Most action-oriented games, especially those involving spies, have a hard time distinguishing themselves as a unique product. Spy Fiction, another entry in the genre, does nothing more than re-create something we have already seen. This unfortunately makes Spy Fiction only a decent game; which if you were going to buy it’d be worth budget title prices at best. Still, the game manages to have its positive moments despite how easy, yet frustrating it could be.
The premise for Spy Fiction is nothing new. An international terrorist group has taken hold of a biological weapon and is planning on using it to overthrow governments across the globe. You play as one of two secret agents for a group known only as “Phantom” who has been sent in by the US government to stop them. You'll have a plethora of gadgets at your disposal, including, but not limited to: a cloaking suit, which gives you the ability to disguise yourself as anyone else in the game, various explosive devices, and basic weaponry to kill your foes. The difficulty level you’ve chosen at the start of the game will determine how much equipment you’ll begin with. Furthermore, you are given the chance to pick up additional goodies at the very start of the game when you make a parachute jump down into the terrorists’ headquarters.
Once on the ground, you and two other team members have to sneak into the castle, getting past guards who are fairly stupid (one of them is even asleep!). Along the way, you learn how to use some of your spy gadgets with some intuitive help menus. One device that is invaluable in the game is a camera that allows you to take photos of anyone else in the area and disguise yourself as them. This becomes a very important factor towards completion so it is imperative that your shots are clear and concise; which like the rest of the game is not very hard to do. About midway through the first level your team leader is captured and you now must try to finish the mission without any guidance from him.
The premise of the game is a simple one, but the simplicity doesn't stop at just the story line. Visually, Spy Fiction plays like a first generation game. With the exception of a few neat camera tricks, and an occasional explosive moment, there just isn't any visual flare to gawk at. With some of the similar games that are on their way in just another month or so, namely Metal Gear Solid 3, there is no real reason to look twice at Spy Fiction for it's graphical appeal. To the developer's credit, the game doesn't necessarily look bad, it just doesn’t look good. With the PS2 being on the market for over 3 years, you would think that games would be pushing the hardware for all it's worth by this time.
The difficulty of the game, even on the hard setting, is well below what is expected of this genre. Hard simply means that all of the enemy soldiers will require about twice as many bullets to take them down, and nothing more. Every enemy can be knocked out by a chokehold and then shot while still passed out. Furthermore, you have the ability to save anywhere you want on the play field. This allows for a trial-and-error, figure it out as you go, gameplay. Throw in the fact that the game is awfully short, and there is absolutely no multiplayer support, and you will see why Spy Fiction's shortcomings outnumber it's few and far between positive moments.
Spy Fiction's appeal doesn't transcend past the casual gamer. In a time when action games are becoming Hollywood material, it is unacceptable to release a game with such low production values. Some of the innovations, such as the cloaking device, separate the game from being completely derivative, and deserve credit for attempting something we haven't seen in the past. But, with such a short story mode, and the lack of any multiplayer, there is no reason to recommend anything more than a trip to the local video store for a rental.