Review

Gunpoint

Inspector Gadget

Technology is both the problem and the solution for Gunpoint’s hero.

By Ryan Smith • June 19, 2013

Advanced technology is a double-edged sword that makes our lives both easier and more complicated. Our latest reminder is the revelation that the U.S. government has been covertly jacking into our convenient channels of online communication. Turns out that Google, Yahoo, Apple, and other tech giants permitted the feds to sift through our online comings and goings in the name of national security. As a bonus, we learned that the Kinect 2.0 packed into the upcoming Xbox One will be something of a fun-filled Trojan Horse—a toy that doubles as a camera peering into your living room (although Microsoft has assured the public that they’ll control what the Kinect sees).

While you ponder your desire to go pantsless in front of your Xbox ever again, consider the instructive case of freelance spy Richard Conway in the noir puzzle game Gunpoint. Nearly all of the game’s missions consist of breaking into private facilities for your clients. To do so, you must bypass obstacles like motion-sensing cameras, alarms, and an increasingly tough squad of security guards. It’s a solo gig made easier by a grab bag of techy tricks. Conway starts out armed (legged?) with his handy Hypertrousers, which grant the ability to leap superhuman heights and cling to walls like a cut-rate Spider-Man. Other gadgets come along soon enough. With the Hushcracker, you jump through glass without making a peep, and the Prankspasm sets a booby trap in electronics so they zap unsuspecting guards.

Gunpoint

Most useful of all is a roguish phone app called “Crosslink.” You use this to hack into security cameras and other nuisances. A lot of time in Gunpoint, in fact, is spent poring over color-coded circuits in Crosslink mode—a kind of X-ray vision for wiring—and puzzling out how to rewire them to your advantage. A sound-activated sensor, for example, can be rejigged to open a vault instead of an activating an alarm.

How you employ these tools is largely up to you. Patient ninja wannabes can sneak through most levels without being seen. More nefarious souls can sabotage electronic devices in a way that sends guards to an untimely, trapdoor-induced death. Crosslink works so well, you’ve got to wonder why it’s something that, as Conway explains, only “espionage agents and asshole kids” are using.

For a game called Gunpoint, you engage in precious little gunplay (something creator Tom Francis wryly fesses up to in the credits), but that’s a good thing. While you’re eventually able to buy a pistol by saving up cash, but shooting your way to victory seems like a shameful way to play. Okay, it’s fair—you’re bringing a gun to a gunfight—but why bother? You’ve got the ability to rig a light switch that knocks guards silly with a swift door to the face.

The title refers more to Gunpoint’s twisty plot, which centers on corporate intrigue between two competing gun manufacturers. When we meet Conway for the first time, he’s hurled himself out of a three-story building only to hit the ground without a scratch, thanks to those aforementioned power trousers. Seconds later, he witnesses the murder of a client, a gun company employee who’d just contacted him—a bad situation made worse because the building’s internal security cameras link him to the scene of the crime. The CEO of the gun maker contacts Conway to warn that he’ll be the prime suspect in her employee’s murder unless he snags those videotapes before the police gets them.

Gunpoint

This simple quest to clear your name descends into a rabbit hole of double-crosses, cover-ups, and conspiracies. The complications unfold slowly through a series of email hacks and phone conversations with clients. At a certain point, I wondered about the agency of this freelance spy-for-hire. How much freedom does he actually have in choosing his cases? Because seemingly every piece of evidence has a digital footprint that leads somewhere else, Conway is forced to infiltrate building after building to secure a never-ending collection of files and devices. It’s a situation made to feel more dire with the game’s mournful jazz wailing in the background. The soundtrack’s mood hints that Conway could end up drinking himself to death on a bourbon binge rather than jumping through yet another plate glass window to fetch yet another lousy email.

It’s true, your hard-boiled hero reaps the benefits of cutting-edge gadgetry in his dangerous game of spycraft. But technology works just as well to thicken the web of intrigue that ensnares him. It almost makes me want to kick a Kinect in frustration.

Gunpoint
Developer: Tom Francis
Publisher: Independent
Platform: PC
Price: $10

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23 Responses to “Inspector Gadget”

  1. NakedSnake says:

    In reading the description (which sounds awesome), I’m a little disappointed that they decided to include a gun at all. It sounds like it kind of breaks the gameplay, and doesn’t add anything to the sneaking/espionage aspect. 

