Spycraft: The Great Game

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Spycraft: The Great Game
Spycraft - The Great Game Coverart.png
Director(s)Ken Berris
Designer(s)Juan Carlos Coto
Larry Galka
Bruce Ondor
Jeff Sullivan
Artist(s)Gary Brunetti
Wyndham Chow
David Dalzell
Derek Friesenborg
J. Christopher Lopez
Composer(s)Jeehun Hwang
Platform(s)Windows 95, Mac OS, MS-DOS
  • NA: February 29, 1996 [1]
Mode(s)Single player

Spycraft (also known by its full title, Spycraft: The Great Game) is an adventure CD-ROM game published by Activision in 1996. It details the attempted assassination of the President of the United States and the CIA and SVR attempts to save him. Although the game was not approved by either organization, it tends to favour realism due to its coordination with former CIA director William Colby and former KGB Major-General Oleg Kalugin, who also appear in the game as themselves. The game also stars James Karen, Dennis Lipscomb, Joseph Ruskin, Tim De Zarn, Kirk B.R. Woller, Allan Kolman, Chase Masterson and Charles Napier in prominent roles.[2]

A DVD-ROM version was also announced at COMDEX 1996, becoming one of the very first games to make use of the format.[3][4]


Spycraft was promoted in part by an official website with information and daily updates about the game's development and release schedule, which was highly unusual at the time.[5][6] Parts of the game were coded in HTML to enable it to update elements like news reports and character dossiers in real time via the internet.[6]

The game's script was written by James Adams, a noted author of non-fiction books on espionage.[6]

While Spycraft was still in development it was announced that there would be a home conversion for the Sega Saturn,[5] but a Saturn version was never released and possibly never even entered development.

In mid-1996, Universal Pictures acquired the license to make a film based on Spycraft.[7]



The player plays Thorn, a rookie CIA agent. During training, Thorn receives word that the Russian presidential candidate has been assassinated, and during a live-fire exercise, Thorn's instructor is killed. Thorn learns that a former CIA agent (codenamed "Harmonica") is behind both hits.

After travelling to Moscow, one of the team, Parker, winds up dead at the hands of Harmonica and the other, Lange, is missing. During Thorn's travels, Thorn meets an SVR agent named Yuri Gromchevsky. With his help, Thorn learns that a mercenary agency called "Procat" has been hired to kill the Russian presidential candidate and President Brooks at the signing of the END nuclear treaty. After researching Procat, Thorn heads to London to speak with John Blake, a former MI6 agent who killed the former leader of Procat. It appears that Procat is functioning under the leadership of a new man, codenamed "Mirage". Although he has no idea where Mirage is, Blake provides Thorn with a folder of intelligence on Procat. Names listed in the file include a former FBI agent codenamed "Grendel" (Kirk Woller) and other living and deceased members of Procat.

In Moscow, Thorn heads to an informant's house only to find Lange. Lange sold Parker out to Procat, leaving Thorn with no choice but to kill his former colleague. Thorn learns that there is a mole in the CIA and that a "nuclear pit" has been stolen by members of Procat and is being sold to a former CIA asset and current Punjabi gunrunner/terrorist named "Onyx". Thorn travels to Heidelberg and meets with Onyx, who reveals the pit is being exchanged at a factory that evening. Several options are given to the player: Thorn lets Onyx go, but he warns Grendel, who kills Thorn at the deal; Thorn goes in, guns blazing, killing Grendel and recovering the pit; or Thorn poses as Onyx, taking the pit without gunplay, but Onyx escapes.

After intercepting several transmissions between Mirage and the mole, Thorn heads to Tunisia to intercept them. However, they have clearly been tipped off; only Mirage is there. After killing Mirage's goons, Thorn learns that Mirage is none other than John Blake. Blake gets the jump on Thorn, but his gun jams and Blake is held at gunpoint by Thorn. The player is given the option to kill Blake or let him go. The DCI offers Thorn congratulations either way, noting that they will "take care of Blake".

