Hitman-style stealth that suffers from poor execution.
Good stealth-assassination games involve cool, calculated setups, tense waiting games, and the eventual thrill of a successful hit. Alekhine’s Gun seems to understand that formula: you’re given a few objectives, dropped into a level full of roaming guards, and forced to make do with a limited selection of tools. But thanks to terrible AI, awkward controls, and loads of performance issues, Alekhine’s Gun fails to execute.
Alekhine’s Gun’s potentially exciting Cold War-era backdrop places you in the role of a KGB operative turned CIA spy, which sounds like an enticing setup for a stealth action game – except poor delivery dampens the appeal right from the start. Characters are bland and performances weak. Static-image cutscenes play between missions, with badly recorded dialogue carrying the story along.
The plot, which jumps around between World War II and the 1960s, has the potential to be interesting, weaving threads of anti-government conspiracies, Nazis, the Mafia, and more into a tale that may have been compelling if delivered right. It isn’t – the flatness of its delivery prevents Alekhine’s Gun from elevating all this political intrigue and historical drama beyond just a backdrop.
NPCs almost immediately forget any wrongdoing once you leave their line of sight.
Outside the dull cutscenes and walls of text at the start of missions, Alekhine’s Guns levels drop the ball especially hard on the storytelling front, missing out on some great worldbuilding opportunities. Levels are absurdly large, but not in the right ways. The awkward scale is akin to older games, where rooms appear disproportionate to the furnishings and characters occupying them, giving each level in Alekhine’s Gun a distinctly fake feeling. Its spaces may be large, but they are also largely empty. They lack both the density of interactive objects and characters to make them engaging to navigate and the details to ground them in the eras they explore. In the few levels that don’t exude this artificiality, other factors like poor lighting, weak ambience, and awkward NPCs prevent them from feeling like real or interesting spaces to occupy.
Short Term Memory
That makes the exploration that plays a big role here feel weak, too. Whether you’re rescuing journalists in Texas biker bars or assassinating Nazis in World War II flashbacks, most of Alekhine’s Gun’s missions rely on the genre-defining template of sneaking around, memorizing map layouts, learning NPC movement patterns, and setting up ploys to take out enemies.
Getting the right disguise is a vital part of this routine, allowing you to access restricted areas without raising the alarm, but the value of the disguise system weakens when you realize how comically inept and forgiving the AI is.
Wonky physics allow you to get away with even more.
It’s easy to figure out how suspicious other characters are of your behavior by triggering the handy Instinct Mode, which lights up NPCs white if they don’t suspect you of anything, yellow if they’re aware of you, and red if they’re starting to sense something’s not right. Pair this with the alert meter that slowly builds up at the top of the screen if you’re caught in an area you don’t belong, or seen doing something especially suspect, and determining your current status is a quick and convenient process.
Despite this handy system, NPCs almost immediately forget any wrongdoing once you leave their line of sight. Even if they attempt to follow you, closing a door in their face is often enough of a deterrent to throw them off your trail. It isn’t uncommon for AI in stealth games to act like pieces in a puzzle rather than real human beings, with strict patrolling patterns and routines you can easily track and exploit, but Alekhine’s Gun takes this to a whole new and often tragically comic level.
There were several instances when an enemy attempted to engage me in combat over my suspicious behavior and just as quickly dropped the matter when I ran in a room and closed the door. In one level, I stabbed a Nazi scientist to death in the center of a facility crawling with guards, who somehow took no notice. Only when I started to carry the body away did the alert meter slowly begin to build, as guards began to catch on to what I was doing, but once I dropped the body on the floor, the alert meter disappeared. The guards only cared about the supposedly very important and now definitely very dead scientist when I was actually in the act of dragging him off. And yet, in another level, I accidentally punched at the air while dressed as a hotel waiter, dropping a tray of wine in the process, and a restaurant full of goons in fedoras opened fire on me. Kill a scientist? No problem. Drop the wine? Party foul.
Defying the Laws of Physics
Usually, they’re oblivious. But in the cases where they’re not, wonky physics allow you to get away with even more, including failed assassination attempts going completely unpunished. Circling around a guard with a rag of chloroform doesn’t have to be a stealthy affair when they’ll just as easily rotate in place, gun drawn, trying to get a hit on you as you whip around their peripheral. Weird collision made literally pushing NPCs around as I snuck by them a common strategy, and I was definitely saved on more than one occasion by a door that smoothly clipped through bodies – both alive and dead – as I shut it in another NPC’s face.
It’s not that it’s too easy to exploit Alekhine’s Gun’s AI and physics – it’s that it’s difficult not to. I actually found myself having some mild fun pushing these boundaries to their limits, seeing just how broken this game really is, but these moments weren’t nearly fun or funny enough to make up for the truly frustrating ones that dominated the rest of my experience.
Then there are the bugs.
Clumsy, unresponsive controls are to blame for a lot of Alekhine’s Gun’s unpleasantness. For example, you can’t scroll through your weapons while moving, turning smooth assassination attempts into ungraceful affairs of jerky, halting movements. Using keyboard shortcuts or just switching out for a gamepad aren’t great options either, because slow response times and stiff animations give everything from movement to combat an uncomfortably heavy quality in either case.
Then there are the bugs. In my roughly 12 hours with Alekhine’s Gun, I encountered glitchy shadows, got stuck behind a bookshelf, boarded a magical elevator with disappearing doors, fell halfway into the ground, fell completely out of the map, and had to restart because of constant crashes. That includes one that occurred every time I quit out, which would also freeze my PC in the process.