"What kind of spy agency makes its agents buy their own equipment?" I wonder, as I run out of bullets for my diplomatic pistol. I'm pinned down by enemy fire in a Cold Ware missile silo somewhere in Russia, low on health and ammo, and dangerously close to raising the Socialist DEFCON level again.
I spot one of the guards reaching for his radio and pop out of cover, taking the headshot as well as several machine gun rounds in the chest. As my agent collapses, launch codes are entered and the countdown begins: I have 60 seconds to save the Moon from nuclear apocalypse.
Despite its whimsical visuals, bombastic score and joking plotline, Counter Spy is not a game to be taken lightly. A momentary loss of focus on my part has increased tensions between the rival Imperialist and Socialist sides in this atomic stand-off, and although the situation is usually recoverable I find my desperation kicking in and overriding the measured approach I know is necessary to save the
Missions carried out against each side can lower their DEFCON level, if you find and "convince" an Officer to reduce it, but more often than not I've used that extra breathing space to relax, immediately removing my advantage. Sneaking around and taking out guards one at a time is the usually the safest approach, but get one too many stealthy headshots and I start to feel invincible - a misconception the enemy guards are all to eager to dispel.
But later levels throw so many guards at you together that stealth isn't always viable; breaking out the shotgun can be necessary but messy - better to drug a Specialist and have them do your dirty work.
When everything is going to plan, Counter Spy makes me feel like a top-tier operative: efficient, deadly and unseen. The only problem is, I'm none of those things.