Spy Hunter is a vehicle-based, vertical scrolling shooter, by legendary game designer George Gomez. The player controls an armored sports car with machine guns, and must destroy enemy cars, helicopters, and boats while protecting civilian vehicles. The track is endless with both street sections, and occasional waterways, where the vehicle switches to an armed boat.
The game was well-received and spawned numerous ports, a pinball machine, an unsuccessful arcade sequel (which Gomez took no part in), and reboots.
The player navigates a series of roads with civilian traffic, enemy cars, and road hazards for the player to either shoot or avoid. Scoring is accomplished by driving on the road (or water as a boat), and destroying enemy vehicles. There is a "High-Low" shifter to drive faster, which increases scoring and danger. Destroying a civilian pauses the score counter. After a short period of time, where a player may die unlimited times, the player has a finite number of lives. Additional lives may be earned though scoring.
The vehicle has unlimited ammo for machine gun fire, and may pick up one of three additional weapons during gameplay, by entering the red "Weapons Van". The Weapons Van appears occasionally, and may be called upon in regular intervals. The player must careful line up behind the van, and accelerate into it while driving. Only one special weapon can be held at a time, and each of the three have a limited number of uses. Furthermore, losing a life also causes any special weapons to disappear.
Special weapons consist of:
- Oil Slick - Leaves a slippery trail behind the vehicle, causing enemies to lose traction and crash. Oil slick is set aflame on water sections, and causes enemy boats to burn up.
- Missiles - Fires a rocket at enemy helicopters. This is the only way to destroy a helicopter.
- Smoke Screen - Leaves a trail of smoke behind, making it easy to escape from pursuing enemies.
The game uses Henri Mancini's Peter Gunn theme as its soundtrack. Originally, it was to be the James Bond theme (which was Gomez' inspiration for the game), but licensing difficulties prevented the use.