Clandestine has nothing to hide, it’s fun!
I’ve never been very good at stealth games. I’ve enjoyed my fair share and I think the mechanic is useful in plenty of different genres, but when someone tells me that’s the genre of game I don’t know if I have the patience for it. I’m a child of shooters. Born into short attention spans and explosions. I still like solving puzzles and playing all sorts of games, but I went into Logic Artists’ new co-op stealth game Clandestine I was shaking in my boots. Fortunately, Clandestine gives you the option to take a backseat to all that sneaking around and provided me with one of my favorite co-op experiences I’ve had in a long time.
I’ll get the rough stuff out of the way immediately. It’s not a perfect presentation. Graphics and movement with the Katya the spy gets a little clunky. The storyline and voice acting are a little silly, too, but honestly none of this gets in the way of what matters, playing the damn game.
You play as either Spy Katya Kozlova or Hacker Martin Symborski which are two entirely different experiences. While stealth is an important part of this game the cooperation is just as huge. If you’re going to get anywhere you absolutely need to communicate with one another. Much to my dismay there’s no abusing the mechanics and running full force into combat or finding ways around the focus. The enemies and cameras can blow your cover or kill Katya immediately. This is where the hacking portion of the game is key.
As I mentioned, the characters play like two completely different games. Katya is pretty standard third-person stealth game fare. You sneak around and knock out/kill guards. You break into offices, find intel, distract enemies, etc. The difference between Katya and other stealth games, however, is some of the power is taken away. The game itself straight up tells you in the loading screen there is no such thing as a super agent. You won’t be hacking into computers and killing all the bad guys. In fact, the game makes it a point to make guns something you want to shy away from. Guns will get you out of a situation fast, but even with a silencer they can attract attention. For any of that action, we turn our attention to Martin.
Martin’s gameplay was my introduction to the game, and I may be the weirdest reviewer out there to say I prefer playing as him. The game makes it seem like this is the lesser of the two tasks, but there is so much going you’ll never be disappointed to do one or the other. Your interface is four split screens containing a different piece of information to provide. There is a text area to communicate with Katya, a camera monitor, a computer network tree to hack, and a map. The text box works like a chat in any other multiplayer game. The network tree is my favorite part of Martin’s interface. There’s a simplicity to it, but you have to pay attention to what you’re doing or lose your spot.
The network tree looks like a series of icons either shaped like doors, computers, or firewalls. Hacking all of these gets you information to give to Katya and help her progress through wherever she’s going. When you’re in certain parts of the network you’ll have system administration chasing your cursor around. If you get caught it kicks your cursor back to your home base and you leave more of a footprint behind in the mission. This is such a cool feature and provides such a tension while you’re trying to keep Katya out of harms way and direct her.The map shows where different cameras and enemies plus Katya’s location. You can hack a camera and turn it away, you can tag enemies so Katya can see them through walls, and direct her toward objectives. The camera monitor acts as the only way you can see anything going on. Hacked cameras can be viewed otherwise you can look through Katya’s camera. Eventually you get a toolkit to call in different limited powers like body cleanup and more.
The real strength of this game is how cohesive the cooperation is. For example, Katya can steal a pager off a security guard (It’s 1996) and throw it somewhere. Once you’ve thrown the pager Martin can call it to distract other guards. This goes the other way, to. In order for Martin to hack new areas and doors Katya needs to attach a modem to one of the computers. It’s such a great back and forth that you’ll actually feel like you’re working together. The level of communication required to play reminded me of the my favorite social tabletop games, which is something video games haven’t tried to do in a long time.
Now for the elephant in the room. Single player. I wasn’t sure how the single player would work because of how much communication and immediacy the game required when playing cooperative. It was a lot simpler than I expected. Basically, the only difference is that you bounce back and forth between each character. Really all this does is slow the gameplay down and break the immersion, but it’s nice that they included single player with the game. It isn’t bad but I wasn’t as captivated as when a buddy and I were taking down strongholds together.
Clandestine is rough around the edges and single player isn’t optimal, but the game is an amazing experience. This is how cooperative games should be played. Grab a buddy and pick this up, even if you’re not both into stealth games. It’s well worth the money and I was pleasantly surprised by how good the game is.
Final Verdict 4 / 5
Available on: PC (reviewed) ; Publisher: Logic Artists ; Developer: Logic Artists ; Players: 1-2; Released: November 6, 2015 ; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Steam review code provided by Clandestine’s publisher, Logic Artists.