CounterSpy Review for PS Vita

The Cold War goes hot in Sony's CounterSpy.

I don’t normally play handheld games for more than an hour or so. Usually, they get repetitive after that point and lose their luster. I sat down to play CounterSpy briefly today while I exercised, and still have it loaded on my PS Vita as I write this. Preventing nuclear annihilation has never been this fun.

Recommended Videos

CounterSpy is kind of like Austin Powers, XCOM, Rocket Birds: Hard Boiled, Metal Gear Solid, and Archer all had a baby. Your mission, if you choose to accept it (which is pretty easy since it’s free with PlayStation Plus right now), is to prevent the U.S.S.R. and the United States from destroying the moon. It’s a nuclear space race as ridiculous as it sounds, and the humor prevades all the game’s subtle writing quirks.

Preventing nuclear annihilation has never been this fun.

At its core, CounterSpy is a light hearted response to 2009’s Shadow Complex. The game plays out primarily like a 2.5D platformer, with the ability to go into cover and take on a third-person shooter perspective. Despite both genres rarely meshing that well in the past, CounterSpy makes it feel natural. The camera shift in cover gives you just the right view to line up headshots. Even with the Vita’s twitchy sticks, it’s easy to aim.

The XCOM influence is clear from the get-go. You have to choose from different missions with varying rewards and difficulties, all while trying to keep either nation from reaching Defcon 1. Every time you die during a mission, the Defcon goes one step closer to launch, so getting out alive is generally more important than being a perfect ninja.

CounterSpy understands how to actually make choice and consequence matter.

Going loud can complicate things, but if you have the skills, you can clear entire rooms before an alarm goes off. If you can be the best stealth operative under C.O.U.N.T.E.R.’s command, you are certainly rewarded for it, but you can also clean up your mistakes with a snappy trigger finger.