She Sneaks, He Hacks: Clandestine’s Asymmetric Co-op

When social engineering fails...

Here’s a cracking idea for a co-op game: an asymmetric spy ’em up where one player’s a secret agent infiltrating facilities using stealth, social engineering, and violence, while the other is a remote hacker who cracks systems and feeds the agent information. That’s a real game. It’s Clandestine, made by Expeditions: Conquistador devs Logic Artists. You can buy it today on Early Access.

I was not at all surprised to learn that creative director Jonas Wæver was lead designer of remarkable Deus Ex mod The Nameless Mod.

Right, here’s how it goes. The spy heads out into the field on missions to do spy things, ideally without getting caught. To help with this, she’s got guns, gadgets, and garb. A grungy sleeveless hoodie with jeans and a plaid shirt tied around her waist will make guards more inclined to believe she’s harmless than body armour would, for example, but not do as much to dissuade bullets from penetrating her flesh.

Helping her is a hacker. He exists purely as a screen, watching over maps to track people, hacking security cameras, bribing guards, arranging supply drops, digging for intel, opening doors, and engaging in other shenanigans inside the Gibson. Oh sure, you could play in single-player, switching between the two with a button-press, but that sounds far less fun.

Well, that’s sort of the plan. Clandestine launched into Early Access yesterday, and Logic Arts have only included four standalone challenge missions to avoid spoiling the story – and those don’t have any of the conversational social engineering stuff. That’s a shame. They plan to launch the full game in February 2015. It’ll run you £22.99 for one copy, or £34.99 for two.

Here’s the launch trailer, or you might fancy a dev video about the two roles. Yes, it does all look a bit shonky, but without tolerance for jank in stealth games we can’t play Alpha Protocol either.

38 Comments

  1. montorsi says:

    Looks neat, and please, the brief gameplay video cannot even compare to the king of jank that is Alpha Protocol. I truly doubt Clandestine will make me want to stab myself every moment I am playing it.

    • Shockeh says:

      Thing is, Alpha Protocol is still a great game; Yes, it feels in gameplay like someone watched a video of Mass Effect, then explained it to a developer who never played anything after the original Xbox, but it’s pretty bloody amazing the level of depth and choice recognition.

      This is probably one of the few titles I’ll consider getting on Early Access; I’m a sucker for Asymmetric games anyway (I’m a huge fan of Netrunner) so this is basically like having someone insert a probe into my brain that drove game development.

      • Jonas says:

        Yeah I loved Alpha Protocol for its incredible story branching and reactivity. The main problem is that Obsidian seem to have stretched themselves too thin on it – the story is amazing and the writing is largely great, but then the combat is kinda meh, the level design is kinda meh, the stealth is kinda meh, the hacking was really really meh…

        In Clandestine, we’re focusing on stealth and hacking. That means the combat will never be even remotely up to par with games like Splinter Cell: Conviction or Hitman: Absolution, but the stealth will be solid (especially once we get more AI features implemented) and most of all will not feature Alpha Protocol’s hilarious invisibility cloak skill. Unfortunately we don’t have AP’s budget for voice-over either, but we’re pretty good at narrative so we’re doing what we can with the resources we have, and I’m confident our social engineering sequences will not disappoint.

        • TwoDaemon says:

          “… most of all will not feature Alpha Protocol’s hilarious invisibility cloak skill”

          With apologies for leaping on individual sentences, if you’re referring to the three second invisibility on being spotted, that had a clear position within the design. The focus wasn’t a “stealth game” in the traditional sense, it was a CINEMATIC SPY game. Hence the ability to see enemies remotely through walls (because proper film spies always seem to know where people are, somehow), the ability to run silently (because film spies tend to do bursts of movement, not all this slow crouch moving we do in Thief games) and the emergency invis. Why the last one? Because when you’re being Super Cool Ace Spy Dude, your control isn’t as precise as the film version. The cloak is mostly to catch the odd minor slip. Super Cool Ace Spy Dude doesn’t fuck up the mission by crossing a guard’s LOS for a split second because he couldn’t tell where the models aligned. That ability means nor do you, your failures will be larger and more dramatic, more… cinematic. Although obviously you can also abuse it a bit, if you don’t need it for emergencies.

