I hate this. As a reviewer, it is my task to be objective as possible, but being more subjective (in this case due to a games development nightmare) may be better this time around. At the end of the day I have to speak about what I encounter in the media regardless, and when a game releases, for better or worse, that is the final product and result for all intensive purposes. The fact is that people work hard on games and development is expensive. Even worse is when a game has a great premise and a story with so much potential behind it, but the execution is so mundane, especially for a current generation console release, it makes it so difficult to forgive. Alekhine’s Gun is the first game that I have come across in this current generation that has disappointed me the most so far.
Perhaps I have started off too harsh. The development of this game has been in development hell since 2010. It was originally known as Death to Spies 3, but after some publishing issues and failed crowdfunding attempts, Maximum Games picked up the developing and publishing duties while now calling it, Alekhine’s Gun. It is very similar when Gearbox got the rights to Duke Nukem and added on to what already existed from other developers, leading to one of the most disappointing releases in some time. While Alekhine’s Gun is not near that level of anticipation, I am afraid that the passing of the baton between developers over the years did not do it any justice.
Alekhine’s Gun is a third person stealth game that is set in 1960’s during the Cold War where you play as a KGB agent that has been recruited by the CIA. You wouldn’t necessarily know that from the start as you are infiltrating a Nazi camp during World War II in the first level, but that is just one of many flashback levels in the game. Speaking of levels, there are eleven that take you around the world and each one is a non-linear experience.
Each of the areas are mapped out very well as you can find more than one way to complete your objectives and kill your marks. There is a bit of a learning curve at first as you learn to use your insight ability that gives you clues on how to complete your objective. What stealth enthusiasts will love is the amount of time you will have to spend on each level. There is always the option to shoot your way through the level, but it is very ill advised as you will only have some much ammo going into the level.
You can grab downed enemy’s weapons if you choose if you can figure out how to do so. The tutorials about some elements of the game are very vague, or just nonexistent, as you will fumble through the controls to figure out how to do certain tasks. By the way, you have to hold the circle button on the PS4 to choose what you want to take from the bodies with the left stick; that is of course if the body hasn’t fallen through a wall or a piece of random furniture.
The game has bugs to be sure, and while I cannot speak for the Xbox One version, if you pause the game and go back to the PlayStation 4 menu for a while, and then go back into the game, the option to resume game is gone and you will have to go back to the beginning of the level or whenever you manually saved because there is no auto save feature. NPC’s will flail their arms around to indicate that you need to go away, I think, but never raise any kind of suspicion; bullets fly through walls, and guards can see through doors apparently when you try to take out enemies.
The cut scenes are essentially stills of art that simply just move from one side of the screen to another with occasional flashes of color, so be prepared to listen to bad voice acting while watching a picture for about thirty seconds to a minute each time. The script tries to take a very nonchalant dialogue approach to the game a lot of the time, and when the scene needs to take an emotional turn it just comes off very corny, but I am not sure if it more from the script or the voice direction, which didn’t seem like there was a lot of anyways.
The graphics are another issue that needs to be addressed. I am not a believer that graphics make a game as there are plenty of games that are great that don’t necessarily need great visuals. Having said that, since Alekhine’s Gun was originally started in 2010, it is safe to assume that it was being made for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and unfortunately the developers seemed to have decided not to upgrade the visuals for the characters, both protagonist and NPC’s alike. Each NPC looks like the last, and there is hardly anything that distinguishes one male from another most of the time besides the outfits. If I didn’t know better, and I probably don’t, it seems like the engine was from the late PS2 era. It reminded me of Hitman: Blood Money on the PlayStation 2 and the way the characters moved. Some of the scenery is very nice sometimes, but still very dated, which is a shame since this game goes all around the world.
The music is very minimal during this game. The only time I heard any music come into play was at the beginning and end of missions. Even the cut scenes had an extreme lack of BGM as you will have to tolerate the voice acting and get frustrated at the fact that there is no way to skip those scenes.
The lock picking element of the game is the best part of the game, which is great and sad at the same time. It is one of the best lock picking mechanics I have come across in any games that use it. While it doesn’t necessarily bring a lot of challenge to the game, the simplicity of it is essential as you will have limited time to pick the lock before someone catches what you are doing and alerts others. I hope I see something familiar to it again as that is one of the elements that Alekhine’s Gun gets right.
I so desperately wanted to really like this game as I waited patiently through each delay, which probably should have been a sign. The premise is great in theory, the ability to finish levels in multiple ways is appealing and fun. The controls, the bugs within the game and the fact that it looks like pre-last gen game does Alekhine’s Gun a huge disservice. To be honest, I did not complete this game, but it was given a more than fair chance as I stumbled through the levels to find a redeeming quality.
Alekhine’s Gun is a glitchy mess that deserved more care than what it received. Terrible voice acting, mundane cut scenes, and graphics that belong on last gen systems, if not before then, are the symptoms of what could have been an extremely healthy, and finished game on a current gen platform. If more attention was given to the game other than to just simply add on what already existed, it may have had a better chance to impress. Developing games is expensive to be sure, but the money probably should have been put somewhere else as this game wasn’t completely saved.