Review: Alekhine's Gun


A Be-SMERSH-ed Legacy

Playing Alekhine's Gun made me wish it were 2007 again, because if it were 2007, I could, at least, point to it and say "Hey, this game isn't too bad."

Unfortunately, living in 2016 makes Alekhine's Gun feel like an anachronism, out of date and hopelessly outclassed not just by current-day games (an actual new Hitman title included), but even by the 2007-era Death to Spies games it was intended to succeed.

Alekhine's Gun (PC [reviewed], PS4, Xbox One)
Developer: Haggard Games
Publisher: Maximum Games, Kiss Ltd
Released: March 1, 2016 (Console), March 11, 2016 (PC)
MSRP: $39.99

But first, a little more on that stuff about Death to Spies. Alekhine's Gun is, for all intents and purposes, Death to Spies 3. It began life under that name before the switch, and still stars Semyon, hero of Death to Spies and its sequel, Moment of Truth. It also moves forward from those games' World War II setting -- where Semyon belonged to SMERSH, the Soviet intelligence division of the time -- to the Cold War. Semyon is now a KGB agent assigned to cooperate with none other than the American CIA and bring down a plot to turn the Cold War hot. 

The story is the best part of Alekhine's Gun, partly because it's not dependent on engaging with the gameplay, but also because a bit of Cold War spy fiction makes for a more refreshing and plausible alternative to the comic-book absurdities of Hitman's overarching lore. The sixties setting also evokes the period when spy fiction makes the most sense, allowing Semyon to jet-set around to perform deadly deeds in a variety of locations ranging from forbidding German castles to rural American biker bars (complete with the spectacle of watching an extremely Russian man trying to blend in as a Texas biker thug -- and succeeding). 

The bad news is that this entertaining and occasionally surprising narrative is wrapped around an inadequately polished Hitman knockoff. Semyon pulls nearly all his moves from Agent 47's playbook, sneaking around, garroting guards, putting civilians to sleep with chloroform, and stealing their clothes to use as disguises. Getting key enemies alone to take their outfits and gain access to secured areas makes for the main thrust of most of the missions, and Alekhine's Gun does little to deviate from the template set down by IO Interactive's brainchild.

This makes for a bitter irony, as the Death to Spies games were often unfairly criticized as Hitman clones, despite distinguishing themselves through a unique premise, expanded scope, and extreme difficulty. Alekhine's Gun feels very much like a clone, and not even of the best Hitman titles. It apes early entries (think pre-Blood Money) in most respects and abandons many of the features that earned Death to Spies a place at the table.

Worse still, Alekhine's Gun doesn't even live up to those decade-old standards, bar somewhat better graphics and a modern control scheme. Levels are expansive but prove empty, largely devoid of meaningful interaction or the kinds of quirky opportunities that make this type of game come to life. To its credit, the lack of explicit hand-holding in the game does make figuring out guard patrols and finding the right solution to each level's murder-puzzles pleasantly challenging. I didn't even resent the fact that the AI borders on brain-dead, because physically pushing around NPCs and exploiting their slow turning speed to pulling tricks akin to Skyrim's "Bucket Exploit" made me feel smart. 

These were moments of mild fun in an otherwise desperate game, and none of it justifies the time or money one might spend playing it. Alekhine's Gun occasionally reminded me of the fun I had with Hitman: Blood Money, and for that it deserves some credit. Then again, I could have been replaying that game -- or for that matter, earlier, better Death to Spies games -- instead.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Alekhine's Gun reviewed by Josh Tolentino



Has some high points, but they soon give way to glaring faults. Not the worst, but difficult to recommend.
How we score:  The Destructoid reviews guide


Josh Tolentino
Josh TolentinoAnime Editor   gamer profile

When not posting about Japanese games or Star Trek, Josh once served as Managing Editor for Japanator, Dtoid's sister site. Now he mainly works for Siliconera, popping in every so often to let f... more + disclosures



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