Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Your spine shakes with chills as your heart begins to race. Your mind wanders with the fear of the unknown, and just when you think you were safe from whatever hunts you, you feel it’s grip across your throat. It’s almost Halloween, and you know what that means, a series of reviews on some of the scariest horror games out there today! Welcome to my 13 days of horror reviews, where we honor the creepy, the kooky, the mysterious and spooky side of video games, both past and present. Today, we look at Hunter, The Reckoning.
Role playing games come in many flavors, and games based on them typically mean one of four camps. JRPGS, WRPGS, D&D style dice rolling, and of course, Action RPGS. “Hunter, The Reckoning” is one of those action type games, moreso similar in style with Gauntlet over any type of horror game. But then again, any game that has you star as a Spanish priest using a crossbow to shoot zombies has to be cool in some fashion, right?
Well, at best it is average fun if you have friends helping you accomplish these goals. The game is basically a spin-off on the Pen and Paper RPG by the studio White Wolf, which has had a hand in creating some D&D style games on PC in the past. This version, developed by High Voltage Software back in 2002, is more of a straight forward beat-em up injected with gothic horror and monster movie sensibilities. You star as one of four “hunters” of different “creeds” to fight off hordes of the undead that have risen from the grave and have begun attacking and slaying innocent people in the streets of some major city, all because of a rave in a PRISON.
You control your hunter, who has a variety of skills depending on which choice you went with. I have to say the best two for the game are the crossbow-shooting priest and the beer drinking biker dude, because they have the strongest attack and magic. The two females are a tad weaker, and when fighting the undead constantly you would need the extra muscle in the long run. What is interesting is that the archetypes are pretty much lifted from Gauntlet. Each has a specialty in a specific department, and each needs to utilize their strength and weaknesses in combat.
In fact, the comparisons to Gauntlet don’t end there. The enemies you encounter literally clog up the screen, leading to massive crowd controlling, which is something that Gauntlet fans will understand all too well. Throw in weapon drops with limited ammo, infinite ammo for your main weapons, and piss poor melee attacks and you basically have a new skin on an arcade classic.
Thankfully, the game is multi-player for four, so getting three friends to dust off old X-box controllers will help the cause immensely. Traversing by yourself though is especially dull, and downright near suicidal in the later stages, because as time goes on, your mindless zombies give way for tough vampires, dangerous werewolves, and menacing gargoyles. The difficulty curve is too skittish, most of the early levels are simple to get through, but by the end it practically turns into a chore almost. Even boss fights, which are mostly piss poor and easy to beat, become a pain in the latter stages, all because of the sheer mass of extra tough baddies you have to face alone.
The game is also a mixed bag in terms of graphics. Obviously sacrificing high poly counts for more enemies on screen is at work here, and on the whole it’s not bad. But movement is very slow on both the player characters and the enemy forces. Plus the backgrounds are practically devoid of life and color, which I guess is supposed to match the dark feel of the game in some form. But the endless stream of corridor-like levels and linear pathways eliminates any real value for exploration, even if it’s off the beaten path for a shiny new weapon. Soundwise the game excels well, with decent voice acting and generic but adequate special effects.
“Hunter: the Reckoning” is definitely a product of a previous generation, in more ways than one. It’s as if someone modded the “Gauntlet” game with new skins and environments and made it into a game. Its source material is liberally used to create a fun experience for multiplayer, but overall, it’s the same journey that many have taken before.