In a helicopter, Thorn opens Blake's computer, which is rigged to explode. Thorn downloads a portion of the files, then tosses the computer from the helicopter. Thorn uses these files to send a message to the mole to root him out, requesting a meeting at a dacha in Crimea. Thorn's first priority, however, is the president. After returning to Moscow, Thorn hunts down Harmonica and just as he is about to kill the president, Thorn comes to the rescue and finishes Harmonica. The DCI congratulates Thorn but notes the mole is still a threat. Thorn heads off with Yuri to Crimea.

When they get to Crimea, it turns out that it is the retreat for the replacement candidate for the Russian presidency. He is sitting there with his campaign manager, and after Yuri accuses him of hiring Procat, it is revealed that his campaign manager actually did the job. By killing his predecessor, it allowed the candidate to run for presidency, and by killing the president of the United States, the Russians would keep their nuclear arsenal. As Yuri is about to arrest the manager, the mole arrives. It is none other than Thorn's boss, DDO Warhurst. Warhurst betrayed his country because he could not stand the fact that his superior was appointed by the President. Thorn's support officer, Jaimie Seaton, sends a burst of static through Warhurst's earpiece, briefly throwing his aim off and allowing Thorn to shoot Warhurst.

Yuri restrains the manager and the candidate congratulates Thorn on a job well done. Yuri, however, seems intent on throwing the candidate in jail. Because the candidate is ahead in the polls and now supports the END treaty, it is Thorn's job to protect him. There are two final options presented to the player:

  1. Shoot Yuri. Thorn gets a medal back at home and a vacation in Fiji. The Russian elections go smoothly and the new candidate seems intent on forging a good relationship with the U.S.
  2. Do not shoot Yuri. Although this is easier on the player's conscience, Thorn is fired when he returns home for refusing to follow orders. Meanwhile, in Russia, chaos ensues and the old President declares martial law and seals himself off from the U.S.

If Thorn fails to recover the nuclear pit, the final scene is marred by a catastrophic nuclear explosion.


Spycraft was developed on a budget in excess of $3 million.[8]


Review scores
CGW4.5/5 stars[10]
Next Generation4/5 stars[11]
PC Gamer (US)89%[9]
Macworld4/5 stars[12]
Computer Games Strategy Plus4/5 stars[13]
PC Magazine3/4 stars[14]
PC Entertainment4/5 stars[15]
Computer Game Review92[16]
Codie awards"Best Adventure/Role-Playing Software Game" (finalist)[17][18]

A Next Generation critic commented of the game, "It's linear. It's packed with FMV. And yet, amazingly, not only does it not suck, it's actually an extremely good game." He praised the well-crafted plot, excellent acting, challenging yet logical puzzles, and the realism invoked by the downloading of current news from the game's website. He found the linearity to be hardly noticeable while playing, and said the game overall is a rare instance of an interactive movie which is both challenging and genuinely enjoyable. He scored it four out of five stars.[11]

The editors of Macworld gave Spycraft their 1996 "Best Multimedia Game" award. Steven Levy of the magazine praised the game's "intricacy and playability", and argued that it is "better than a le Carre novel [at] conveying the dirty tricks and covert actions necessary to be a spook".[12] GameSpot's editors named it the "Best Interactive Movie" and "Best Game That No One Played" of 1996, and called it "an experience that is both intelligent and thrilling."[19]

Spycraft was a finalist for the Computer Game Developers Conference's 1996 "Best Script, Story or Interactive Writing" Spotlight Award,[20] but lost the prize to You Don't Know Jack XL.[21] It was also nominated for Computer Gaming World's "Adventure Game of the Year" and Computer Game Entertainment's "Best Adventure Game" awards,[22] both of which ultimately went to The Pandora Directive.[23][24] However, Spycraft won Computer Gaming World's "Readers' Choice" award in this category.[24]

