It can’t be denied that the role of a spy has a rather alluring attraction to it; largely due to the popularity of fictional characters such as James Bond. However, if you ask Sam Fisher or Solid Snake about their roles, they’ll tell you that the art of espionage is nothing like Bond’s world. In fact, it ‘s a very dark and secretive place; one where death could be simply awaiting for you around any corner. Despite all of the tongue-in-cheek humour of the majority of Bond’s excursions, there’s a complicated network and an air of seriousness to the secret organisations of the world and it’s this focus that brings us the spy thriller, Phantom Doctrine as it infiltrates a release onto the Nintendo Switch.
Developed by CreativeForge Games and published through Forever Entertainment, this cold-war thriller puts you in the shoes of the head-honcho of a complicated spy network that spans the globe. You manage a team of operatives, sending them to the world’s hot-spots to gather vital intelligence, piece together the documents and clues that lead to other organisational activities and, once a case is created, send your team to infiltrate a variety of locations in order to save the day or solve the case. There’s a whole mix of genres here, all of which work in unison with each other, creating a game where there is always something going in the background, or an enemy network is closing on you as you try to counteract the espionage and terrorist groups that threaten the world and your organisation.
The main premise of the game involves outsmarting and out-thinking the Beholder Initiative; an enemy network of spies that are planning objectives to disrupt the world, as well as working to hunt you down and shut down your network. The game is split into two halves, although many other elements are all working at the same time to keep you on your toes. The first section involves controlling your operatives within the field of operations, as you try to stealthily infiltrate enemy establishments, procure documents or investigate suspicious behaviours. Within the field, the game operates on a turn-based strategy mechanic, as you strategically place your operatives, interact with NPC’s through deception and disguise, search areas and use a number of skill-sets and items in order to keep the upper hand and avoid confrontation.
However, your enemy possesses a certain degree of intelligence, making it vital that you use your agents to the best of their abilities. No mission is ever an easy task, with disguises being easily recognised should you stray too close to an enemy or act in a suspicious manner, or a series of security measures that spot you before you see them. However, should you be compromised, then each of your agents hold enough firepower and skill to be able to put up a decent fight. Your operatives aren’t super-human, giving an urgency to any potential aggressive activities. However, there are a number of techniques that can be used in order to remain alive. Commands such as breaching, focused aiming, flash-bangs and smoke grenades are all part of the spies’ arsenals, as well as being able to call on support such as spotters to identify targets or the activities within an unseen room.
The amount of options available to you here is simply staggering and adds to the role of playing the spy, as you try to figure out the best move or locations with which to place your operatives. It’s these finer details that make the game a technical masterpiece in the art of espionage. It’s all here, even down to calling for extraction and making sure you get everyone to the extraction point before suspicions are raised. Once your mission is successfully completed, you then head back to your base of operations where a whole new area of the game opens up, bringing a technicality to the proceedings that really makes you feel as if you are heading an operation of immense scale and size.
The majority of your time in home base is spent sending teams of spies to real-world locations to investigate any suspicious activities. From a global map, you chart flight-paths and progress from each of your operatives who are within the fields of operation. It works in a real-time sort of strategic play, with your activities and enemy activities working in tandem with each other to produce an ever-growing threat of networks around the world. You also maintain the level of your base, expanding certain functions and abilities and researching new techniques, weaponry and items that can be used on the next mission to outfit your team of spies. However, you also need to cast an eye over any intelligence that you may have found on your last mission, or that the other operatives may acquire whilst investigating their world-wide activities.
These can range from photographic evidence, detailed documents and organisational conflicts that you must sift through in order to pick out the key intelligence to find a common link and, ultimately, create a case for investigation. These elements work in a randomly-generated manner, creating a series of documents, passwords and key intel that keeps you scanning and figuring out clues until a bigger picture is produced. From a cork-boarded screen, you pin vital pieces of information, usually revolving a kingpin, and link together any info that ties with each other by binding them with red lines to form a network of intelligence. When you’re not in the field of operations, there is so much going on that the game does a stellar job of making you feel part of a bigger organisation and satisfies that allure of being within a network of spies.
I’ve only covered the main aspects of the game here, as when you delve deeper, you begin to unravel a web of so many options that the game takes on a technicality that can be a bit overwhelming, yet ultimately satisfying when you reach any conclusion. You can capture enemy agents and use them as sleepers; activating them at a time when they may be most needed, such as enemy organisations closing in on your location or about to execute a plan of their own which could have dire consequences. However, the enemy can also do the same, planting moles in your organisation, which you must weed out. There are interrogations, agent skills sets and making sure you have the right operatives for right job, as well as making sure each agent is suitably outfitted for the job at hand. There is simply so much going on and so much that you can do, you need to keep an eye on every aspect of your operation.
Overall, Phantom Doctrine presents a tense and complicated setting that excels in bringing out the spy in you. From the turn-based field operations to the intelligence gathering, enemy watching and organisational protection duties of your role, there is so much going on that you rarely get time to breath. Everything here is expertly presented to fully immerse into the world of espionage. Locations are nicely detailed and offer all manner of choice in how you approach each mission. Sending an agent to France, then make sure they speak the lingo. Got an agent down, then stabilise them and carry them to a place of safety until the mission is complete and you can take them to the extraction point. Found a room filled with enemies, then line up either side of the door and breach it, taking down everyone inside with fatal precision. There are so many smaller elements at work here, that the bigger picture produces a deep, immersive and technical setting that’ll make you want to put on your best dinner suit and buy an Aston Martin DB5. Oh, and don’t forget the Martini. Shaken, but not stirred.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Phantom Doctrine Review
Gameplay - 9/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Replay Value - 9/10
User Review( votes)
Phantom Doctrine presents a spy thriller that’ll make you bond with it.