          Otherwise I entirely respect your focus on the key elements of your game! It’s good thinking, particularly for smaller teams. Just keep in mind that Alpha Protocol’s focus wasn’t as terrible as people think, it’s just that James Bond: The Game is not the same as a more traditional stealth game focus.

          • Jonas says:

            Those are very good points, I think my problem was I came at it as a huge stealth fan and it just felt like a crutch for sub-par stealth mechanics. I remember maxing out the Stealth skill quite early and as I recall, this extended the duration of the shadow cloak ability quite a bit beyond the initial 3-second grace period. I distinctly remember being able to run right up to enemies’ face and doing frontal stealth takedowns as I came out of invisibility. At that point it felt like pure sci-fi.

            Besides, in my mind, the James Bond of games will always be No One Lives Forever :D

          • TwoDaemon says:

            Apparently we’ve hit maximum reply depth, so I shall talk to myself instead.

            Yes, certainly the cloak gets longer, and can be mightily abused – I used it similarly a few times. I’m not saying it was without flaws (definitely not without flaws, haha), but there was a reason for many of the decisions. I suspect the devs just didn’t have the time or the money to finish testing or balancing everything, so they often had to keep early ideas and just ran with them.

            And yeah, No-One Lives Forever will never stop being a fantastic game :D

          • Jonas says:

            Yeah you’re right. I really liked Alpha Protocol overall. It’s the sort of game where most of the individual components are all below-average, but they come together in a pretty entertaining fashion. I’ll always admire the reactivity of its narrative at the very least.

        • Vandelay says:

          “the combat is kinda meh, the level design is kinda meh, the stealth is kinda meh, the hacking was really really meh…”

          This is what confuses me about AP defenders (which RPS is full of.) That is 95% of the game! How can you say that it is a great game when it gets so many of the fundamentals wrong?

          There might have been great reaction to player choices and a branching storyline, but it was a pig to play. I’m usually a defender of interesting games with a few wonky mechanics, but there were so many in AP that I can’t see how those good elements could outweigh the bad.

          I’ll admit I couldn’t bring myself to finish it, getting too frustrated at another of the boss fights, but I didn’t really see what the fuss with the story was either. Seemed pretty standard mediocre spy thriller to me, lacking the inventiveness of James Bond or the thrill of Jason Bourne.

      • LexW1 says:

        Yep. I bought Alpha Protocol on release, and was APPALLED. Buggy, poor gameplay, generally a mess.

        Left it for a year or so. People kept saying it was amazing.

        Went back, and damn, once you get a few skill points and get into the main game (past the desert bit), it’s is totally brilliant.

        • heretic says:

          Never played it, just put it on my steam wishlist arrrrgh!!!! Too many games to play!!!!

        • Scurra says:

          AP is one of the few “multipath” games that I have played all the way through three times (and probably halfway a couple more) just to explore the ramifications of the choices. Whilst they are still marginal most of the time, there are places where the payoff is completely unexpected. It genuinely feels like Deus Ex done right (it’s clearly not a better game than DEx, but then again what is?)
          Plus trying to get to sleep with all of the women in a single playthrough is surprisingly difficult. Or maybe that was just me?

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    Harlander says:

    This reminds me of a sci-fi themed take on the same concept – called something like Duality or Singularity or some other thing – though in that the dude did meatspace stuff while the lady did the computo-magic. All there ever was was a concept video, though.

  3. Premium User Badge

    kregg says:

    Reminds me of a certain Payday 2 mission, where one of you goes into the rich guy’s house and plant some sort of evidence (optionally you could steal his money if stealthed successfully), and the other watches on camera.

    That was a great mission, and if Clandestine is the same, I’ll be looking forward to this game too.

    • Wang Tang says:

      Framing Frame Day 3. Yes, a great mission, but a bit dull for the guy at the cams, as he doesn’t have much to do. This game sounds as if it expands on that role, and if so, awesome!

  4. Big Murray says:

    “You can buy it today”
    YAY!!!

    “on Early Access.”

  5. rpenm says:

    Gunplay needs some work, but yeah, this piques my interest. Personally, I’d like to see a game that deemphasizes gunplay in favor of tradecraft (planning, disguises, persuasion) or even just exceptionally good stealth and timing. I’m hungry for a strong espionage game.

