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SummaryThe great game, indeed
The GoodBack when I was growing up, the computer games industry moved on from laserdisc games and focused on what are known as “interactive movies”. The first of these was Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, released in 1991 by ICOM Simulations (Yes, the same company that produced Shadowgate). Other companies followed suit, including Activision, who wanted to create an authentic spy thriller, produced in collaboration with William Colby and Oleg Kalugin, former heads of CIA and KGB, respectively.
And authentic it is. You play Case Officer Thorn, the newest recruit of the Agency. After receiving a message telling you to meet in the lobby, you get to see what it looks like as it was in 1996. Thorn then proceed to the DCI's office where you get introduced to the team members who would be working with you. The only thing not authentic are the members themselves. After the meeting, it's off to “The Farm” where most case officers have to prove their worth. What you do out in the field will come into use during the game. When he is done with that, Thorn eventually finds out that he is in charge of the investigation into the assassination of a Russian presidential candidate, and he has to protect the US president from the same fate.
I really liked the majority of stuff that you do in the game. You go into your office and access the tools that real case officers use. You'll find out the identity of the assassin through mix and match, eavesdrop on phone conversations, tap into other federal agencies to get information, send a squad team into a busy residence to find an informant, and more. I played SpyCraft back when it was released, and I think I found it easy to get through the game the first time without consulting a walkthrough. I haven't played it for ages since then, so my skills are quite poor.
You are also equipped with a device called InteLink, which you have to use during the first five seconds of the game. You are given an introduction of each component as you open it up, and it is your job to figure out the rest. You mostly use it during the game to communicate with your fellow team members via e-mail and do some research. I like when you send an e-mail, you get a reply straight away. The InteLink acts like the internet browser, with forward, home, and back buttons, among others. The general blue-and-white scheme really blends in as well.
I also liked the multiple paths that you can take throughout the game. You can go by the rulebook or work against it. In my opinion, there are so many interesting things that you can do on the “bad path”. One such example is choosing to rifle through your supervisor's office to get a list of people for someone calling himself Harmonica. By taking this path, you also need to make sure that you don't get busted, or Thorn suffers the consequences.
Another option available to you in the game (if you select a specific option during the installation) involves the use of electrocution in order to force information out of your suspect. Basically, if he or she refuses to give it to you, then you increase the voltage then try again. The CIA itself doesn't condone the use of torture. If you cross the line, your suspect dies and you are sent to prison. It's brutal, but this type of torture was common back when SpyCraft was released.
I enjoyed making mistakes that have amusing outcomes. At the start when you have to perform field training, you can piss off Frank Milkovsky by selecting the wrong answers. But the highlight is taking charge of the four-man squad team, where you can enter the wrong rooms for a chance to be shouted at and do stupid things like putting one of your men in jeopardy.
As I said earlier, each of your team members are real-life actors. Since they were not high-profile actors, I haven't heard of them before. Out of all of them, I think DCI Sterling (Dennis Lipscomb) is a remarkable actor. I quite like his performance when you fail to save the president at the end or hesitating in the finale (which is excellent, by the way). DDO Warhurst (James Karen) plays your supervisor who turns traitor much later in the game.
The game also includes the full version of Shanghai II: Dragon's Eye, a mahjong-type game created by the same company. It appears as a floppy disk in your inventory and can be accessed anytime you are in your office. It is ideal if you need to take a break from the main game, but don't want to leave it.
The BadWhen I first played this game, I never saw what WebLink was like back then. All I know that it requires you to login to Activision's servers to make full use of it. You don't have to access this component in order to play the game, but it adds a new dimension to the game's realism. It is useless now because Activision shut down its portals years ago, and they should have thought twice about that, like storing every web page as HTML files on the game's CD.