me slowly reveal myself to enemies. The only way I found to somewhat overcome this was to hammer the space bar.
Playing with friends allows you to laugh at the cheesy, poorly acted performances, the rigid animations, and cloned enemies. But playing solo just makes the whole experience all the more… disappointing.
Not where it should be
Despite recently leaving early access, Clandestine is a game that isn't quite where it needs to be. As it stands, it isn't worth its asking price. The gameplay shows glimpses of what could be, before promptly shattering those glimpses with yet another death caused by glitches, another death caused by being stuck in cover and another death caused by poor gunplay.
Fun hacking mini-game, cheap laugh with friends.
Frustrating gameplay and glitches, poor animation and bad optimization.