Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 130 / JUNE 1991 / PAGE 122

Covert Action. (computer game) (evaluation)
by Barry Brenesal

Terrorism runs rampant in Covert Action, but as Max or Maxine Remington, the world's greatest secret agent, you may be able to put an end to the siege of fear. Super spy or not, with 26 terrorist organizations in 40 cities to combat, you quickly find that foiling evil schemes takes determination, as well as espionage skills. Your seperior gives you the sketchiest of outlines at the beginning of each case and a few clues that have turned up; the rest--gathering information and evidence and arresting as many enemy operatives as possible before they go into hiding--is up to you. Since each crime is meticulously planned by a criminal mastermind, you can expect stiff resistance to your efforts.

Four espionage activities form the core of your investigation: wiretapping, code breaking, car chases, and break-ins. All present sophisticated challenges.

Code breaking is safe but difficult. Wiretapping requires following the electrical flow of some fairly complex telephone lines; substitute the wrong microchip, and alarms sound. Car chases involve caging a suspect between two vehicles you control on a large city map grid. Choose faster automobiles, and their sporty designs may alert your quarry too soon; inconspicuous cars may be too slow to overtake opponents.

Break-ins are the heart of Covert Action. You have limited carrying capacity and must choose your weapons and burglary devices carefully. Overhead perspective and realistic floor plans (with sofas, stereos, and wall safes) provide the backdrop as you move Max or Maxine from room to room. Meanwhile, of course, terrorist organization guards are afoot. If you trigger an alarm, they'll meticulously search every inch of the building. During a break-in you may uncover valuable evidence or even make an arrest, but being caught in a hail of bullets costs you valuable recovery time.

Covert Action offers four levels of difficulty, and each adds fresh twists to already complex cases. When you jump from local to national assignments, goon squads go on alert and gun for you, rather than waiting in their headquarters for your visits. At the regional level, coded messages sometimes arrive with no spaces between words. Wiretapping circuitry includes blank microchips, leaving you to infer their design.

Some configurability has been built into Covert Action, allowing you to stress those gaming elements you prefere. Your character receives credit for four training sessions at the start of his or her epic adventure. Apply these sessions to the espionage activities of your choice, and the resulting changes simplify certain tasks. Training for code breaking and wiretapping, for instance, would certainly make those tasks easier, especially at higher levels of difficulty where problems really begin. Combine these options for customization with the mean, quick arcade-and-tactics play of break-ins, and Covert Action stands as a well-balanced game, even though the opposition may seem overwhelming.

As broadly realistic as Covert Action is, I wince at its stereotypes. The terrorist organizations are almost entirely Middle Eastern and South American, and nearlyall operatives in every organization are Arab and Hispanic. Given that programming is a conscious (some programmers I know would say superconscious) activity, these ethnic choices were probably planned. As such, they are both offensive and inaccurate. That aside, Covert Action is a challenging, well-designed, attractive game with a nearly endless variety of crimes to solve and criminals to round up. Your ultimate goal is to catch all 26 masterminds, and you'll need at least 52 cases to accomplish it. take some friendly advice: Purchase Covert Action at once, so you get an early start on your clandestine activities.