Remembering classic games: Spy Hunter (1983) | Top Gear
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Remembering classic games: Spy Hunter (1983)

Fun fact: there was an actual movie franchise planned around this classic arcade

Published: 02 Apr 2021

We don't know a great deal about the clandestine world of international espionage but what we do know is that leaving a highway littered with burning vehicles probably isn't the best way to remain undercover. 1983 arcade game Spy Hunter doesn't concern itself with such trivialities as you hurtle along the road strafing a seemingly endless supply of enemy vehicles with front-mounted twin machine guns.

Originally intended to be a James Bond tie-in, developer Midway couldn't secure the license but Spy Hunter had no qualms about 'borrowing' from 007's best car chase moments anyway. The selection of upgrades to your fictional G-6155 Interceptor was a familiar arsenal of smokescreens, missiles and oil slicks. The best part is that to unlock those abilities you had to ramp your car up into the back of a moving truck, Italian Job style. You'll want to perfect the technique too because, like every arcade game of the era, Spy Hunter is brutally difficult and designed to relieve you of as much of your spare change as possible before you slink out of the Megabowl.

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And while it might be a stretch to describe this as the only driving game with a cinematic plot twist, it's genuinely a surprise when, half way through the game, you launch your car into a river and it transforms into a speedboat. There's even a Hollywood soundtrack, although for some reason it's the Peter Gunn theme, best known from the Blues Brothers. Your guess is as good as ours.

Believe it or not, for a brief period in the mid-2000s it looked like Spy Hunter might finally achieve all its cinematic ambitions and become a movie franchise all of its own, with Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson attached to star. In the end all that materialised was a mediocre PlayStation 2 game and The Rock went on to feature in the all-conquering Fast and Furious franchise, becoming one of the highest paid actors in Hollwood in the process. Can't imagine he has too many regrets.

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