Version tested: Retro
It's important to cast your mind back to 1983 when considering Spy Hunter, lest the suave, tough guy world of the road warrior gets lost in out-of-context tackiness.
The side-art, marquee and literature might feature a terribly moody Don Johnson lookalike, and maybe the cabinet controls took a pseudo-futuristic/camp pointer from Knight Rider with the impractical (if awesome) yoke-style steering wheel, but the insipid ‘80s demanded this particular brand of slick panache. And, to that end, Spy Hunter was a kitsch sensation.
We didn't care if our heroes were realistic or not. Spies were supposed to be the elite - and not just in the ways of espionage or intelligence gathering. They had to be chick magnets, drive the coolest, most obvious and garish cars, needlessly blow shit up and gun down worthless minions without a second thought. Spy Hunter tore up the highways like a true inconsiderate hard-man hero; brazenly opening fire in public and destroying thousands of pounds worth of vehicles by irresponsibly ramming the bad guys off the road.
Tragic, macho intrepidness aside, Spy Hunter was a damn fine game. The driving mechanics allowed the fictitious G-6155 Interceptor pony class muscle-car to traverse the tarmac like an oil-slick bullet on rails, while the high speed pursuit took a brilliantly dangerous slant when it came to dodging blown-up car wrecks on slick, snow covered roads. Enemy vehicles were equally ruthless in their attempts to run the Spy Hunter into the verge, from slashing tyres to dangling shotguns out of the window and ramming the urbane gas-guzzler with an armoured vehicle. Take the correct turn, and the action hit the water in order to destroy as many types of felonious boats as possible.
Spy Hunter singlehandedly created a mythos that endures to this day, and defined a new era in action/driving games that spawned a wealth of arcade classics.
8 / 10