VIDEO GAMES 'Spy Hunter' takes a step backward

The second version loses a lot of the original's variety.
Back in 1983, an overhead-view racing game called "Spy Hunter" let gamers jump into a James Bond-rigged car and blow the evil NOSTRA crime organization off the road -- with gunfire, smoke screens or just plain fast driving.
Two years ago, Midway brought this racer to current video-game consoles and gave it a 3-D look. And that's where this developer should have stopped. "Spy Hunter 2," its latest version of the series sacrifices variety in favor of simpler but longer game play.
Good and bad
The G-8155 Interceptor's array of missiles, machine guns and other weapons and its ability to transform into an off-road vehicle, speedboat, motorcycle and snowmobile, are as cool as ever. But the multiple paths the 2002 title allowed have been removed, while each of the 16 levels here has been made lengthier and more difficult. Since these levels last only five minutes if you do everything right, Midway aims to pad out the game's duration a little more by, among other things, limiting health power-ups.
This means you get to play the same mission over and over again, giving you plenty of time to notice how drab and dull the scenery looks here. Only the explosions and the vehicles are worth eyeballing in the game. A few fixed-course aerial shooting runs and multi-player modes can round out the experience, but not by much, and not enough to save this sequel from settling to the bottom of the rental bin.
X"Spy Hunter 2," by Midway Games/Angel Studios, is for PlayStation 2 and Xbox.