Operation: Tango Review: (Sometimes) Sublime Subterfuge For Armchair Agents
Way back in 2015, we reviewed Clandestine, a clever asymmetrical co-op title from Danish indie studio Logic Systems. Combining the stealth mechanics of Splinter Cell with Watch Dogs-inspired hacking, forced players to work together as Agent and Hacker duo to travel the globe and infiltrate dangerous environments and complete their missions. Now, six years later, Operation: Tango feels like a natural evolution of that premise. Developed by Clever Plays, it takes that game’s rock-solid co-op foundation and adds a healthy dash of I Expect You To Die‘s quirkiness and Keep Talking, And Nobody Explodes‘ focus on vocal communication.
With so much going on, you’d be forgiven for thinking the developer was undertaking Mission Impossible. But against all odds, the daring agents at Clever Plays manage to get the job done without getting too shaken and stirred in the process.
A Dynamic Duo
Operation: Tango‘s premise is straightforward enough. Like the aforementioned Clandestine, it’s an asymmetrical co-op game where one player controls an Agent, and the other plays a Hacker who must assist them in various acts of espionage and subterfuge. As the Agent, you’ll explore the game’s eight stages and interact with the environment to solve puzzles. All the while, the Hacker uses his technical wizardry to act as both the Agent’s eyes in areas they can’t reach and jack-in to computer systems to help them progress through the environment.
As you’d expect, the Hacker can do things like manipulate security cameras and unlock doors. However, it’s seldom so simple. Like all good asymmetrical multiplayer games, Operation: Tango demands a degree of synergy and effective communication between players if you hope to overcome the obstacles the game throws at you.
For example, early in the game, the Agent comes across a set of terminals that need to be activated within a short period of time. Each terminal displays a progressively more complicated set of color-coded numbers. To solve the puzzle, the Agent will need to tell the Hacker the numbers they see, and then the Hacker will have to quickly enter them while completing a mini-game within the given time or the puzzle will reset itself. In another mission, drones will hover around an office complex. Using an overhead map that displays the drone’s positions, the Hacker will have to carefully guide the player through the various conference rooms and corridors to avoid the prowling bots.
The Spy Who Bugged Me
Moments like these are hugely entertaining. And, as you can imagine, these kinds of puzzles are only the tip of the iceberg in Operation: Tango. Each area offers new and exciting challenges that are brought to life with exhilerating and ingenious puzzles. And overcoming these challenges can be immensely satisfying. Whether you’re whipping up fake employee appointments to gain access to a restricted area or working together to prevent a speeding bullet train from meeting a fiery end, the game does a great job of making players feel like a well-oiled infiltration machine.
But that’s not to say Operation: Tango goes off without a hitch. While most missions are a blast, I found the game’s fourth mission, Deep Dive, to fall a bit flat. Set entirely within a server network, it’s a digital gauntlet that quickly becomes more frustrating than fun as endless prompts fill the screen, making effective communication feel all but impossible. To make matters worse, I also had the game crash right at the end of this mission, forcing me to fumble my way through the entire maddening endeavor all over again.
While this mission is a bit disappointing, it hardly ruins the experience. With eight large levels to explore, Operation: Tango will probably keep all but the most seasoned spies busy for about 5 hours during their first playthrough. Sadly, once you wrap up the game’s main story and figure out the puzzles, there isn’t really much of a reason to come back for more. I hope developer Clever Plays puts out more missions down the road for players to enjoy. Still, it’s hard to argue the game doesn’t give you your $20 with what’s already here.
An Eye For Espionage
I reviewed Operation: Tango on the PS5. And, apart from the crash I mentioned above, the game ran without a hitch. The load times were seamless, and the performance was rock-solid. While the game isn’t likely to win any awards for its visual fidelity, I enjoyed its aesthetic quite a bit. It has this No One Lives Forever-meets-Erin Esurance vibe that just works. With clean models, vibrant colors, and lively characters, it’s a game that’s certainly easy on the eyes, even if the art style may not be for everyone.
As for the music, it’s mostly your typical spy flick fare. It’s subdued for the most part, but that’s probably a good thing, as you’ll need to be able to hear the other player clearly to complete your objectives. Still, the game’s score does a good job of building tension when it needs to.
It Takes Two To Tango
Operation: Tango is a solid addition to the PS5 library that offers an experience unlike anything else on the platform. With clever puzzles, charming visuals, and novel gameplay mechanics, it’s a great way to spend a couple of afternoons with a friend. Sadly, once you complete each stage as both the Hacker and the Agent, there’s no real reason to come back to it. Nevertheless, if you don’t mind the game’s relatively short runtime and lack of replayability, you’ll find a unique and exciting game that’s worth diving into. Just keep in mind that this is a strictly two-player mission. Solo spies need not apply.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC; Publisher: Clever Plays; Developer: Clever Plays; Players: 2; Released: June 1, 2021; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $19.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.