In 2000, a Computer Games Strategy Plus retrospective summarized Spycraft as an "underrated spy-thriller [that] was one of the best real-world adventures."[25] In 2011, Adventure Gamers named it the 90th-best adventure game ever released.[26]


  1. ^ "Spycraft: The Great Game Release Information for PC". GameFAQs. 1996-02-29. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
  2. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0240921/reference
  3. ^ Staff (December 2, 1996). "Activision to Release two DVD-ROM Titles". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on February 18, 1998. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  4. ^ The Whizz (September 1997). "DVD: No Escape". GamePro. No. 108. IDG. p. 26.
  5. ^ a b "Spycraft". Sega Saturn Magazine (5). Emap International Limited. March 1996. p. 13.
  6. ^ a b c "Spycraft: The Great Game". Next Generation. No. 14. Imagine Media. February 1996. p. 103.
  7. ^ "Inside Scoop". GamePro. No. 96. IDG. September 1996. p. 20.
  8. ^ Sengstack, Jeff (June 24, 1996). "Activision: Reorganized, Redefined and on the Rebound". NewMedia. Archived from the original on January 28, 1998.
  9. ^ McDonald, T. Liam (June 1996). "Spycraft: The Great Game". PC Gamer US. Archived from the original on March 3, 2000.
  10. ^ Clarkson, Mark (July 1996). "I, Spy". Computer Gaming World (144): 116, 118.
  11. ^ a b "Spycraft: The Great Game". Next Generation. No. 19. Imagine Media. July 1996. p. 87.
  12. ^ a b Levy, Steven (January 1997). "1997 Macintosh Game Hall of Fame". Macworld. Archived from the original on January 8, 2003.
  13. ^ Bauman, Steve (1996). "Spycraft". Computer Games Strategy Plus. Archived from the original on February 8, 2005.
  14. ^ Mooney, Shane (July 1996). "Deep-Thinking Puzzlers for the Adventurous Gamer; Spycraft: The Great Game". PC Magazine. 13 (15): 458, 460.
  15. ^ Mooney, Shane (May 1996). "Spycraft: The Great Game". PC Entertainment. Archived from the original on October 18, 1996.
  16. ^ Gehrs, Scott (May 1996). "Reviews; Spycraft: The Great Game". Computer Game Review. Archived from the original on December 21, 1996.
  17. ^ "99 Companies Compete for Software Industry's Highest Honors" (Press release). Washington, D.C.: Software Publishers Association. December 4, 1996. Archived from the original on February 10, 1998.
  18. ^ "SPA Hands Out Coveted Codie Awards To Best Software Products of the Year" (Press release). San Diego: Software Publishers Association. March 3, 1997. Archived from the original on February 10, 1998.
  19. ^ Staff. "GameSpot 1996 Best & Worst Awards". GameSpot. Archived from the original on December 13, 2000.
  20. ^ Staff (April 15, 1997). "And the Nominees Are..." Next Generation. Archived from the original on June 5, 1997.
  21. ^ "Spotlight Awards Winners Announced for Best Computer Games of 1996" (Press release). Santa Clara, California: Game Developers Conference. April 28, 1997. Archived from the original on July 3, 2011.
  22. ^ Staff (April 1997). "Best of the Bunch; Finalists Named for CGW Premier Awards". Computer Gaming World (153): 28, 32.
  23. ^ Staff (July 1997). "The Computer Game Entertainment Awards 1996". Computer Game Entertainment (1): 54–58.
  24. ^ a b Staff (May 1997). "The Computer Gaming World 1997 Premier Awards". Computer Gaming World (154): 68–70, 72, 74, 76, 78, 80.
  25. ^ Bauman, Steve (January 29, 2000). "10 Essential Graphic Adventures". Computer Games Strategy Plus. Archived from the original on February 5, 2005.
  26. ^ AG Staff (December 30, 2011). "Top 100 All-Time Adventure Games". Adventure Gamers. Archived from the original on June 4, 2012.

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