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Video Game / Spy Hunter

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Spy Hunter is an arcade driving game designed by George Gomez and Tom Leon, and released by Bally/Midway. It is unique in that it's one of the first to combine driving and shooting at the same time. You are in control of a car driving on a vertically scrolling road, fighting against a variety of vehicular and airborne enemies:

  • Tire slashers called "Switchblade" or "Never To Be Trusted"
  • Armored vans called "The Road Lord" or "Bulletproof Bully"
  • Sniper limousines called "The Enforcer" or "Double Barrel Action"
  • Bomb-dropping helicopters called "The Mad Bomber" or "Master Of The Sky"

Along with enemies, there are civilian vehicles on the road as well. Injuring a civilian causes you to temporarily stop scoring points. However, if you survive long enough, civilians stop appearing.

In addition to your default machine guns, you can find and drive into a weapons van and get outfitted with additional weapons: oil slick, smoke screen, and ground-to-air missiles, each of which is useful against different enemies. Further in the game, you can take a side road to a boathouse and turn the car into a boat, taking the battle onto the water. Enemy boats called "Barrel Dumper" try to kill you by throwing floating charges in your path. A big boat called "Doctor Torpedo" fires torpedoes at you from behind or in front. The chopper also harasses you in the water. You can be forced into the water when a bridge is out.

This game was followed with Spy Hunter II. A Famicom game called Battle Formula was renamed Super Spy Hunter and released on the NES in 1992.

In 2001, Midway released a 3D "enhanced remake" of the original game, developed by Paradigm Entertainment, for the PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, and Xbox. It took a mission-based approach, with the player sabotaging bad guy operations around the globe with an even bigger supply of weapons than before. It was followed up with Spy Hunter 2 and Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run (which was an Author's Saving Throw for a movie that remains stuck in Development Hell).

In 2012, Warner Bros. Interactive released a second reboot game for the Playstation Vita and the Nintendo 3DS.

2021 saw the unannounced release of a comic book adaptation from DC Comics,note  pairing this game with the Atari arcade classic Paperboy as SpyHunter/Paperboy, with no less than Larry Hama writing it. Probably not unrelated, the original arcade version was packed in as a playable extra in Gotham Knights (2022).

Spy Hunter has examples of:

