Clandestine is a stealth and hacking espionage game with multiplayer support from Logic Artists that released on November 5, 2015. It’s currently available on Steam (PC) for $24.99. For full disclosure, a review copy of the game was provided on behalf of the developer.
When I first heard about Clandestine from one of my PR contacts, I was immediately intrigued by it. A stealth-based espionage game with hacking elements set in 1996? A game that also supports two-player co-op play? Yeah, you bet that sounds pretty cool. I actually meant to dig into this one much sooner than I did, but due to a mishap with a review code not working and then having to get a new one issued (plus, of course, the holidays happening), things got pushed back a bit. Yet, in this case, I’d definitely say that it was worth the wait, because this game has been a real joy to play.
The game is set in 1996, in a world that’s reforming after the collapse of the Soviet Union with growing cyber technology. Operatives and high-ranking figures who were prolific on both sides of the Cold War begin to get assassinated, and cyber crimes are on the rise around the globe. In an effort to counter this, the CIA and FBI in the United States create a secret joint task force known as the Kingbridge Executive, funded with money skimmed from official sources that won’t go noticed and driven by whatever operatives can be spared from official assignments. Yes, the whole thing does have a Section 1 vibe from right out of Le Femme Nikita, but that’s not a bad thing at all.
The main gameplay experience involves a ground operative named Katya and her in-the-field hacking partner Martin. Play consists of missions that need to be completed, and it’s absolutely imperative that the two characters work together. In solo play, the player has the ability to switch between Katya’s perspective out in the field and Martin’s at his computer, but rather than have one element of play pause while the player is looking at options with the other, the game continues on in real time. Katya is ultimately the one doing all the acrobatics, take-downs, and killings, and also the one who has to collect physical evidence such as papers, floppy discs, CDs, and more to eventually turn over to their superiors at Kingbridge HQ. However, it’s impossible for her to complete the mission without relying very heavily on Martin, who must hack into the computer networks to adjust the views of video cameras, open locked doors, and access computer terminals in order to help download electronic data to help build the case against their enemies.
Gameplay with Katya is what you might expect out of a game such as Metal Gear Solid. She has to sneak around and try as best she can not to get spotted, and how she plays is ultimately up to the player’s style. She can take down enemies in a non-lethal manner if she wishes, or she can pick up a gun and go in blazing, hoping to kill everyone and leave no witnesses. The thing is, though, that if she decides to go in guns blazing, she needs to be very careful. The game isn’t very forgiving, so if she misses her headshot with her silenced gun, the enemy may come back with a vengeance and their friends may also quickly join in the fight. Katya also can’t take many hits. A direct headshot is the end for her, and even getting shot in the leg cripples her. In this sense, the game is very realistic, so don’t expect to just go shooting the place up and walking out unscathed.
From Martin’s perspective, the game is a bit less exciting, but even he has to be careful while hacking the different networks. The networks each have administrators who are also roaming around looking for breaches and fixing them up. If the admin catches him in a part of the system, everything he’s done will get reset and he’ll have to do it all over again, and since this is all in real-time, it could be problematic for Katya.
Although I haven’t personally delved into the co-op aspect of the game yet, I do hear a lot of good things about it and I can already tell that it would make the game a bit easier if both players coordinated together very well. In solo mode, everything is real time, and because of that, you really have to be careful when swapping to Martin in order to hack things. Yes, Martin can see a camera feed from Katya’s perspective when he’s the one being controlled, but it’s easy for the player to get distracted while trying to break into a firewall and in the process have enemies sneak up on Katya. In multiplayer, this would be less of an issue, but it would require a higher level of team effort in order to succeed at the missions.
The game plays very well, but is it without flaws?
Personally, I found the graphics to be very nice, crisp, and realistic, even with a cel-shaded look. The game runs very smoothly, but one thing I did notice was that Vsync was causing the game to constantly fluctuate between 60 and 30 FPS, resulting in a less-smooth experience. Toggling it off, though, unlocked the framerate, and the game pretty much always remained above 60 FPS, so it seems that Vsync needs a bit of work. The game did support native 21:9 ultra-wide resolutions, though, and that’s a big plus in my book.
The music and the audio quality were also quite high, but the voice acting is hit-and-miss in places. Katya’s sounds very flat, though Martin’s is pretty good. I did enjoy the acting done by the director, though, and thought that added a lot of flavor to the game.
Controller support is only partial, and while the Steam controller does work with the game, I didn’t like how the camera worked while in controller mode, so in the game’s current state, I’d say that using a keyboard and mouse is the best way to play this one.
Ultimately, Clandestine is a lot of fun and has a lot to offer in both solo and co-op play. If you’re a fan of stealth-based games like Metal Gear Solid, but are looking for a few things to shake stuff up a bit, this game is one I’d definitely recommend.
Overall, this game earns a grade of: