Spy Hunter

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For other uses, see Spy Hunter (disambiguation).
Spy Hunter
Spy Hunter.png
The player has shot an innocent civilian car and is penalized with no points for a short duration.
Developer(s) Bally Midway
Publisher(s) Bally Midway
Designer(s) George Gomez
Platform(s) Arcade, DOS, NES, Amstrad CPC, Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit family, BBC Micro, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Apple II family, ColecoVision, Mobile Phone, Palm PDA
Release date(s) 1983
Genre(s) Vehicular combat
Mode(s) Single player
Cabinet Upright, sit-down
Arcade system Bally Midway MCR-Scroll
Display Raster, 480 x 480 pixels (Vertical), 68 colors, 19 inch Wells-Gardner monitor

Spy Hunter is a 1983 arcade game developed and released by Bally Midway.[1] It has also been ported to various home computers and video game systems.

As a cabinet-style arcade game, Spy Hunter was produced in both sit-down and standard upright versions with the latter being more common.[1] The game's controls consist of a steering wheel in the form of a futuristic aircraft-style yoke with several special-purpose buttons, a two-position stick shift (offering 'low' and 'high' gears), and a pedal used for acceleration. It is a single-player game.


Spy Hunter is a vertical scrolling action/driving game with the player in the role of a spy driving an armed sportscar. The object of the game is to travel the freeway destroying as many enemy vehicles as possible while protecting civilian vehicles. The game uses top-down perspective.

The game begins with the player driving the fictitious G-6155 Interceptor. Various enemy vehicles try to destroy the player's car or to force it off the road, including a helicopter that drops bombs from overhead. A counter increments the score while the car is moving and on the road. Additional points are earned destroying enemy vehicles using weapons or by forcing them off the road. After an initial lead-in time during which the player has an unlimited supply of cars, the player must earn extra cars by obtaining high scores. Destroying non-enemy cars halts the score counter for a short while, and no points are scored whenever the player's car is off the road. The car can be destroyed by a hard collision with another vehicle or if it is hit by an enemy weapon, including the craters blasted into the road by the helicopter's bombs.

Following periodic forks in the road, players can enter a new 'territory' with different terrain and/or weather conditions. Players can also upgrade the car's standard machine guns by adding other weapons by entering the Weapons Van, which appears in each new territory and can be periodically summoned by pressing the blinking "Weapons Van" button. Three special weapons are available: oil slicks, smoke screens, and surface-to-air missiles. Each has limited ammo and are lost if the player's car is destroyed. The game's dashboard shows which weapons are available, when lit.

It is possible for the player to convert the car into a go-fast boat for brief periods by driving through a special boathouse which appears infrequently at the side of the road after which the player is attacked by two different enemy boats.


An electronic arrangement of Henry Mancini's theme to Peter Gunn plays throughout.

A sequence featuring the player flying a helicopter was also planned by the developers, but it was omitted due to lack of memory. The cabinet artwork on some versions of the game feature a jet with the same color scheme as the car/boat,[2] leading some players to believe that it would be playable at some point during the game.


Following the success of the arcade version of Spy Hunter, a pinball version of the game was released in 1984 by Bally. The pinball machine version of the Spy Hunter by Bally Midway based on classic arcade game by Bally Midway same name. The original Spy Hunter was followed by an arcade sequel, Spy Hunter II in 1987. It retained the Peter Gunn music and incorporated a cooperative two-player mode, but the top-down view was replaced with a more 3D perspective from behind and above the car. Though seemingly more realistic, the different perspective was unpopular and clumsy. The game achieved little success and remained largely unknown as it never went into large scale production. After Japanese video game developer Sunsoft reprogrammed the original arcade game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Sunsoft later created Battle Formula, featuring very similar gameplay, but to avoid copyright infringement outside of Japan and to understand the point of the game only by its front cover, Sunsoft America signed a deal with Bally Midway in adding it to the Spy Hunter series by releasing it outside of Japan as Super Spy Hunter.

Spy Hunter itself is regarded as one of the "Top 100 Videogames" of all time by the Killer List of Videogames (KLOV).

The series was reprised with a 2001 game of the same name which was developed by Paradigm Entertainment and released by Midway Games for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube, Game Boy Advance and Microsoft Windows in 2001. The game marked a shift towards mission-based gameplay, and featured vehicles that switched seamlessly between land and sea. A sequel developed by Angel Studios was released in 2003.

Another reboot of the series was developed by TT Fusion for the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita and released by Warner Bros. Interactive in October 2012.[3]


Screenshot of the ColecoVision port

Because of its success, Spy Hunter was ported to several home video game systems and home computers of the early 1980s era. Versions were developed for DOS, the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit family, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Apple II, ColecoVision, and the BBC Micro. A clone named Major Motion was also released by Microdeal on Atari ST and Amiga.[4]

The Nintendo port of this game has extremely buggy collision detection. If the road turns, the car will not crash if it remains pointed straight. It is possible to drive for hours over dirt, rocks, river banks, etc. If the car's tires are slashed while near the top of the screen, the car will often spin off the top of the screen and reappear at the bottom. The car becomes indestructible and can drive anywhere on the screen without being damaged, but the car's weapons no longer function.

