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Review: Latest 'SpyHunter' not worth ride

By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service
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In the latest thriller starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, he's an undercover secret agent who takes down bad guys with swift force and drives a car with rockets that can fire at enemy helicopters.

But don't look for this over-the-top adventure on the big screen just yet. Rather, it's a video game from Midway called "SpyHunter: Nowhere to Run."

While the game isn't a flop, even the talented wrestler-turned-actor can't save it from sloppy controls, poor artificial intelligence and technical glitches that mar the overall experience.

The latest game in the "SpyHunter" franchise, which dates from the 1980s, is still based on the world's most sophisticated spy vehicle, known as the Interceptor. But it is also the first to let you step out from behind the wheel to engage in fisticuffs and gunfights.

The cool and covert operative Alex Decker (The Rock) must stop enemies by knocking them out or using a variety of weapons, such as a pistol, submachine gun or mines that detonate when they detect motion.

Problem is, the on-foot action lacks tension, the weapons are ho-hum and the enemies are stupid, providing little challenge. For example, while you're beating up one guy, two others will hang around and wait until you're finished before throwing a punch at you.

Further ruining the suspension of disbelief is the fact that bodies disappear into the thin air after they hit the ground.

The story follows Decker as he infiltrates the NOSTRA organization to steal back the Interceptor, which can turn into a boat or a motorcycle and then back into a car.

But driving the Interceptor also has its share of problems. It handles so loosely -- as if you were always racing on a sheet of ice -- it can be difficult to control. And aiming at targets while driving can be tough to pull off. The game makers try to help you handle this multitasking challenge with the "Salvo" mode -- tap the triangle button (on the Sony PlayStation 2 version) to slow down the action, which makes it a little easier to target using the right analog stick.

Sure, it's a blast seeing the Interceptor change from a car to a boat just before it hits the water, or break off pieces to become a motorcycle before squeezing into a tight space, but the control issues seriously detract from the fun.

Another issue is the technical bugs in the game. In the third mission, for example, the Interceptor fell off train tracks that weaved through a mountain, but instead of showing the car falling into the water, the entire screen went baby blue except for the vehicle. The game had to be reset to keep playing.

Don't bother climbing behind the wheel of "SpyHunter: Nowhere to Run." Unless you're a huge fan of the video game series or The Rock, you won't get much out of this disappointing title.

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The "SpyHunter" franchise is based on the world's most sophisticated spy vehicle, the Interceptor.

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