    • Jonas says:

      One of our primary goals is that the game must be ghostable and playable without killing anyone. We’ll track your “footprint” in each mission to reward players who manage to complete levels without getting spotted or killing anyone, though there will also be certain benefits to making a mess of things. The goal for the combat is that your weapons and gadgets should be just powerful enough to get you out of the immediate trouble, but you’ll have to relocate before reinforcements arrive, or you’ll be boned.

  6. Velko says:

    Anyone else read that title to the tune of that Ricky Martin song? She sneaks, he hacks, oh baby how she moves that silenced pistol…

    • mashkeyboardgetusername says:

      I read it to the Itchy & Scratchy theme. She sneaks, he hacks (and barks), she sneaks he hacks she sneaks (and barks), sneak sneak sneak, hack hack hack…

      Come on Alice, what song was the headline set to?

  7. Jorum says:

    So this is Neuromancer chapter 4 – the game. I’m cool with that idea.
    There was an old Amiga game called Interphase that was similar concept (because it too was inspired by the Neuromancer scene) except the female agent was only depicted by blip on building schematic screen, and the “hacking” was really a 3D polygon air-combat game affair like something from Tron.

    *edit* oh found it on youtube link to google.co.uk

    • Jonas says:

      Oh man this looks awesome. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this game, and then I accidentally ripped it off! I wonder if it plays in Dosbox…

      • Premium User Badge

        Harlander says:

        Oh man, I got Interphase for free on a ST Format cover disk. Never got past the second floor though… I should probably give it another shot now I actually understand puzzles

    • Hypnotron says:

      same link, less gnarly looking link to youtube.com

      game looks like an early version of Descent.

  8. HyenaGrin says:

    …. welp, found my co-op game for the next while. Love this kind of asymmetric co-op, love stealth, love hacking, etcetera. I’m looking forward to giving this a try.

  9. derbefrier says:

    Looks cool. My friends and I have always. Wondered at the posibility of stealth co-op. Will be keeping a close eye on this one

  10. Ross Angus says:

    Finally, we get to say the immortal words “Fisher, details on your OPSAT”.

  11. malkav11 says:

    Expeditions was great, the Nameless Mod was great, so while this is a completely different sort of game and one cannot -automatically- assume it will come off as well, I think the odds are good. If only my coop partner were more reliably available!

  12. Martel says:

    I love this idea, I really hope it works out well. I absolutely loved Expeditions so I’ll be keeping my eye on this. I wouldn’t mind an Expeditions sequel after this though :)

    • Jonas says:

      There will be another Expeditions game after Clandestine, gods of finance be willing, and imagine how good it’s going to be with all the things we’ve learned while we were making this game :)

      • Persona says:

        I also enjoyed Expeditions a lot, bought it soon after I learned of its existence. Feels like one of the most interesting tactical RPGs released in the past few years. The combat definitely needs some work, but I’m sure you’re aware of that and will make it a priority if you go forward with the sequel.

        Unfortunately it seems like most people haven’t heard about it. How well did it do? Any sales data you can share? Hopefully well enough to keep you going :)

        Very interested in this one as well, we really need more asymmetric coop games. How much content is in the game at the moment? Do the 4 challenge missions offer a good amount of replay value?

  13. Chuckleluck says:

    Ha, you know I was just thinking the other day that it’d be cool if someone makes this game. I’ll keep my eye on this one – as it is there aren’t enough reviews (which is doubly important for early access) and the price tag is a bit steep.

  14. Hex says:

    Hey neat!

    If only I had a friend….

  15. amptacular says:

    So…a rehash of this IGF student finalist last year: link to cyberheistgame.com

    “Cyber Heist is a two-player high-intensity stealth and puzzle game
    that puts you in the shoes of a stealthy, resourceful infiltrator or in the seat of a hotshot, black-hat hacker.”

  16. Lb122 says:

    This setup reminds me a bit of ’93s Critical Path.

  17. Vandelay says:

    Looks like a great idea. Bit early to tell about the execution now, but could be brilliant.

    Couldn’t stop thinking how good this would work on the WiiU. It is a pity that despite some great games coming out on the system, they haven’t had a great asymmetric multiplayer game on it ( Zombie U probably being the closest, excluding Nintendo Land, which was more of a showcase for the console.) Something like this would be a great fit.

  18. Jamesworkshop says:

    i had an idea for a game like that, after playing the firewall specs ops mission in cod modern warfare 3

    link to youtube.com

    would need more expanding than a single mission

    link to youtube.com

    fire mission was also fun