Gauntlet was a classic video game from the 80s that let you and three of your friends crawl through a dungeon hacking and slashing away at more skeletons and ghosts than you could shake a stick at.
Now, Interplay has taken a crack at trying to recreate that timeless experience with Hunter: The Reckoning for the Xbox. Based on a popular pen-and-paper role playing game of the same name, Hunter: The Reckoning comes close to being a decent game but ultimately falls short of the mark.
The game opens at a prison where a convicted murderer is about to be executed. Unbeknownst to the dwellers of this prison when said murderer is put to death, it opens a rift between the normal world and the supernatural world. Fortunately the hunters, who have the ability to see this evil, are there to seal the prison trapping the spirits within. Years later when a late night rave party is held in the abandoned prison’s courtyard, the spirits are once again awakened and possess the bodies of the ravers and turn them into zombies and vampires.
You take control of one of four hunters to try and save the survivors of the small town of Ashcroft where the prison resides. Each of the characters has their own special abilities that will help them in their fight to rid evil. The Avenger has a battle ax and is good in close combat. The Defender is a basic blend of speed and power and is good for both close combat and ranged fighting. The Martyr is all speed, equipped with her twin pistols, and she is a major threat from far away. The Judge although physically weak can wreak havoc with powerful magic.
At first the control scheme can seem cumbersome the left analog stick controls your character’s movements, while the right controls where you aim. It will take a few moments to get accustomed to the default scheme but the programmers have wisely thrown in a way to customize the controls to your liking. Another bonus is the auto aim feature, just aim where the zombies are and blast away, the character wisely picks the closest target.
The dark gothic look of the town is well portrayed within the graphics engine. The textures of the street to the look of each zombie are very detailed. Positional damage is found on the enemy models, fire a shot at a vampire’s arm and you can take it clean off, same goes for the rest of the body’s extremities. Some of the environment can be interacted with as well; a missed shot with a machine gun can blow up an abandoned car or blow out a store window, a very nice touch. The frame rate remains steady throughout the game and never slows down even when there are multiple enemies on screen. In all, the game looks good but never really shows the power of what the Xbox can really do.
One of the most annoying things in this game has to be the enemy spawn system. Where one would think that zombies would rise from the grave, these zombies just appear out of thin air. Just when you’ve think you’re done killing a wave of twenty vampires, thirty more appear and the killing continues. This really takes away from the ambient feeling that these were once citizens of the town and rather makes it feel like they’re just computer generated foes meant to help you rack up a decent score.
Music is almost non-existent in the game except when there are a large number of monsters, and then your ears are assailed with a techno-rock beat that is repeated way too often. The lull in between techno songs is filled with a dark somber music that is meant to add to the ambiance of the town but doesn’t.
As a single player game killing wave after wave of monsters till you’re blue in the face gets quite boring after awhile, and you can manage to finish the game in about five hours. As they say misery loves company and what better way to share in the repetitive killing of zombies then have your friends join you. Splitting the duties between four people as you shout orders to your friends to “get that one!” is much better than doing it alone. The multiplayer is very reminiscent of the old Gauntlet series where everyone does their fighting on the same screen and you can help a buddy out when he or she is in trouble, but the fixed camera gets in the way. Other characters can’t run too far from the action and that can be costly when trying to take on one of the boss enemies, and you can’t see where the other enemies are approaching from. Also given the short amount of time it takes to complete the game, there leaves little to no replay value of any kind.
Racking up zombie kills that total in the thousands gets old faster than you can say George Romero. Unless you have yourself three friends handy every time you wish to play, bury this game six feet under and save yourself some cash.
© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu