If there's one thing I like about old DOS games, is that back then, the guys who did the games didn't have to investmost of their time and resources in implementing or developing a fancy state-of-the-art 3D engine with real-life physics, complex filters and all the mumbo-jumbo that games today have to carry. It was just a few guys (sometimes even just one guy) and a cool idea.

Not to say there weren't bad games back then, or that games today are generally worse (though some may argue). It's just that sometimes games today can get lost by worriyng too much about fancy graphics, or following stablished clich├ęs, and some other things that not necesarilly improve what is most important: the gameplay.

But this isn't going to be a rant about that. This post is a bout a little game called Covert Action, created by the genious called Sid Meier (the mind behind Pirates!, Civilization, Alpha Centauri, Colonization, Railroads!, F-15 Strike Eagle). This is one of my favorite games of all time.

I started off with the long introduction because I felt it was needed in order to explain what makes this game so great and unique. There's simply no other game like it out there, and believe me I've looked.

So what is it about? well, in this game, you are an international detective/spy, part of the CIA. Sort of like a James Bond with Batman brains. The game is divided in missions, at the start you get a few clues about the crime. It can be about what the crime is going to be about, or who is involved, or what organizations are involved, or in which city is happening, etc. After that it's up to you to find out what's going on, who's involved, and how to arrest them or prevent the crime.

The game is a mix of a lot of things. Part carmen sandiego, mixed with an action game, mixed with several puzzle games. You have several tools at your disposal, you can travel to a known hideout of an organization, or an unkown address obtained in a clue or investigation, you can decypher coded messages, you can contact other agencies, it's pretty complex.

Say for example that you have a clue leading to a known hideout. You first travel there, and you have the option to watch the building for anyone suspicious coming out of it, or you can try to tap the phone lines, or you can try to break in. If you decide to wait and someone suspicious appears, you can try to follow him/her by car, or you can put a tracker on his car and let him/her go (maybe it will lead you to another suspicious address). If you tap the phone lines you enter a little minigame that will look awfully familiar to people who have played bioshock or Fallout 3. If you decide to break in, you enter a top-down perspective and the game becomes an action game.

After the break in, you can look into the hideout and open file cabinets for clues, take photographs of files, open safe boxes, hack computers and search for a topic related to the crime for answers, kill bad guys, and if a suspect is actually in the hideout, you can take him as a prisioner and then escape the hideout. If you have enough information on him, you can turn him into a double agent, or just simply arrest him.

Describing the possibilities and all the things you can do in this game will take me pages, needless to say, it's incredibly complex but if you can think of something a spy can do to solve a crime, you can do it here. PLUS, all the crimes are randomly generated, you can never play the same mission twice, and it does it in a way that it feels like a real crime is being planned and commited because all the pieces fall in place, and as time passes so the crimes start developing.

The only flaw of this game is the action parts, because the controls are very clunky. Other than that, this game is a forgotten masterpiece. It has influenced so many other masterpieces as well, like bioshock and fallout 3 as I said before, and the randomly generated missions influenced many other games as well. This is a game that I've been playing for years now, and always come back to it for more. If you want a game that is both complex but addicting and with infinite replay value, then look no further.

If you are a hi-res graphics snob, or old games turn you off just because they are old, then GTFO of my blog you ignorant turd.


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