Death to Spies is for all intents and purposes an attempt to bring the gameplay of the later Hitman games to the World War II setting, casting you as a Russian saboteur in the anti-intelligence initiative. Unlike most other heroes or anti-heroes in games like this though, you’re not focusing on killing for a good reason or murdering for personal reward – it’s just your job to go around killing other spies and sabotaging equipment.
And that’s about as far as we can go when talking about the story in Moment of Truth before our false enthusiasm falls through. It sounds like an interesting place to start a story off from, but it quickly collapses like a wet cake. The plot of Death to Spies: Moment of Truth is the very definition of forgettable, bland drivel. It’s the literary equivalent of cold, old gruel.
Bob the Builder, can he fix it? Not unless he's a voodoo shaman, no.
The developers, Haggard Games, have literally made it impossible to care about their characters in any way at all and it doesn’t help that you’re drip-fed the boredom in a supposedly mysterious and out-of-sequence way that sees you hopping around the world in missions set across Britain, the former USSR and Germany.
Helpfully, you don’t really get properly introduced to the main character or his mission at the start of the game, so all of this is easy to ignore. Instead what you get is a short video of someone killing someone and then a mission briefing saying that you have to capture a pilot, destroy a radar dish and steal a plane. You’re then dumped into the equipment selection screen.
That’s how the game starts – no tutorial, no tool tips, no nothing except for an awkward, hyperlinked manual which you can pull up in-game and which will require a long time to read. Think of it less as a learning curve and more as a learning wall. The first level isn’t small or easy either – it’ll take you at least an hour or two to get it right even if you’re armed with a prescient knowledge of all patrol routes, controls and mechanics in the entire game. And you won’t be, because the game makes all these things almost impossible to learn or predict.
See? It isn't just the UK that's relentlessly grey and overcast!
There are a lot of mechanics and ideas to get your head around too, which only makes it even more of a pain when the game doesn’t introduce any of them to you in a tutorial or proper briefing.
It took us many, many hours to realise that we couldn’t steal a uniform from a corpse if we’d shot that person in the body for example. Just like in real life, anything other than a headshot will ruin the uniform and render the disguise useless. Impressive attention to detail, definitely, but critical features like this should be introduced and explained to the player to avoid frustrating and unguided trial and error. Anything else is just bad game design and it’s just one of many examples we could point to of Death to Spies: Moment of Truth’s inability to communicate with players.
It’s not just the lack of explanation that’s bad though – even if Moment of Truth had a perfect tutorial then it still wouldn’t be fun to play for anyone but the most meticulous and masochistic of gamers. Nearly every aspect of the game feels clunky, slow and dull, from movement speeds to level interaction.