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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Interplay

 

Developer

Digital Eclipse / High Voltage

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q2 2002

 

 

- Fills the Xbox’s Resident Evil-style game void
- Good fun as a single-player game, GREAT gaming entertainment as a
multiplayer frolic
- Ability to shoot in direction other than where you are running (a la Robotron) can help get you out of sticky situations

 

 

- Hella-hard difficulty at times, especially in multiplayer mode
- Can lose track of your character in large battles, particularly in multiplayer games
- Too few power-ups and extra weapons on levels lead to “every man for himself” breakdown of teamwork gameplay

 

 

Review: Hunter: The Reckoning (Gamecube)

Review: Alien Hominid (PS2)

Review: Lego Star Wars (PS3)

 

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Hunter: The Reckoning

Score: 8.6 / 10

 

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As an Xbox-only console gamer, I’ll admit to being a little envious of GameCube owners having exclusive access to Resident Evil (RE). The original RE on the PlayStation was one of the greatest, creepiest gaming experiences I have ever had, and I have been waiting for a similar title to come to the Xbox. Well, if you own an Xbox and have been looking for a RE-style title like I have, wait no more, because Hunter: The Reckoning (H:TR) is that game. Obviously inspired by both the RE and Gauntlet series of games, this crossbreed of third-person action-adventure (most evident in multiplayer mode) and survivor horror genres is a bloody good game. Don’t only take my word for it. H:TR has been selling at a fast and furious clip since its release. (The most recent Electronics Boutique sales figures show H:TR as the top-selling console title on ANY system for the company.)

H:TR is based on the White Wolf Publishing pen & paper role-playing World of Darkness Hunter cosmos. The gothic storyline of the hack & slash game chronicles

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the grisly happenings following the electrocution execution of murderer Nathaniel Arkady in the prison town of Ashcroft. Unknown to the townspeople, the penitentiary has been secretly run by vampires since the 1920s, who have used the prisoners for feeding and ghastly experiments. Creatures of the night walk amongst us in everyday life, and only those that undergo an imbuing, known as Hunters, can

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see these creatures and destroy them.

When the execution goes down, the vengeful souls of all the prisoners who had died there lash out, killing many of the living who were in the prison at the time. The four main characters you can select from are Avenger (Spenser “Deuce” Wyatt),Defender (Samantha Alexander), Martyr (Kassandra Cheyung), and Judge (Father Esteban Cortez).

All witnesses to Arkady’s execution, they find out that they themselves are Hunters and are just barely able to escape by defeating hordes of undead and seal up the prison. One year later, a rave at the prison again frees the incorporeal beings (by the severity of their vicious and deadly behavior, those ghastly ghouls sure hate rave music) and once more the Hunters get the call to duty. That’s where you come in. Battling your way through 23 levels of horror, it’s your mission to rescue the town of Ashcroft and the innocents who populate it and send the hellish creatures back to the world of the dead where they belong. Don't let a plausible plot deter you, though. If it's mindless killing of huge numbers of evil enemies that you desire, H:TR is right up your alley.

Choosing your character for single-player gaming involves some thought. I found that the best-suited solo hero is Defender, whose speed helps her escape tough situations until she gets stronger as a fighter. Generally, faster moving characters (Defender, Martyr) tend to be weaker fighters initially and conversely less speedy characters (Avenger, Judge) tend to be much stronger until they gain some experience points that build their individual statistics up enough to balance out any weaknesses. At your disposal in your battle against the supernatural is a selection of weapons (Some are restricted to a particular character) such as swords, pistols, axes, varieties of shotguns and machine guns, rocket launchers, chainsaws and flame-throwers. Also part of the Hunter armory is the magical attacks known as Edges, (again some are restricted to a particular character) which can be strengthened with experience and is tracked along with your health (which can be restored with the red orbs left after defeating an enemy). If you have enough magic energy (restored with the blue orbs), you can use the Edges for their particular purpose. Rejuvenate, one of the best Edges, can refill your health meter. Others such as Cleave temporarily charge up a weapon, while still others like Smite, are damaging energy bursts.

