Many Hitman fans have been waiting for a true sequel to Hitman: Blood Money for years. So with Hitman 2016 still a short wait away, is Alekhine's Gun the worthy spiritual successor to Blood Money and Death to Spies 2? Developed and published by Maximum Games, Alekhine's Gun is a 3rd person, stealth action adventure set during the height of the Cold War.
I'm a firm believer in saying that the quality of a game's graphics does not reflect the quality of the game as a whole, but just how bad the graphics are has to be addressed for the people that do care. Textures are flat, animations are stiff, and the lighting is jagged and all over the place.
This is a game that looks like it could easily run on a PS2, but has trouble running on a PS4. Not even a minute into actually playing the game, the frame rate tanked below 20fps as soon as I moved the camera. It's clear that the frame rate isn't capped, so one second you are at 60fps, then the next you are chugging along at 24fps. There are other games on the PS4 that have superior graphics, but still never drop below 60fps. The fact that this game does though makes no sense.
What technically counts as a story for Alekhine's Gun is a thinly spread doomsday plot that only exists to have you travel to various locations from the 1940's through the 1960's. You must travel to many different environments around the world, over the span of 3 decades, in order to eliminate targets, destroy sensitive information, and gather intel in order to keep the Cold War from boiling over. This story is primarily played out with single frame, black and white drawings with voice overs. For some reason, even these cutscenes suffer frame frequent frame rate dips.
Alekhine's Gun would have benefited greatly from a "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."-esque spy plot. You already play as a Russian spy, and there is an American CIA agent you save that is suspicious of you. Instead, we're stuck with a game that takes itself much too seriously. Which wouldn't have been bad if the story was actually engaging.
The bits of story that are actually fleshed out are the backgrounds of your targets and how they connect to real world events of the time. It's clear that the developers spent a lot of time studying the world's history during the Cold War. It's genuinely interesting to see how these fictional events would have fit in the real world.
Here is where Alekhine's Gun shines bright, the gameplay. Maximum Games were able to take the best elements of Death to Spies 2 and Hitman: Blood Money and put them into one game. As you progress through Alekhine's Gun, you will be given more and more unique ways of disposing of your targets and completing your objectives.
Simple ways of eliminating your targets, such as choking and poisoning, will eventually turn into electrocution, accidental chandelier positioning and BBQing gone wrong. Admittedly, not as unique as the ways of killing your targets in the Hitman entries, but Alekhine's Gun still offers a vast array of elimination and opportunities. Although, performing the same kill over and over will probably burn you out, so make sure to either take breaks or change up your play style from time to time.
Loadout and gear customization isn't as in depth as, say, Blood Money, but it certainly comes in handy with the 11 open levels you are tasked with completing. All the environments feel distinct and fun to play in. From a Nazi castle, to a busy hotel in Switzerland, to a mob boss' huge villa in New York The entire level is open to you from the get-go as well, so there's no need to wait for the other half of the map to unlock when the game deems you are worthy to proceed.
One welcome addition is the ability to save and load whenever you want. This may seem like something that isn't praise worthy, but it's a feature that is seemingly omitted from almost every faux mainstream stealth game nowadays. What may irritate many more modern gamers is that Alekhine's Gun lacks a basic autosave feature. So make sure to save before you do anything risky, or else you will be forced to replay from your last manual save point.
Is Alekhine's Gun a bad game? No, a bad game is a game that fails to achieve what it was aiming for. Maximum Games aimed for a fun, Hitman-esque stealth game in a Cold War setting, and they succeeded with that. Many people seem to forget that not every game needs to be Citizen Kane or a work of art to hang in a museum. Some games just want to be games. Although tripping over a few graphical and narrative hurdles, Alekhine's Gun core experience is a fun stealth romp that hearkens back to the days of Hitman: Blood Money.