Have You Played… Spycraft: The Great Game?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Before In Memorium, before ARGs, before even a workable internet in most people’s homes, came the multimedia thriller Spycraft.

Released on something like 37 CDROMs, Spycraft: The Great Game was an incredibly brave venture from Activision – a complex, totally unique spy simulation that replaced sneaking and shooting with research and forensics. Someone’s assassinated a Russian presidential candidate, and as a new recruit for the CIA you’re tasked with digging into a deep conspiracy, all from the comfort of your spy-chair.

The game recreated a Windows 3.1-ish desktop, letting you search through archives, view video footage, use special super-spy techniques for calculating angles of fire, searching through audio recordings for vital clues… all that good stuff that games still fail to offer today.

Amazingly, for a game that looks as though it should require a virtual machine running DOSBOX through a time machine, you can absolutely buy it right now via GOG.

17 Comments

  1. malkav11 says:

    I have! It’s an awesome, awesome game. Very convincing feel (supposedly they consulted with a former CIA director, IIRC), solidly designed puzzles, decent acting. One of the few FMV games that didn’t suck, along with Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within and (I assume, having never played them) the later Tex Murphy games.

  2. tomimt says:

    I’ve indeed played it and not even that long ago. Unlike many other FMV games I wanted to play as a kid, this Spycraft is definetly from the better part of the town. The FMV is pretty well acted and directed and there’s an actual game there as well.

    And you do have to give them bonus points from having former CIA and KGB executives as advisors for the story and even having a little acting parts in the game.

  3. Risingson says:

    I don’t know where I read a perfect definition of this game: “work is fun”. A middle point between a kind of hacker game (in the sense that half of the game is going through a computer interface) and a FMV adventure, which is, at the same time, a really fine game.

    Only 3 CDs, btw.

  4. bitscreed says:

    I remember this game having an interrogation scene that I found genuinely disturbing at the time. You need to get information from an enemy agent and one of your options is to torture it out of them using something called “The Bullpen.” It’s not referred to as “enhanced interrogation” or any other such rubbish either: the game itself straight-up calls it torture.

    • Risingson says:

      I love 90s adventures for that: there were no limits to what they could show or tell to disturb you, and there were no taboos. Harvester, Phantasmagoria 2, Dark Seed 2, sweet pieces of sickness.

    • mineshaft says:

      I remember that scene and I actually shut it down right there. I couldn’t figure out why my Photoshopping wasn’t working, so I tried Plan B. But I had a swift negative reaction, and uninstalled.

      It wasn’t until years later that I learned I had survived through to the winning, minority side of a Milgram experiment. It was a proud connection.

      • Alto says:

        Except that the Milgram experiment involved real people, and this was a video game. Also, the Milgram experiment involved someone bullying the participant into delivering the “shocks,” whereas with this game there was only the desire to get your money’s worth pushing you onwards. Congrats, though.

  5. Gabbo says:

    Have never completed it, but always go back to it every few years (still have the 3CD copy) and still enjoys that 90s spy thriller atmosphere it pulls off.

    Even the clunky interface has its charms

  6. Bodylotion says:

    Bought this back in the day but I didn’t understood any of it since I was just a kid and couldn’t really speak English. I think I quit the game once some disturbing footage came up… I think it was Kennedy getting shot? or something else… I don’t know what it was…

  7. Johnny Go-Time says:

    Awesome game, I wish another like it would be made. CIA director William Colby and KGB Major-General Oleg Kalugin were consultants.
    link to en.wikipedia.org

    There was a sequence where you have to analyze day after day of a worker going through a secured door, because somewhere in that time, he apparently performed some sabotage. And then on one of the days, suddenly the face in the video *wasn’t the same person* but an imposter. That simple still-image startled me so badly, I nearly shat myself.

  8. Jalan says:

    I have not, but Charles Napier is in it so I damned well better do it soon.

  9. demicanadian says:

    When we’re at it, have you played first SWAT ?

  10. shrieki says:

    the interrogation scene was really very upsetting. thats when i stopped playing. back then video games would really upset me easily… still get upset about violence- but it doesnt upset me so much in fantasy,science fiction, supernatural horror themed games.
    also remember a scene where you had to find a specific bird-song in background noise of a telephone call or something. those mini-games were really awesome.

  11. Dimsey says:

    One of the first PC games I ever played.
    Recall enjoying it a decent amount but I was a daft kid when I played it so I didn’t get particularly far.

  12. Pierocha says:

    In memoriam please, dear John. How about your daily ten minutes of latin ?

  13. Biaxident says:

    Don’t see In Memoriam mentioned much these days (if ever). Still remember your review for it in PC Gamer years ago. Don’t remember pretty much any other review I’ve ever read but for some reason that one stuck with me. Interesting game too.

  14. Maxheadroom says:

    Great game but not all that popular

    I was working in a computer shop when this came out. We were only small and would only stock a handful of even the biggest triple A titles.

    One day we had about 30 copies of Spycraft showed up that we didn’t order or (apparently) pay for and no matter how cheap we priced them we couldn’t shift them.

    When I left years later there were still a dozen or so sitting on a shelf in the back of the storeroom

    Shame as it was – and still is – a really unique title.