It’s not often that a company gets a chance at redefining a whole genre, at making a mark for themselves that can stand the test of time and define who they are in the game industry. With these things it’s often a before and after situation where they go from almost obscurity to common nomenclature on everyone’s lips in the game industry. Rockstar Games did it with Grand Theft Auto. Bethesda did it with Oblivion. And now Maximum Games has a chance to perform a similar feat in November with the release of Alekhine’s Gun.
Maximum Games has already been quietly publishing some of the best games in the industry. They were recently named to the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in America. But this is the first time that the company is working to develop a game on their own in addition to being its publisher. For this massive feat, they are building on a franchise that is beloved by many players, the extremely difficult yet satisfying Death to Spies. But while Alekhine’s Gun will seem familiar to D2S players, and even has some of the same developers on staff, it will stand alone as its own unique title that should prove to be more accessible to most players.
Maximum Games’ Vice President of Marketing Diane Fornasier explains the similarities and the differences between the two titles. “Our Maximum Games executives are veterans in the Video Game world and, when they saw a concept demo of Death to Spies 3 about a year ago, they were immediately intrigued with the creative and gameplay potential of the game,” Fornasier said. “While Maximum Games is dedicated to keeping the inherent substance and essence of the D2S franchise, we are making some gameplay and creative modifications that will increase the playability of the game, bring more intrigue into the underlying storyline, and reposition the franchise for future sequels that will refresh the classic stealth genre that is increasingly more popular among gamers today. As a spiritual successor, it’s made to be accessible to new players while keeping long-time fans happy as well.”
And what a plotline the game will offer. It is the height of the Cold War, a time of global uncertainty and civil unrest. Players take on the role of Agent Alekhine, a highly skilled Russian assassin working alongside American CIA agents in an unsanctioned operation. With the tension of a nuclear standoff growing with each passing minute, your mission is clear, though how you accomplish it is anything but straightforward.
Alekhine’s Gun will inevitably be compared with one of the current leading stealth games out there right now, the Hitman series. But Agent Alekhine and Agent 47 are very different people.
“The earlier classic Hitman games have somewhat been a source of inspiration in gameplay,” Fornasier said. “Where the gameplay differs most from Hitman Absolution, the last game in the franchise, is our non-linear environments. Unlike Hitman Absolution, the levels in Alekhine’s Gun are wide open. The player can choose to complete their objectives in almost any order and there are multiple ways to approach each objective.”
One of Alekhine’s Gun Producer Andrew Nguyen’s jobs is making sure that stealth gamers get the freedom that they crave to creatively complete their missions, a task he takes very seriously as a fan of stealth gaming himself.
“I am really passionate about providing players a lot of freedom and openness for stealth gameplay,” Nguyen said. “We literally place Agent Alekhine in the middle of a huge open-level map, provide some information to the gamer in terms of the level’s missions – mainly through cut scenes and other ‘bits’ of information rather than overt instructions – and let the gamer figure out the rest.”
The idea is to balance playability that many thought was absent in Death to Spies with a total open-world freedom that was missing from Hitman Absolution. “While this gameplay style may cause the game to be somewhat harder than openly taking down every enemy in your path, we believe it is what Stealth gamers absolutely want,” Nguyen said. “Plus, it has great replay value as you try to complete the objectives as Agent Alekhine while minimizing your exposure, thus increasing your Stealth Ranking and getting rewards at the end of each level.”
Designing a game like Alekhine’s Gun that gives total freedom yet also provides a thrilling story isn’t an easy task, but it’s one reason that it has so much potential. Nguyen explained a little bit of the secret behind the game’s design.
“We always make sure there’s at least one or two approaches to each objective that are challenging and satisfying ‘enough.’ Then we go the extra mile with some creative and unique ways to accomplish the objective or assassination.” Nguyen said. “And if all else fails for the player, they can always resort to their gun, knife, or even hand-to-hand combat. Having multiple approaches means that the player will likely never get stuck for too long.”
And what about those really oddball plans that involve things like special disguises, makeshift weaponry and cleverly using your environment? No worries, says Nguyen, as those types of paths are also hidden everywhere too, for those who want to take the time to really observe and execute them.
“Our core design gives us the freedom to add obscure, but rewarding, methods and strategies,” Nguyen said. “We’re never worried something will be passed up because we know players will go back and intentionally look for the alternative methods, hopefully even sharing it with their friends. ‘Hey did you know you can do this on the mafia level?’”
That combination of full open-world freedom and playability should help to make Alekhine’s Gun quite popular, but so will the deep story and Cold War setting, which is also rising in popularity.
“Obviously, gamers that enjoy the classic stealth genre with wide open levels to explore will dive right into this game. In addition, anyone that is interested in the Cold War era – especially the culmination of that period during the 1960s and the conspiracy theories behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy will be absorbed by the gripping storyline with its twists and turns,” Fornasier said. “Gamers that are interested in stealth/action adventure in general – from games such as Assassin’s Creed to Splinter Cell, Hitman, Metal Gear Solid, Far Cry and The Last of Us should all give Alekhine’s Gun a try for a fresh take on a classic stealth gaming experience.”