 

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Visually, the game is definitely dark and gothic and extremely bloody as you would expect (although those with squeamish stomachs can turn off the blood spouting if they need to). H:TR’s creatures and characters have a high-quality and gruesomely wonderful definition to them. However, you sense that they could have been even sharper with the power of the Xbox hardware behind them. Many of the enemies you battle are huge, too, especially the “boss” characters. Check out the giant killer stuffing-puking Teddy Bear (yeah, that’s right, I said a Teddy Bear, one of the scariest kid’s-toy-turned-into- possessed-killing-creatures I’ve ever seen) and Arkady in his werewolf form, both dwarf your Hunter character in comparison which adds to the highly tense sensation of danger you can’t help but feel. One graphical feature that does get the power of the Xbox behind it is the lighting effects, everywhere from weapons fire (fiery flame-throwers) to the scant amount of working electrical lights scattered throughout Ashcroft and the prison. This sweet effect is most evident in the electric-blue ghostly apparitions that you run into in the game’s latter stages. One unfortunate aspect of the gothic darkness that envelopes most of H:TR’s levels is that it is too inky in areas, which may cause you to miss seeing innocents that need rescuing or extra weapons. Two places that this becomes frustrating in is a level that you need to free the spirits of skeletal remains, and in the final battle of the game, where it is difficult to navigate because it's too damn dark!

Control schematics of H:TR are for the most part comfortably executed, particularly when it comes to shooting enemies with Robotron-style options. That is, you can shoot in a different direction than where you may be running. So, you can shoot pursuing enemies while fleeing in the exact opposite way. The ease of jumping, which comes in handy as an escape strategy, also allows for some smooth fighting techniques. But the collision detection of H:TR could have used more work. One example that immediately comes to mind is in the church, where the game can seem to construct an invisible barrier wall around certain points, like the steps leading to the organ that you would logically THINK you could climb (and you eventually can after moving around like a madman to find the right spot) but regularly cannot, giving the killer Teddy Bear another unnecessary advantage over your Hunter.

The above-all worst feature of H:TR is the camera that follows the game action, which is atrocious and unforgivable on occasion. What’s worse is that you cannot change from the default camera at all, although you can zoom in and out on the fly if you so desire. There are instances when you will be fighting enemies where the camera doesn’t compensate for your character being placed in a non-viewable location, such as behind the mausoleums in the cemetery. It can lead to some unneeded hero casualties. The most absolutely awful camera functioning takes place in the last level of the game as you attempt to annihilate the head vampire, the former prison warden. The camera provides enough frustration at points that you’ll want to hurl your controller at the TV (the only restraint I had from tossing my Xbox controller was realizing is would cost $40 bucks to replace it).

Creepy crawly sounds that fill H:TR can absolutely send shivers down your spine. Repulsive and frightening groans can be heard coming from somewhere in the not-too-distant confines, and the climatic techno-sounding tunage that blasts when you hit a large jackpot of attacking enemies raises H:TR’s fright-meter to the max. There are some good RE-style scare moments during the game. Many times you’ll get an unexpected “introduction” to frightening enemies like the gargoyles who pounce down from the sky, or the tough vampirettes that attack in the same manner, which rivals the mutated dogs bursting through the window in the original RE. A seemingly endless wave of vampires, zombies, ghosts, mutated abominations, werewolves and other undead creatures of the night keep your trigger finger very happy. It feels like you were dropped in the middle of a Night of the Living Dead movie. There are times when it literally appears that 30 individual enemies are on-screen at once, which sometimes leads to losing track of where your character is in relation to everybody else, definitely not a good situation to be in if you want to survive. (This happens more often during multiplayer.)

This game is HARD, especially in multiplayer mode, which you would think would be much easier with up to three additional teammates. But actually it’s the exact opposite. Even though H:TR's gameplay really shines brightest in its multiplayer, the game can almost be a downright impossible challenge when you partake in a group mission. I guess the developers figured they would pump up the game’s AI and difficulty to compensate for the additional players, but they went a tad overboard. One minor problem is when multiplayer characters get separated on opposite sides of the on-screen map. While one or more characters are fighting on one side of the screen, others could be impeded from going either forward or backward because they need the other characters to move first before they can continue. At times off-screen enemies can be pummeling you because you are unable to move due to the above-mentioned problem. It also doesn’t help that there are too few power-ups and extra weapons lying around to restock your individual arsenal. This all too often leads to a “Lord of the Flies” every-man-or-woman-for-themselves mentality when teamwork is a necessity to wipe out the evil creatures that oppose your forces. One extra that adds to the collective fortunes of all players is the additional reserve lives that can be attained by rescuing the town’s innocents trapped in and around the prison. No matter who “saves” the innocent, it adds to the team total of extra lives, and can be used by any expired teammates until they are exhausted.

Due to the customarily slow industry-wide late spring dearth of available new releases, Xbox owners don’t have many high-quality titles to choose from besides H:TR and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind to fill their gaming jones. Fortunately, both games are excellent. Maybe RPG’s aren’t your thing and you’re feeling jealous of the GameCube exclusivity of RE. Then go out and pick up a copy of H:TR, which despite some issues, remains a solid Xbox gaming selection. If its good single-player action doesn’t get you addicted, then the excellent multiplayer romp definitely will.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairmepire.com

(June 24, 2002)

 

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