  • Call-Back: The original arcade game is explicitly stated to be canon in the 2001 game.
  • Continuing is Painful:
    • One of the reasons why Spy Hunter II is so extremely hard is that your car will power-down every time you die. This means that you can become so weak from constantly failing at a boss battle that the game becomes nearly unwinnable.
    • Super Spy Hunter mitigates this by reducing your car's upgrade status by only one level (of five) after each death. However, your life meter is reset to four bars and you lose the auto-aim upgrade to your turret.
  • Continuity Reboot: The 2001 remake for the arcade game, and the 2012 remake for the 2001 remakes.
  • Disposable Vehicle Section: The Interceptor in the 2001 remake can eject sections and convert into a Secondary Escape Vehicle after taking enough damage; the one in the direct sequel to it can also convert on player command. The Interceptor from Nowhere to Run also has a Secondary Escape Vehicle mode.
  • Driving into a Truck: How you get your power-ups in the arcade, and refill health and ammo in the 2001 game.
  • EMP: In the 2001 game, with it having guidance capabilities. Use it to stop missile launches and disarm bombs quickly.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon:
    • The 2001 model Interceptor can fit a pair of rear-firing flamethrowers - kill that guy tailing you with fire.
    • When you switch to the boat in the arcade game the oil slick (which is useless in water) is replaced with a rear-mounted flamethrower that kills any boat in its path.
  • Flash of Pain: Anything with health in Super Spy Hunter.
  • Kill Sat: The Excuse Plot of the 2001 game. NOSTRA plans to use them to take over the world's electricity grids.
  • Magnetic Weapons: One of these is a late-game unlock for the 2001 game - it's a guided weapon that does incredible damage. In Spy Hunter 2 it's restricted to a forward arc but still powerful.
  • Mirror Boss: The fifth mission of the 2001 game. He hijacked one of your power-up trucks, and he's using your own spy car against you.
  • The Mole: Administrator Ryle in the 2012 remake. Not just the mole in your organization, but the ringleader of the enemies, funding research, then destroying the projects to hide the theft of the working tech. Her eyes are set on your Interceptor.
  • More Dakka:
  • 2001 starts you off with a pair of machine guns with capacity and caliber increases as progression unlocks.
  • Super Spy Hunter gives your car a single fixed forward gun and a roof turret, whose two guns are always symmetrically aligned. This ends up being better than it might sound as it gives you a selectable bullet pattern that can focus fire ahead, spray narrow or wide pattern, shoot to the sides, to the obliques or even straight to the rear. Then there is the control upgrade (red "C"), which automatically tracks enemies on the screen, giving you a constantly changing pattern that is surprisingly effective at sweeping the screen to clear mooks.
  • In Spy Hunter 2 the machine gun will eventually upgrade to a version that uses pulse lasers instead of bullets and you access a new weapon in the form of micromissile launchers which have higher damage but smaller magazine capacity than the machine guns. Also in 2-player co-op mode the second player controls a minigun turret on the roof of the Interceptor.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Agent Duvelle in the PS2 Spy Hunter 2, in the opening cutscene with her midriff-baring outfit.
  • Nintendo Hard: Spy Hunter II is extremely unforgiving to players that aren't good at avoiding damage.
  • Oil Slick: Ever since the original. In the 3D games, they can even cause enemies behind you to explode for seemingly no reason!
  • One Bullet Left: In the 2012 remake, whenever you have to shoot the radio-control warhead, you only have one warhead loaded. You instantly fail if it detonates somewhere that isn't its target... like the reactor of the Elaborate Underground Base in the last level.
  • One-Hit Kill: In Super Spy Hunter, some bosses shoot large lasers that will instantly kill you if you touch the beam.
  • Orbital Bombardment: The odd UAV pre-designation segment in the 2012 game. Two of your options are offensive; designating mortar strikes and firing the Skyneedle orbital laser.
  • Pinball Spin-Off: Also by Bally/Midway; click here for tropes.
  • Quicksand Sucks: Super Spy Hunter's second level features an open desert section with flowing quicksand pits scattered about. They damage you and reduce your health bar by one stage if you touch the center of them, while killing you at base max health.
  • Super Drowning Skills:
    • The first level of Super Spy Hunter has sections of shallow and deep water and jumps over them. Touch the deep water and you die instantly. This makes sense for a car driving game, until you reach level 5 and realize your car can take on a boat form.
    • Also in Nowhere to Run. In one section, it is possible to end up racing against the clock due to a careless grenade explosion or someone shooting wildly, causing a dam you must cross on foot (Due to the bridge it's under being raised and preventing the Interceptor from passing) to start filling with water should it be damaged. Crossing it while it is still filling is safe, but allowing it to fully fill up will cause it to, for seemingly no reason, kill Alex on contact. This can also make the mission unwinnable and force you to reload to a checkpoint, should it fill up completely while Alex is still on the other side, separating him from the Interceptor.
  • Sequential Boss: The final level of Super Spy Hunter has three boss battles back-to-back. The first two are upgraded versions of previous bosses, and the third one is the final boss of the game.
  • Smart Bomb: Super Spy Hunter gives you a one-time-use one when you pick up the blue "B" power-up.
  • Spiked Wheels:
    • "Switchblade" enemies. The 2001 game gives them an aquatic cousin as well.
    • You get a one-time-use of these when you get the blue "S" power-up in Super Spy Hunter.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Missile launchers, always guided in the arcade, guidance unlocked after the third mission of 2001. Macross Missile Massacre ensues with the Swarm Missile Launcher in the 2001 game - now you fire four missiles at a time.
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: The boss of the 5th level of Super Spy Hunter exposes its only weak spot, its central engine, for a few seconds after running through its regular attack pattern. It's actually completely justified - the animation makes it clear that not exposing it would be genuine suicide; as the ship opens up, the engine is visibly pouring off steam as it glows bright red, and slowly changes color to a typical metal gray as it cools (and the ship closes back up as soon as it does).
  • A Taste of Their Own Medicine: The Interceptor in Nowhere to Run now comes armed with its own set of Switch Blade spikes, letting you shred the tires of enemy vehicles.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The boat level in the original, and the flying car, boat and airplane levels in Super Spy Hunter. And the third person shooter levels in the second and third PS2 games.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: You can shoot the truck that drops you off or the civilian cars. You lose points for doing this, though.
  • Weaponized Car: The player controls a car equipped with a variety of weapons, from machine guns to missile launchers.