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Death to Spies: Keep a Cool Head

Picking locks is a useful skill in Death to Spies.
Picking locks is a useful skill in Death to Spies. (Atari)

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Friday, November 30, 2007

If you're looking for a challenge, Death to Spies is for you. Soviet counterintelligence is a difficult assignment, even on the easiest level.

In this game, played as a sequence of flashbacks to World War II, you are a Soviet spy working behind German lines. Your missions include sabotage, being a courier, kidnapping and even murder.

Levels are open-ended; you complete your objectives however you can. Take out a guard and steal his uniform. Requisition a vehicle and cruise into secure areas stealthily, or speed up and crash through patrols as if they were bowling pins. You can pick locks with a unique interface and infiltrate secure areas if you have the skill and patience.

But it's not easy. I spent several hours on just the first mission, which involved sneaking into a Nazi base, knocking out a well-guarded major, hiding him in a truck and driving away without anyone noticing. I spent more than an hour in a stolen low-level officer's uniform while watching patrols. I only accidentally ran into the major during an inspection and knocked him out in the back of a warehouse without his guards around.

The game features 22 types of weapons, including machine guns, rifles and pistols from that era. The game warns you that it might look suspicious if you are carrying a certain gun (such as a Russian pistol when you are dressed as a German officer), which is a nice touch.

Graphically, Death to Spies looks good, though it has flaws. People tend to move stiffly, running into one another. The artificial intelligence is also a bit stupid: The enemy seems prone to chuck grenades all the time, even into a room full of its own men, if it thinks it might catch you in the blast. Finally, although you can hijack certain vehicles, they drive poorly.

If you have the patience, Death to Spies is a lot of fun. But you need to use your head to survive, because running and gunning almost always ends in quick death.

-- John Breeden II

Death to Spies Mature; PC Windows 98/2000/XP ($30) Atari Death to Spies Mature; PC Windows 98/2000/XP ($30) Atari

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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