Spy Hunter

Are we a spy who is a hunter, or a hunter or hunts spies?

Source // Wikipedia

For the longest time, I've known Spy Hunter as 'an old game that I hear referenced here and there, but not too often, so it can't have been absolutely brilliant, but must have been pretty good'. If you can picture that...

If it's on the list of 1001 then it must be on for a reason, so it's time to find out.


On the Atari 2600! No, I kid, I'm mostly playing on the NES version, but in both counts I am playing a noticeably inferior/lesser game than the arcade original. That's a minor gripe, and I'm trying to find out if the gameplay is any good, not a specific port. That said, let's jump into our car and explode an awful lot.

Spy Hunter tasks you with driving the Interceptor like a true spy would - at high speed, guns blaring, with minimal collateral damage. That sounds simple enough, but being a spy you're both hunting and being hunted by a bunch of ne'er-do-wells.

You're awarded points for simply driving somewhere, but get bonus points for getting rid of these bad guys in whatever manner of which you are capable. Driving them off the road, spinning them out with an oil slick, firing missiles into their helicopters, that sort of thing. The problem I had (call me stupid) is being able to discern those bad guys from the innocent civilians in the first place. Shooting that which you ought not to shoot temporarily freezes your score, which is no good for competitive play, is it?

Having nobody to compete with but myself however means that I can shoot until the road runs out (which it doesn't), all the while getting bumped about by indestructible cars. Indestructible from behind at least, as my smoke screens seemed more effective at dispatching enemies than anything else. Firing at them did nothing, and I don't know why.

Other than being really good at shooting the wrong targets and getting knocked off the road though, I simply struggled to see the appeal of Spy Hunter...

Fun Times

Until seeing the arcade version.

The NES version has the controls, it has the alternate weapons, it is Spy Hunter on your home console, and if you really really dug the game then you'd probably get some good runs, even accounting for the bugs. But for showing off what Spy Hunter is, nothing compares to the arcade version.

I can clearly see what's going on, I get the need for precise movement controls - not just left and right but up and down too, which adjusts your speed. The smoke screen and oil slick effects are great, and that music... that music.

Final Word

In expert hands, Spy Hunter flows. The road is endless, the only way is forward, even when there's no bridge and you need to take to the river Your car can become a speedboat, of course it can - it's a spy car, duh. Forks in the road, a change of scenery... the world whizzes by and you'll need to keep your wits about you.

It looks fun. It could probably be fun on the NES too, but I haven't gotten there yet. Something isn't working, and that something is probably me, but at least I know why Spy Hunter gets nodded to, here and there...

In a world of thrilling espionage action films, a game like Spy Hunter was inevitable. It doesn't have the James Bond name attached to it, but we all know it might as well have.

Fun Facts

Spy Hunter was included as an easter egg in Microsoft Excell 2000. Not just Spy Hunter, but a 3D Spy Hunter complete with working headlights...

Spy Hunter, developed by Balley Midway, first released in 1983.
Versions played: Atari 2600, 1983, via emulation.
NES, 1987, via emulation.
Version watched: Arcade, 1983 (vidpro1).