Clandestine (PC Review)
Espionage has always been a lonely and sordid affair, sneaking into highly guarded militarised complexes with no backup to steal all manner of valuable intel, helping your power hungry government thrive over rival countries. Whether you’re Solid Snake or Sam Fisher you always find yourself going it alone, a solo mission that is more or less dependant on that one man’s success. This can all feel a little unrealistic. Sure, now and again, helpful tidbits of information are provided by pals back at HQ, but all in all it feels like these games focus on one man’s efforts. Along comes Clandestine by Logic Artists, a co-op espionage stealth based shooter taking inspiration from popular series such as Splinter Cell and some not so famous ones such as Alpha Protocol to form a uniquely innovative co-op experience.
Clandestine’s missions are very simple, get in and then get out. Each mission has its own atmosphere and environment, be it a construction site or an office complex, but the objective usually remains the same; reach the designated point on the map to rescue and secure the hostage/intel. You can approach each mission’s scenario in a variety of ways, the most obvious being the stealthy approach where you make as little ruckus as possible by hacking your way in and staying out of the line of sight. If you’re more of a sadist then you can opt for a more aggressive approach in which you loadout your character with more combat efficient gear and go to town on the opposition with small firearms and grenades. Once you’ve successfully completed your mission you are returned to your swanky HQ for a quick bit of R&R before you head off on your next escapade. Within these short respites you can collect your thoughts and have a gander at what your head of operations has to offer, which is nothing. From the stylish indoor waterfalls to the plethora of bathrooms on offer for seemingly no staff there isn’t much in the way for the player to interact with other than scripted segments where you speak to your fellow colleagues who have nothing better to do than wait around and eat there own facial hair (I’ll explain in a bit). The HQ is nothing more than an elaborate mission select screen in which you can jog around in.
The characters themselves are quite diverse in the way they act and speak. The main character in which you control is named Katya but could easily be confused as being Joanna Dark’s (Perfect Dark) twin sister, they look so identical that the only differing factor is that Katya is more “Hip” and carries a pair of headphones and dressing very “urban” in style to quickly blend in society. However Katya speaks in a broken dialect that I can’t seem to pin down, her monotone accent isn’t very well scripted to the game’s character and is honestly quite awful and off putting. Secondly we have Martin, Katya’s sidekick and possible stalker based on his 1990’s sex offender get-up comprised of his tinted glasses, silver chain, and waistcoat. Martin is responsible for relaying information, such as passcodes and guard locations, during each mission directly to Katya to help her navigate and circumvent danger. One character is not complete without the other and that is where Clandestine gets everything right.
The co-op is the centerpiece of Clandestine and it’s hard to imagine the game without it. The cooperative aspect is very fluid in play and communication with your partner is key. One player plays as the main protagonist, Katya. Katya plays like any other generic stealth based character plays. She can sneak around and silently take out guards (or not), uncover secret intel strewn throughout each mission and ultimately is the one who’s shoulders everything rides on. Martin on the other hand takes a back seat to Katya’s hands on approach and sits in a nearby surveillance van giving direction to Katya and providing passcodes and supportive comments.
Katya’s gameplay is very unique in that it’s all very “shooty-shooty, bang-bang”, and ” uh oh the alarm went off, where do I go Mart-….*dead*”. Having to sit around and wait is one of Clandestine’s weaker points, it’s all very well done how the vital communication between player one and player two is essential in keeping the mission going but when Martin has to tell Katya that he’ll be a quick five minutes cracking the door because he has about ten other things to do at once can become a bit tedious when playing as Katya, since you’ll be sitting around for long periods of time trying not to count sheep.
Martin on the other hand is where we get to experience the actual hacking side of things and Clandestine’s strongest asset. Playing as Martin may seem like a less than stellar choice at first glance since all you’ll be doing is giving commands but that isn’t the case at all. Martins has his own set of objectives, so to speak. The player will be presented with four windows in front of them, one for all the text based communications be it with Katya or via information gathered from terminals. There is also an optical feed which he can use to observe the environment through the access of wall mounted cameras or Katya’s own headset capture feed. You’ll also be presented with an overhead map which allows you to scan the area for locked doors, guards, cameras, and even dead drop locations to help out your teammate. Lastly and most importantly we have the hacking terminal which Martin uses to navigate the enemies internal network infrastructure and hack doors, computers, and some environmental obstacles such as disabling lights and metal detectors. Martin also has an array of perks at his disposal such as health and ammo drops for Katya, firmware tools to flood networks, and bypass security measures and the ability to call in the “cleaners” to remove dead bodies from the surrounding area.
Unfortunately this is the part where I talk about all the things that Clandestine doesn’t have going for it. To start with the animations are a bit shoddy, as I mentioned earlier when you interact with other characters in the game world (which is very few) character’s facial animations make it appear that they are eating parts of their face and some of the character movements are a bit heavy, especially when playing as Katya. In these instances Katya can have trouble lining up with objects to be able to interact with them, she controls more like a car than a human being. Occasionally having to back her up, do a 180 and move forward again to get her lined up properly. There is also a problem with the game’s audio in which it will just randomly cut out for no apparent reason, at first I just thought it was a problem on my end but started to happen to my co-op partner as well, leaving us playing what we could only describe as a “deaf spy”. The A.I. is also a major issue in that they are infinitely unaware if their surroundings. At one point I was giving instructions to my co-op partner and as he assuredly popped them all in the head one after another, their friends which were standing right next to them, didn’t seem to care too much. Several other times in which alarms were raised and my co-op partner simply decided to back up against a wall and let the enemy run through one after the other in a single file whilst he once again put them down. I decided to test the limits of this myself and loaded up one of the few challenge maps the game has to offer. I proceeded to run around waving my arms in the air for attention so that nearly all the guard in the area were drawn to me, I then ran into a nearby bathroom (with all of them in tow) and hid in one of the bathroom stalls in which they seen me enter and they simply decided that I had “disappeared”. I can only discribe this as an extreme game of peekaboo.
It’s not everyday we get a unique take on the genre quite like the way Clandestine has done, it’s just unfortunate that there are so many problems holding it back from being a really good game. With the combination of all the bugs present it’s quite hard to enjoy the experience as it is. Although it did lead to some hilarious moments during co-op, it’s far from an optimal and enjoyable experience. Playing as Martin was the highlight and overshadowed Katya’s generic style of gameplay and would only really recommend playing this game in co-op as the singleplayers switching back and forth kind of dulls the experience and takes away from it as a whole.