Clandestine PC Review
Clandestine is an asymmetrical cooperative stealth/infiltration game that requires one person to control Katya, the ‘boots on the ground’ whilst the other controls Martin, the hacker. The game is heavily reliant on patience, communication, and execution of strategies. Teamwork is crucial, which is also why I opted to play with a friend that I could call, instead of relying on the text-chat functionality for online play (although this may also be due to the fact that I never once found a game to join). The story kicks in as the two protagonists (or at least the protagonist and her side-kick) are brought in to help a private intelligence agency gain intel on a missing agent in Mexico, who is found out to be currently undergoing torture, thus turning the plan into a recovery operation. When they return and are commended for their success the real plot begins. It might be interesting and it certainly sounded pretty deep but the terribly animated cutscenes, boring voice acting, and convoluted ‘intelligence’ jargon-riddled dialog will rip you right out of it and beg that you skip straight to the mission.
Playing as Katya is just about what you’d expected from a 3rd person stealth game, meaning you sneak around taking cover and following enemy movements until you can attempt to either silently get by or go on a chokehold-spree until you’ve cleared a path. She also has her fair share of gadgets that you can build into your load out before each mission or find them throughout. These include, amongst other things, stun grenades, your basic set of pistols, and pagers which can be thrown and called to grab the attention of guards. Also present is the annoying stealth game quirk of the sneaking movement speed being only minutely faster than a guard’s walk speed, meaning that if you’re to follow someone in order to take them out then they are very likely to spin on their heel way faster then you can react and open fire. And trust me, you don’t want to take your chances with a silenced head shot. The guns in Clandestine were definitely made to fire so inaccurately that all reliance on them in soon vanquished, which I assume was their goal. In reality, Katya’s role would make for a rather bleak and repetitive experience alone and although the game centres around the first player it is the inclusion of Martin that creates a truly unique and interesting experience.
Martin’s job is to subdue cameras, mark enemies and constantly communicate directions as well as any potential dangers. When playing as him you are tasked with jumping back and forth between 3 main functions, each with it’s own section of the screen – hacking cameras to make them safe for Katya to pass whilst also controlling them to find guards to mark, directing Katya with the birds-eye map view, and finally, hacking computer networks for intel and passwords. The computer networks are built as grids of nodes that contain computers to hack and read emails from, firewalls that must be broken to gain passage, doors to hack passkeys for, and utility systems such as fuse boxes and water valves that can be activated to take out enemies nearby them. There’s a lot to keep your eye on and constant communication is vital but the only real danger to this side of the game comes in the form of ‘admins’ that also roam the computer networks and try to kick you out of the system temporarily. Martin also comes with a few ‘powers’ such as hiding bodies, bribing enemies and cutting off alarms, which can only be replenished through Katya discovering documents.
The core of the gameplay is merging these two sides of the game seamlessly with heavy comms and a lot of trust when it comes to moving around without having to worry about the hacker disarming lasers and cameras. Taking it easy and updating each other on everything you can see and everything you’re working on eventually becomes so smooth that you are put into a kind of trance out of pure concentration. Sadly this crumbles fairly swiftly when something goes wrong there’s often not much you can do with regards to means of escaping, or hiding, or fighting. Instead of being the tense, quick paced scramble to find a way out of a bad situation it instead becomes trying to find the fastest way to kill yourself so you can try again from the last checkpoint.
Even if the purpose of the game is to strive for perfection, it does unfortunately appear to lack depth with only 6 missions of vastly varying length and 4 challenge ops. The shorter missions definitely seem tighter and making a single mistake doesn’t punish too harshly when the mission can be tried again relatively quickly. On the other hand, the long missions drag on by the end and when you slip up from being worn out, getting seen by a guard only warrants a single response – just run to the end and pray you’ll make it alive. Being spotted at all is usually harshly punished if you can’t manage to pull off miraculous headshots for all the guards in the near vicinity in the time it takes them to sound the alarm. Once that happens you are done for as there are not many places to hide to begin with and once they know where you are, there’s no hiding at all.
I truly think that having more, shorter missions with more optional objectives would have been the better way to go here. Missions that you could easily jump into if you and your partner had a bit of free time. Missions that could be executed perfectly if played a few times, after analysing the different methods. This way you wouldn’t be phased if you slip up a few times and could hone your skills effectively.
I had a lot of fun and frustration during my time playing Clandestine and whilst I’m a huge fan of co-op and love to see it being implemented in refreshing new ways, I still felt like I was playing an early access game, where only the core functionality had been completed, albeit with some pretty strange and often hilarious bugs, such as taking guards out through walls and the most randomly broken cutscenes I’ve ever seen. The story needs streamlining, the characters should be more engaging and maybe the gameplay could use a few tweaks or additions, especially in Katya’s area where I often found myself waiting for my partner to help me with something whilst they were busy rummaging through emails for info. All I can say is Clandestine needs polishing. It has some creases to iron out and whilst I recommend it to co-op lovers, that recommendation does come with a few disheartening caveats.