The Commodore 64 (C64) and Atari 8-bit versions had a similar apparent bug. Immediately after starting (being dropped off by the Van), one could continue driving on the side of the road without any enemy cars being able to damage the spy car. In the C64 and Atari 8-bit ports one could even drive further out on the black border on the side of the screen. However, in the arcade version, after exploiting this effect for a few tens of seconds, the Enforcer would appear on the opposite side of the road, forcing the player to take evasive action and resume normal play, or be destroyed.

Screenshot of the ZX Spectrum port

In addition to these consoles, Spy Hunter was included in Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits: Volume 1 for Nintendo 64; Midway Arcade Treasures, a 2003 compilation of arcade games available for the GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox consoles; and Midway Arcade Origins, a 2012 compilation available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In "Hit, Run and Homicide", a first season episode of Murder She Wrote, Jessica realizes the solution to the episode's mystery while watching a patron play Spy Hunter in the Cabot Cove grocery store.
  • A version of Spy Hunter is included as an Easter egg in the first release of Microsoft Excel 2000.[6] It requires DirectX to work. Shortly after Excel 2000's release, Microsoft officially banned Easter eggs from its non-game software.[7]
  • In March/April 2008, Pontiac aired a commercial featuring Spy Hunter with the Pontiac G8 GT taking over as the hero car after the original car is destroyed.
  • In the popular Zynga game Mafia Wars, a car is available called the Hunter "Spy" XS.

Film adaptation[edit]

In the summer of 2003, Universal Pictures acquired the rights to the 1983 arcade game Spy Hunter from Midway Games. The following September, Universal signed actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to star in the film adaptation based on the game. Screenwriters Michael Brandt and Derek Haas were hired to write the screenplay, though a director had not been decided at the time. Spy Hunter was slated to begin its budgeted $90 million production in spring 2004 in time for a summer 2005 release.[8] In January 2004, screenwriters Mark Swift and Damian Shannon replaced the original writing duo to rewrite the script, with production slated for June.[9] By May, Universal Pictures acquired director John Woo to helm the project.[10] In the same month, the previous screenwriters were replaced by screenwriter Zak Penn to rewrite the script once more.[11] By August 2004, production had been delayed, pushing Spy Hunter back to be released in summer 2006.[12] In April 2005, Penn was replaced by screenwriter Stuart Beattie to rewrite the script.[13] By May 2005, however, director John Woo left the project due to scheduling conflicts.[14] In August 2005, Dwayne Johnson said the film was still developing without a director. Pre-production work was underway with designs such as the morphing Interceptor vehicle driven by Alex Decker.[15] Production was eventually halted for the time being, and Dwayne Johnson was detached from the project.[16]

In May 2007, Paul W. S. Anderson was hired to replace Woo as the director. He will be writing a new script with another screenwriter.[16]


  1. ^ a b "Spy Hunter". The International Arcade Museum. Retrieved 4 Oct 2013. 
  2. ^ http://www.pinballrebel.com/game/pins/spy_hunter/spy_hunter_10.jpg
  3. ^ Spy Hunter Reboot Bringing Super Spy Racing to Handhelds This Fall
  4. ^ Tucker, Troy (1989). Major Motion Review 1 (Spring 1989 ed.). Compute!. pp. 66–67. Retrieved 2010-03-17.  (Page 67)
  5. ^ http://www.ign.com/articles/2012/11/14/midway-arcade-origins-review
  6. ^ Excel Easter Egg - Excel 2000 Real Easter Egg? from eeggs.com
  7. ^ Looking back at Microsoft Excel Easter Eggs from TechRepublic
  8. ^ Gabriel Snyder; Michael Fleming (2003-09-23). "Rock rolls for U's 'Spy Hunter'". Variety. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  9. ^ Gabriel Snyder (2004-01-06). "U puts slasher scribes on 'Spy Hunter'". Variety. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  10. ^ Claude Brodesser (2004-05-19). "U Woos helmer to 'Spy' for vidgame adaptation". Variety. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  11. ^ Dana Harris (2004-05-24). "Penn to pen Rock vehicle". Variety. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  12. ^ Ben Fritz (2004-08-15). "'Spy' warriors psyched for a 'Psi-Ops' pic". Variety. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  13. ^ Gabriel Snyder; Dave McNary (2005-04-14). "U takes a new 'Hunter' shot". Variety. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  14. ^ Alison James (2005-05-10). "Woo view: Redo coup". Variety. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  15. ^ Paul Davidson (2005-08-23). "Update from the Rock on Spy-Hunter". IGN. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  16. ^ a b Marc Graser; Diane Garrett (2007-06-01). "Universal restarts 'Spy Hunter'". Variety. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 

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