Okay, these have been a long time coming but here we go, four downloadable titles I’m going to be taking a look at over two reviews. This one will cover “CounterSpy” and the re-release of “Surgeon Simulator”, both on PS4.
First up, CounterSpy:
The first things that stick out about this one are its interesting plot set-up and its graphical style. The latter is an exaggerated, cel-shaded style in which enemy soldiers are colour-coded and your protagonist is constantly draped in shadow, regardless of the lighting. The former really got me into it: it’s the cold war, and both the USSR and USA have plans to DESTROY THE MOON. Before we go any further, I feel it’s worth pointing out that this was a real plan during the cold war. I shit you not- the USA did actually have a plan to blow up the moon in an attempt to show the Soviets that they were nothing to mess around with. Anyway, you play an agent of C.O.U.N.T.E.R- a neutral, third-party agency that sends you into both Soviet and US bases in an attempt to discover certain parts of the plan. I hope you got your fill from that description of the plot, because there’s pretty much sod-all else on offer. (SPOILERS) there’s a running theme of C.O.U.N.T.E.R seemingly planning to steal the plans and blow up the moon themselves, but it never develops into anything- you steal the plans, you stop the rocket, that’s it. Game over. Back to title screen. (SPOILERS END) It’s a shame because as I said the set-up is pretty good. Worse things have happened though, maybe it’s just gameplay focused. Does the gameplay hold up?
Well, it does to an extent, yes. (I appear to be talking to myself in print. Better not make that into a habit.) It’s a stealth-action game on a 2-D plane with a few faux-3D moments (a la “Contra”). You move through levels taking people out and grabbing pick-ups strewn around; plot-essential plans, weapon upgrades etc. Being seen raises a DEFCON bar. Fill it up entirely (it has multiple stages) and you have to rush to the end of the level and use a computer to stop lunar-based nuclear armageddon. There’s not a lot of variety apart from different layouts and increasingly armoured enemies, but what’s here is definitely solid. The stealth works well enough and shooting while more direct does feel like I’ve messed up when I have to resort to it. There’s a cover system that activates the faux-3D I mentioned, and control is generally good whether you’re sneaking or shooting. It works well as a game to play while listening to something else or keeping an eye on a video of something, but once you’ve gone through it there’s not a whole lot to bring you back. Worth a look, but best wait for it to be on sale. It’s also cross-buy, if that helps.
Surgeon Simulator Anniversary edition
Upon its Steam release, I did my best with “Surgeon Simulator”. While I liked the joke I found that the intentionally shite controls got frustrating fast, and made it rather difficult to actually complete surgeries. For those who don’t know about this, “Surgeon Simulator” was the first and arguably most famous of the joke-simulator genre that started going downhill with “Goat Simulator” and has been powerbombed into the ground with things like -ahem- “Rock simulator”. You play as a man named Nigel who is apparently a surgeon (I choose to believe he wandered in off the street, found an abandoned but well-stocked medical practice and decided to just have a go, in traditional English fashion) and is represented by an ever-present right hand which you move with the sticks and use buttons to make the fingers grasp. You pull out of a load of organs/smash a load of bones, pull out whatever you’re supposed to transplant and dump the new organ into the gaping, lethal hole you’ve created, optionally yelling “DONE” in the process. The joke comes from the physics, controls ramping up the difficulty leading to shenanigans and the sheer absurdity of it all, and for the most part it does work rather well. The soundtrack is a sort of up-beat synth score that’s both catchy and beneficial to the tone, and overall the game’s pretty funny. Now, controlling the game with a keyboard and mouse was a pain in the arse but the PS4 version uses a controller (obviously). Combined with the new operations is this worth picking up?
The controller does make a noticeable difference- it’s precise enough to make the surgeries actually seem do-able but still retains the original joke. You definitely feel more in control of events and can actually do more to fix any problems you cause rather than just flailing around like an idiot (though that is still an option). The new surgeries are a double eye transplant and a teeth transplant, and both of them fit into the game nicely, alongside the original heart, kidney and brain. There’s also a new mode in which you perform a transplant while the patient is being wheeled down a hallway on a gurney, which is rather difficult in a way similar to the mode in which you operate in the back of a moving ambulance, but again it fits in well.
So, new content and better controls then. Is it worth a look? Well the anniversary version is also on steam, so really this is more for people who have a PS4. If you like the look of the joke and think you can get somewhere with the intentionally difficult controls, give this a look.
By James Lambert