I did not review Death to Spies: Moment of Truth. It's not from a lack of trying; I certainly did everything I could to play through this unflinchingly difficult stealth action game. I had the hubris to think that just because I've mastered Metal Gear and Splinter Cell, I had what it takes to take on 1C's spy versus spy simulator. I was wrong. I tried and tried, but no matter how many times I went back to Death to Spies 2, I couldn't make it past the first kill. It got to be so bad that I just gave up and went back to reviewing whatever generic first-person shooter came out that month.
Apparently I'm not alone. When introducing the game, David Tractenberg (of Traction PR) quipped that Death to Spies 3 is considerably easier. In fact, as I went around the room talking to 1C developers, everybody agreed that Moment of Truth was much too difficult. It's always nice to see video game companies take criticism and do something with it, especially when it ends up making a product better. It turns out that Death to Spies 3 is still insanely difficult, but at least it's playable. And as far as I'm concerned, that's a big step in the right direction.
Death to Spies 3 marks the franchise's first foray into the murky waters of the home console market. This third-person stealth adventure is being simultaneously developed for both the PC and the Xbox 360, with both launching at roughly the same time. I was able to get my hands on a very early preview of the Xbox 360 version and came away impressed.
Death to Spies 3 sees the further adventures of Captain Semion Strogov, who is still taking on exciting covert missions where the odds are constantly stacked against him. This time around he's not alone. Joining the Captain is Viktor Kovalev and Olga Godunova-Lopes, each with their own set of special skills and abilities. Together they have to work together to prevent the Cuban Missile Crisis.
But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet. Unfortunately the preview build didn't show us any huge set pieces or exciting action, instead we were tasked with infiltrating the FBI headquarters and taking out a key witness. As you might imagine, this target is being held on the third floor, surrounded by dozens of wary federal employees. In order to pull off this mission you're going to need to investigate the offices, take out a guard and then spend the rest of the time impersonating an FBI agent.
I had the plan in place, but pulling off such a daring move was going to require skill and luck. I had no problem finding some guy standing all by himself, but shooting him alerted the other agents and there was no way of sneaking up behind him. I quickly learned that when you get into a bad situation, you can't just shoot your way out. This is not Metal Gear Solid. You also can't hide under a desk until the warning meter goes away. No, Death to Spies wants you to take what you're doing very seriously.
Once you complete your task you will be whisked away to even more exciting levels, such as a subway station. Sadly, the subway level is the most exciting area any of the 1C guys could come up with off the top of their head. But they all agreed that it was a lot more exciting than sneaking around an FBI building. Too bad that wasn't the demo I got to play.
The controls are a bit rough, though there's plenty of time for the developers (Haggard Games) to rework them. You don't really have very many special moves, though you can go into a special spy mode that will show you who is on to you and who is still fooled by your cover. Not a bad trick, I wished I could have used it in a more exciting level. The developers promised close-quarter combat and other forms of attack, plus the ability to use guns. But it definitely felt like guns were to be used sparingly in this game, something that will no doubt slow the pace down from the action-packed Splinter Cell and Metal Gear games.
Death to Spies 3 has a long way to go before it becomes a must-own Xbox 360 game, but I like the direction its headed. I'm a fan of the 1960s storyline and some of the special techniques the developers promised. Hopefully everybody involved can hone the game to be easy to control and less frustrating than the two games that came before it. Hopefully this time around I'll be able to actually play enough of it to issue a full review. Expect to see Death to Spies 3 on the PC and Xbox 360 sometime late this year.