I’m unhinged and in an impossible, unsustainable place in my life, hence the lack of write-ups from me, except for some picks in the Game of the Year 2015 lists you may or may not have enjoyed. That irrelevant personal context out of the way, I did want to interject with a rant on something I thought was particularly odd, as I creep rapidly closer to suicide or worse. Last time I mention it, promise.

So, I think we can all agree 2015 was amazing and the start of 2016 doesn’t seem to want to slow down. With games like The Witness, a cool port of the uniquely troubled Dragon's Dogma or even something as impactful as That Dragon, Cancer, the year started strong. Going into February, we have the highly anticipated XCOM 2, but also a new Fire Emblem or Unravel calling for our attention.

And then, on February 9, we have Alekhine's Gun.

Who?

Alekhine's Gun,PC,Death to Spies 3

Alekhine’s Gun; it’s a full release from publisher Maximum Games, turned developer for the first time, launching on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. Never heard of it? Neither have I. The closest I got to finding any coverage on even remotely large sites is one article on Gematsu, with apologies to the implication here, about the game’s prior release date. Initially, this stealth action title was planned for November 10, 2015. At least, they realized that it would be absolutely obliterating to throw your $50 no-name game against Fallout 4 and those other games that weren’t Fallout.

So, let’s do the game’s marketing for them and dive into some more backstory.

Maximum Games might not ring a bell for a lot of people. The only time they came onto my radar was when prolific Steam publisher Kiss started handling the company’s portfolio. And at that point, they only released Crab Cakes Rescue and Deer Hunt Legends on Steam. They’re not high flyers. Maximum Games does, however, distribute a few bigger names, such as Divinity: Original Sin or WRC 5, so they’re likely profitable enough to sponsor a game of their own, though perhaps not that of the ambition of a full scale release. More on that later; first let’s explain the game at hand.

Alekhine's Gun,PC,Death to Spies 3

Alekhine’s Gun is linked by anyone who spotted it as a Hitman homage and rightfully so. From its distinct third-person angle, specific muted color filter, free-form exploration, up to the assassination targets and mission rankings, the stealth action game mirrors pretty much every aspect of the Square Enix franchise, with the exception that this new title is set during war times. Visuals can’t exactly make use of the same huge budgets, but the game also doesn’t look terrible. Aside from the outdated, plastic sheen textures and some hurried animations, Alekhine’s Gun does still have some visual fidelity. Think mid-tier Playstation 3 era, rather than the current generation’s power. If anything, it suffers more from applying a dull color palette and excessively reusing generic characters, but that’s an artistic choice, not a technical one. Point is, for what it’s worth, the game looks serviceable and seems to run as intended. Decent looking game running properly; your audience can’t ask for much more in these days of Frankensteined Early Access titles.

But wait, “sponsor” is publishing and not developing, right? This is where things get really interesting. Though Maximum Games is currently listed as Alekhine’s Gun’s developer, they’re more a handler than anything. Given the source material for the game, war, mixed with the stealth action genre, the sum comes close to an under-the-radar series, Death to Spies. Well, it turns out that there recently was something of an attempt to bring back the franchise with Death to Spies 3, without much success. From looking at that project’s Kickstarter, some footage shows identical scenes to a recent gameplay video from Alekhine’s Gun.

Death to Spies 3 is Alekhine’s Gun.

And this is where the plot really loses me. Personally, I think the Death to Spies series is sort of underrated. Obviously, they suffer from their lower budgets, but they’re some of publisher 1C Company’s more competent work, attributed to Haggard Games, whose site has since gone silent. However, why, if a series without much recognition is already struggling hard to come back, would you strip the one thing it has, name recognition, only to then fart it out without any élan of its own? Let alone have that game compete with things in a similar timeslot like XCOM 2, Street Fighter V, Project X Zone 2 or even Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4. Look, I know you don’t care about that last one, but they’re actually pretty solid games, so shut it, alright? People know that game. People will buy that game. No one knows what the hell an Alekhine’s Gun even is. It’s a chess term, by the way. In lesser extent, it also seems to be a crappy metal band, but everything is a crappy metal band.

I’m not saying that Alekhine’s Gun didn’t do any promotion at all, it likely did something, but it could’ve probably done a better job at linking its Death to Spies heritage and hopping on the lack of good stealth action games. People aren’t exactly enthused about Assassin’s Creed anymore and they’re certainly not pleased with whatever Hitman is doing right now. Some elevated push into the spotlights could’ve helped Alekhine’s Gun cannibalize that audience. That’s almost free press you missed, simply by saying: “We’re not those games!”

So far, the most distinct thing about Alekhine’s Gun is its lock pick mini-game that it tries to make its own. That looks pretty clever. Hopefully, it has more of these neat tidbits. I wish them the best of luck; I always root for the underdog. There are some added hurdles though, like explicit Nazi imagery, which is retstricted in some countries. As if the game needed to create more obstacles for itself.

Also, if you look carefully in the above gameplay video, the mission ends with the escort likely suiciding its way out, by throwing themselves into still active vents. Good plan.

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher(s): Square Enix
Developer(s): IO Interactive
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Stealth
Release Date: 2012-11-20

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