The meaning behind the name “Alekhine’s Gun” is actually named after Russian chess grandmaster Alexander Alekhine. The formation was named after Alekhine played the move in order to earn a decisive victory from Aron Nimzowitsch in San Remo 1930. Stacking two rooks behind a solitary queen, it’s a daring move that usually marks the final assault of a chess match, marking it a risky final assault, as the game can quickly turn in the favor of the defending player if he or she manages to see an opportunity and capture such strong pieces.
Much like the chess move the game is named after, Maximum Games’ Alekhine’s Gun is risky and methodical. It’s a 12 chapter stealth game set in the Cold War, meaning your technological means are much simpler. Absent of mech suits and cell phones, the game begins with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, as the lead character Semyon Strognov is being questioned about his involvement with Communist parties. Flashbacks to missions during World War II and after, you control Strognov as he maneuvers with a crackpot team of CIA operatives digging out associates of the remaining Axis powers and Communist party that reside in the United States.
The premise holds great potential, as it is becoming harder and harder to go backwards in time, simply due to how many times those stories have been told. Strognov, who is referred to as Agent Alekhine, was recruited by the CIA due to his past experience with the KGB. Cheesy lines of dialogue undercut the intriguing atmosphere of the situation. I was constantly wondering why Strognov was so readily working with the U.S., when I was thrown out of this immersion by an occasional cheap, throwaway line of dialogue that perpetuated the black and white graphic novel aesthetic of the narrative cutscenes.
However, the story does attribute significantly to the overall gameplay, as it provides a name, face, and vital historical association to the enemies. It made strangling Nazi after Nazi after gang member after Nazi very satisfying, as I felt inclined to try out different executions on them. We learned in history classes over the years about the atrocities committed by these war criminals. Alekhine’s Gun’s main narrative carefully reminded us of the war crimes and abuses from their scientists, traitors, and generals.
The level design is my favorite part, as Agent Alekhine bounces back and forth between various locales. From a castle in Bergen, Germany to a Chinese bathhouse invaded by rough and tough mobsters ripped straight out of Guys and Dolls, the settings are not only different from one another, but they serve the story that is told between missions, making them more meaningful. You’ll have to combine your wits, patience, and limited weapon selection to take out targets, retrieve sensitive material, and collect intelligence. Enemies are structured to a specific pattern of movement unless disrupted. Whistling, attacking other enemies, and enacting various environmental traps can change their directions. While the level designs are interesting and fun to play in, I felt like they simply could have been used more, with just more hidden passageways, secret doors, and traps to take out your enemies.
I did encounter a significant number of bugs playing it on the PlayStation 4. Two of my saves were corrupted, and I encountered a few Incidents where my character was trapped in the floor, or stuck in a doorway. Agent Alekhine was very easy to control, and his executions were satisfying and easy to pull off. Guards can catch you and raise an alarm if you act in their line of sight, and then they’ll attempt to engage you in a hugely difficult firefight. End these quickly, because Agent Alekhine does not control very well when the pace is sped up considerably. The mechanics work best when you are approaching the game with a methodical, careful, stealth approach.
When it’s in motion, the game looks okay, as long as you don’t give yourself time to observe the environments and structures around you. Objects were always popping in, as if the game was finishing while I was playing. Enclosed spaces, such as the insides of a castle or laboratory, looked much better. Chalkboards covered with scientific equations or entire rooms dedicated to most likely condemned interrogation tactics gave life to the world. Outside, trees, buildings, and bodies of water faded in and out, leaving an ugly visual scar in my mind at how I will remember the world.
Alekhine’s Gun plays well if you’re focused on the stealth approach, as the overarching narrative cleverly provides a satisfying enemy to strangle. However, despite the amount of content and replayability, annoying bugs and simple implementation of the level design means you may want to wait before delving into this Cold War tale.
+Replayability with different weapons
+3rd person stealth game play
+The level design features interesting maps and mazes…
-…but ultimately they feel underutilized
-Bugs and level pop in
-Constant immersion breaking experiences
While the 3rd person stealth gameplay allows for some interesting moments, various bugs and stagnant levels hold the game back.
Liam Crossey is the Executive Editor of Features for The Game Bolt. Follow him on Twitter for too many retweets.