We all love them in the movies. The super awesome computer hacker who can type at breakneck speed, slip behind firewalls with ease, break into the most secure servers in mere seconds and feed important intel over comms to a super spy on the ground. All the while we, the audience, watch in awe and wonder how incredibly cool it would be to do that. The newly released PC game by developer Logic Artists called Clandestine manages to capture just that feeling.
Clandestine officially emerged from Steam Early Access as a fully fledged release on Thursday. It offers up single and cooperative game play, in the roles of field agent Katya and expert hacker Martin. The duo are a bit of a slapdash team assembled as the Kingbridge Executive, and are tasked with investigating a series of hits performed on high-ranking, former Cold War spies. Katya and Martin must work together through different infiltration missions in order to gather as much information as possible on who is exposing the operatives’ identities.
The game play itself is an interesting split between third-person stealth shooting action with Katya, and overhead map driven hacking mechanics with Martin. Of the two, Martin’s side of things is surprisingly fun. The hacker game play isn’t simply reduced to a few idle button clicks. The white-hat has the ability to manipulate real time camera feeds, mark enemies, and provide passcodes to Katya, all the while evading an ejection from the network by a system admin. It essentially makes the hacker role all about multitasking, but it genuinely feels fun to take actions that will allow Katya to navigate through a mission stealthily.
Katya’s game play feels more reminiscent of the older Splinter Cell titles, as it relies on keeping out of sight, knocking out enemies, and getting into as few firefights as possible. The spy controls are decent, if nothing really out of the ordinary. Katya gets a nice selection of gadgets to use for incapacitating enemies as the game progresses, but her hug to cover and non-lethal knockout moves are her bread and butter for much of Clandestine. Balancing the two gameplay styles in the single player mode can be incredibly frustrating at times. It gets reduced to a pattern of finding a quiet spot for Katya to stand, flipping over to Martin’s display to hack a keycode or turn a camera, moving Katya to another safe spot, rinse and repeat.
Where Clandestine truly shines however, is the cooperative mode, where the roles are split between two players. Having another person hack a computer system while the other dispatches guards puts players right in something out of a spy film. In this mode, the ability to view the level map is given to the hacker, making playing as Katya a little more tense as you are forced to rely on your partner to direct you to objectives and highlight potential threats. The missions themselves have a nice variety, which further calls on the cooperative powers of players in order to effectively tackle each level and leave without a trace. The pure fun to be had in the co-op feels like the way the game should truly be played.
Despite that, Clandestine still has its shortcomings. Graphical errors such as disappearing walls sprout up every now and then along with erratic frame drops. Enemy AI tends to go from hypersensitive to immutably dumb in any given mission and the story, while straightforward, is delivered a bit stiffly. Character models and graphics are very simplified, which the game explains away by setting it in the 90’s, but can look pretty rough at times in cutscenes. The game functions mostly without issue, but sometimes a stuck animation or teleporting AI enemy will rear its ugly head in some levels and usually result in a checkpoint reset.
Clandestine feels like a game meant to deliver on an experience, rather than to pour hours into. It offers up a unique hacking perspective that folds well into an ultimately entertaining co-op mode not seen often in games today. There are still a few setbacks, but if you want a two-player experience that strays away from the norm, Clandestine is worth checking out.
Final score: 3/5
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