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Alekhine's Gun Review

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Platform - PS4
Price - £35/$50

Experience - 12 hours and 78% completion (trophies)

 

If Alekhine's Gun slipped under your radar I wouldn't be surprised. The game is a spiritual successor to the 'Death to Spies' franchise, and by that, I mean it was originally going to be a sequel until the publisher pulled out, 2 crowdfunding campaigns failed, and developers changed. Now, named after a chess formation of all things, developers Maximum Games have set out to create a rather ambitious first in-house development project, a 3rd person social stealth assassination game set between the tail end of world war 2, and the assassination of Kennedy. I know what you're thinking, but no, you don't assassinate Kennedy. 

 

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Instead, the entirety of the games convoluted story, driven by a conspiracy tangled in the CIA and other organisations, is told entirely in black and white images presented in a slideshow, backed by character dialogue. I didn't get the sense that this was a thematic choice either, rather a lack of budget for real time cutscenes, facial animations and good acting (I wouldn't be surprised if all the characters were voiced by the development team, with no experience). The disjointed intermission that is the cutscenes are difficult to understand due to how poor quality it is. I never got past the 'learning characters names stage' (apart from our beloved monotone hero, agent Alekhine that is), simply because it was too difficult to know who was talking to who when there's a still image of people blankly staring at each other. The actual story is incredibly generic and frankly pretty boring, but the silver lining is that it's probably the worst element of the game. 

 

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That doesn't make the rest of the game solid gold however. Across the games not-so-sprawling 11 missions, you get assigned targets to kill (usually with a little compulsory objective, like take some photos of the target's secret formula), you must go in, do the deed, and escape. Sounds simple? That's because, for the most part, it is. Unlike the Hitman games, one of my personal favourite franchises, there is no environmental puzzle to solve in the level, it is just a matter of going in, following the target, then garrotting them. For example, one of my objectives was to kill a target in a hotel. The room the target never left had one guard at the door. I could get past the guard by chloroforming another guard and wearing his outfit , but my only option was to kill the target with one of my 2 tools (guns or fibre wire). There were no ways to set up an accidental kill, no way to have the target die as I'm already well  on my way to the exit, just a simple gunshot to the head.

 

You may ask "But in Hitman, you're an Assassin, whereas here you're a CIA agent. Setting up accidental kills isn't needed.". Well, the game gives you a statistics screen at the end of every level, detailing kills, accidental kills and alerts, giving you a rating of Maniac-Ghost (I averaged most levels at 'Professional' ranking, which I assume was one tier below 'Ghost' ranking). There's also an accidental kill option on the first mission, where I could dress up as a doctor and kill a Nazi officer with a syringe. This highlights how unfinished the game is; most levels don't feature these types of cinematic ways to kill your target, it's just go in and out. It's Hitman without challenge. Some levels even require you to leave the target alive, and carry them to the exit. This is one of the worst design decisions I've seen. You're forced to get messy on these missions, as there isn't a path to take or method to clearing out enemies that doesn't take you through killing or open combat. 

 

The game looks like a PS2 generation title. I recently played through Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, and granted that was a HD re-release, the game still had a better engine and less screen tearing, frame drops and fuzzy looking graphics that Alekhine's Gun showcased. The frame rate drops every time you enter a room with more than two people, and the graphics are absolutely horrendous for a Playstation 4 title in 2016. The still screenshots make the game look flattering, watch a youtube video of PS4 gameplay to see the game's engine in motion.

 

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The real kicker is that the game has potential. The levels are interesting enough, and with a little more work, could've enabled more mechanics of the game to shine. Combat is non existent, you can shoot enemies with guns, but it is a constant fight with the aiming reticule to aim where you want. You can also punch enemies, but if you don't want to kill them then this can be cumbersome and frustrating, as it's a 50/50 chance whether agent Alekhine will knock someone out, or perform his best reenactment of 'Of Mice and Men' and accidentally break their neck. Your safer options are chloroform or garrotting enemies, both require you to sneak up behind an enemy, except one is lethal and one isn't. With an enemy down you can take their disguise, which is basically what the game boils down to. You need disguises to access certain areas, so it's a constant game of 'search for this outfit' to get into this area, then another and another and another. It feels artificial, I'm not really playing a social stealth game, hiding in plain sight, rather I'm just slipping into different outfits and jogging to the next one until I find the target. 

 

The game has no autosave mechanic, I accidentally pressed the wrong button when selecting my starting loadout (which is just a list of different handguns that make no difference) and got sent to the main menu. I couldn't carry on from the loadout selection menu at the start of the level, instead I started halfway through the previous level and had to play through it again. I constantly got stuck to objects in the environment, such as doors, which required me to reload a previous save 3 times. Nobody ever blinks, and enemies constantly spout the same two pieces of dialogue: "YOU BASTARD" (when I punch an enemy, it's hilarious punching 3 enemies in quick succession, and hearing the same phrase getting spammed) and "HUEEEEEEEE"(when I graze a person's shoulder walking past them) I even saw a mouse cursor in the top left corner of my screen while the game was transitioning between menus. 

 

Alekhine's Gun sets out with an ambitious goal, virgin developer Maximum Games didn't meet the mark. The game needed more time, a higher budget, and generally more inspiration for it's generic story and formulaic gameplay. Also, a trophy is glitched, otherwise it'd be a 2/10 difficulty platinum. 

 

3/10 

 

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That's a shame to hear. Not that i was ever expecting anything from this game, but it's clear that there was a determined team behind it, so seeing them fail at bringing the game they wanted to see to life is saddening. Nobody ever goes into game development for easy money, there's always some passion behind even the worst of games.

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Well one thing is it way overpriced game that isn't very good. This is why we need to have either quailty control or a price structure. Looking at initially this game shouldn't have been more than 30, which us probably why people didn't give it a second look.

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That's a shame to hear. Not that i was ever expecting anything from this game, but it's clear that there was a determined team behind it, so seeing them fail at bringing the game they wanted to see to life is saddening. Nobody ever goes into game development for easy money, there's always some passion behind even the worst of games.

The game definitely had the potential to deliver, I remember watching a developer's playthrough of the first mission and being impressed for what it was. But after playing the rest of the game, you realise why they had only shown us the first mission, because it's the only one with real gameplay depth. I don't blame the developers, in the end it probably came down to budget and development time, not pedigree and development skill.  Sorry for the late reply btw ;)

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That's a bummer. The game looked good for a while.

Edited by darkamdusias
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It's not a good game by any means. It is however very much playable, when it doesn't crash that is. It will crash after some few reloads/restarts/loads/saves etc. Never experienced it messed with my save, but it can crash when you try to load or save, a lot. It seems like these guys really put a lot of effort into it. It's just the crashing, and poor AI. The AI is actually pretty fun to play around with though. It's not particularly difficult, but not killing anyone but targets can be tricky in a couple of levels. Only 11 levels.

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That is a shame. From the gameplay I've seen it looks reminiscent of Hitman Absolution which I absolutely loved. Every time I see it on sale I think it can't be that bad, but every time I look it up I see literally everyone says its not good. I'm trying not to subject myself to bad quality games despite thinking I want to play them because I know I will end up regretting it 

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