    • HobbesMkii says:

      In my playthrough, I used the gun exactly one time. Although I did trigger guards’ weapons so that they’d shoot each other accidentally.

    • oldtaku says:

      Like most of the stuff in the game you can use it or not use it depending on your playstyle.  Like to go slow and stealthy? It’ll reward you for that. Like to go fast and kill everyone on the level? It’ll reward you for that.  Crosslink is mandatory, but there’s a lot of flexibility in how you use it.

      There is one level that requires the gun, and other than that I never used it.

    • RidleyFGJ says:

      Outside of a few of the achievements, it’s not only quite useless, but firing the gun even once calls the cops and starts a countdown. Once it reaches zero, a police sniper camps at the exit and will take you down as soon as he sees you.

      • NakedSnake says:

        Oh, in that case it sounds like it works. I was just thinking that frustration would just regularly get the best of me and I would go “fuck it, I’m shooting my way out!” Honestly, I need the game to take that choice away from me or it will be strongly considered.

  2. Effigy_Power says:

    I’d love to play it because I hate the look.
    I’d hate to play it because I dislike the gameplay.
    Ethical pickle, yo.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      I bought it on the visuals and the humor. You know, it’s not that bad, for a stealth game. If you screw up and die, you can turn the clock back.

      I also recommend pouncing on and punching a guard for as long as you possibly can to see all the funny captions.

  3. Fluka says:

    Just picked this up, as I adore games built around manipulating closed systems, particularly with the possibility of stealth.

    Proposal: 2013 has been much, much more interesting for indie games than AAA games so far.  And unusually rife with game protagonists named Conway.

    • ItsTheShadsy says:

      That’s totally accurate. Most of the big retail games I’ve purchased recently were from 2012 (with the exception of SimCity… sigh). There’s a big lull now that we’re waiting for the next line of systems to come out, so all the really good stuff is happening on the margins for a while.

      • Fluka says:

        I’m hoping that this’ll turn out like last year, where most of the good, groundbreaking games were either in the latter half of the year or were total surprises (Walking Dead, Spec Ops, etc.).  Mainstream-wise, 2013’s been a lot of middling sequels and reboots so far.  But I guess that’s the natural way of the console generation transition.  

        I guess there’s been BioShock and The Last of Us this year, but those feel more like finely crafted versions of an existing product, rather than something really new.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          Now indie games just have to avoid the pitfall of being as gloating and self-referential as the indie movie scene. Then we’re golden.

        • ItsTheShadsy says:

          @Effigy_Power:disqus It’s far, far too late for that…

  4. The_Helmaroc_King says:

    Rating: N/A

    Oh, I do not believe this, Gameological! Once again, your rampant anti-game bias shows through with this travesty of a rating for a game I haven’t played yet. This deserves nothing less than an “etc.++” and I will have sexual relations with the relatives of those who disagree.

    Maybe if this was some black-and-white commentary on the gold standard, you would’ve given it a better rating, but then again this site is just brimming with those kind of people…

    • John Teti says:

      I deleted that thing because our style is to simply omit the ESRB rating line when a game doesn’t have one, so that shouldn’t have been in there. But I wanted to leave this comment so that future generations know that The Helmaroc King is not crazy.

      • The_Helmaroc_King says:

        This is somehow a worse outrage! You can’t tell me that I’m not crazy! Expect my vitriol to continue for the foreseeable future.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          You can expect all fourteen notebooks of my manifesto written in smudged short-hand in the mail.  Now good day, sir!

    • NakedSnake says:

      It deserves an N/A+, at very least.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      Extra-Extra-Medium.

  5. CrabNaga says:

    Just looking at the trailer for this game is giving me Analysis Paralysis. I’d never figure out what approach I’d want to take in any given situation because there are just so many different ways to go about.

    • BuddhaBox says:

       Yeah, the game has a tendency to play out as “5 minutes of planning/wire analysis and 15 seconds of action.” Which is great, don’t get me wrong, but you’re sometimes graded according to speed, which can mess up your average mission grade pretty quickly, lf you’re the sort of person who cares about getting A++ on all levels.

  6. a_scintillating_comment says:

    Question: Who’s going to be the next game critic turned mega successful indie developer? A certain J. Teti?