reviews\ Dec 26, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Hunter: The Reckoning - GC - Review

Interplay’s Hunter: The Reckoning wants gamers to know that slaying vampires and sending the undead back to the Netherworld is no longer just for cute high school girls.  Their latest release doesn’t shy away from gore, violence, and a twisted sense of fantasy for what is supposedly a “kiddie” console.  Taken from the White Wolf old fashioned pen-and-paper role playing game of the same name, Hunter’s story is one of destiny, the fate of the world, and a whole lot of undead butt-kicking.  


Hunter takes place in a world where the creatures of the night have existed for centuries hidden from the general population.  In the town of Ashcroft, vampires have controlled the state penitentiary and struggled to subdue the vengeful spirits of the inmates they have fed on.  Triggered by the execution of convicted murderer Nathaniel Arkady, the undead spirits have been multiplying like mold in doggy bags in the back of a refrigerator, and are ready to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting public, who are blind to their existence.


Four witnesses to the Arkady execution have been bestowed with the power to see and stop the undead.  Brought together by fate and convenience of storyline, these four humans are the only chance mankind has to survive these onslaughts of decaying animated flesh.  All of the four characters are playable and have strengths and weaknesses similar to character classes in conventional role playing games.  Each character is equipped with a melee weapon and a ranged weapon as well as an assortment of magical spells depending on their class.  The Avenger, a hulking meandering thug, wields a battle axe and shotgun to complement his strength-aiding spells.  The Defender uses a Magnum revolver and a katana with her defensive spells to make the undead just plain dead.  The Judge, an ex-priest, pierces zombies with his crossbow and Crusader sword and obliterates vampires with powerful holy spells.  The agile Martyr, a spunky little raver, uses mobility spells to dance about with twin pistols and dual daggers.  While each character is suitably balanced for action, gamers will inevitably have their favorites depending on their playing style. 


Even though Hunter is taken from a roll-the-dice type of role playing game, the video game port is all action.  With limited role playing elements (characters can improve stats such as Strength, Speed, and Stamina), success in the game will depend on players’ trigger fingers rather than their characters’ abilities.  Hunter is a third-person slaughter-fest with excellent controls and great pacing. 


There are 23 levels in Hunter, taking place in areas such as a church, a cemetery, and prisons, and each level is filled with hordes of undead with nothing better to do than pester the living.  Each level has different objectives and they aren’t all just about killing everything in sight.  In some cases the objective is to escort humans to safety, find items to progress through the game, and kill several enemy bosses.  Whatever the goal is, there’s one thing you can count on: there are no shortages of undead in the world of Hunter.  Through three levels I had killed almost a thousand enemies, and it felt great. 


The controls of Hunter are similar to the old-school arcade classic Ikari Warriors (one of my all-time favorites!).  Using the analog thumbstick and the C-stick, players can move and aim weapons independently, allowing players to run left while shooting right, walk backwards and shoot forwards, or send a barrage of gunfire sweeping in an arc while moving forward.  The R Button fires weapons and the L Button jumps, which means that navigating through gangs of zombies will leave Hunters with their hands full and may alienate amateur gamers.  The X button switches between melee and ranged weapons, the Y button switches through Edges (the Hunter spells), the B button switches between additional weapons that can be picked up throughout the game, and the A button reloads weapons and serves as the all-purpose action button.  As I said before, there is plenty of action in the game, and the controls are perfectly placed so there’s less time spent looking for buttons to press and more time spent looking for undead to decapitate.


While not as crisp as the Xbox version, Hunter’s graphics are effective through their feel rather than jaw-dropping clarity.  Hunter takes place in a town overrun by undead, and it shows.  The various levels have a gothic, post-apocalyptic look to them.  Abandoned cars litter the sidewalks, broken windows mar buildings, and fires burn uncontested throughout the game.  Each of the four characters looks great but moves better.  Slight adjustments on the joystick move a character from a swift run to a deliberate stroll, and the animation is fantastic.  Oncoming undead reel back from gunfire and can lose up to three limbs before they fall, driving home the idea that they are a persistent plague with nothing to stop them but the player. 


Even though Hunter has a Dolby Surround Sound option, there isn’t anything too extraordinary going on to listen to.  The undead don’t speak much and the characters don’t shout taunts, leaving gunfire as the primary audio option.  The voice acting in the cutscenes is Keanu Reeves-like (not in the Matrix, but in that atrocious Shakespearean flick) and poorly spaced, making it seem as though the characters are talking to each other on some sort of cell-phone delay.  The industrial music is very appropriate and sounds like something that seeped out of Trent Reznor’s head. 


Hunter is an enjoyable experience akin to the Gauntlet series (lots of shooting/killing) with a storyline that is above average.  Gamers will no doubt get a few hand craps with the non-stop action, and it appears as though there is about 35-40 hours of gameplay within the game, although it can be a repetitive 35 hours.  There is a great mix of enemies including zombies, werewolves, and vampires, and sending them back to their graves never gets tiring.


Hunter: The Reckoning is rated M for Mature for violence, some adult language, and blood and gore.


Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 8.5

The gameplay is simple, shoot and shoot some more.  Thanks to excellent controls, the game, although little more than shooting everything in sight, is very enjoyable. 


Graphics: 8

Most of the 3-D modeling is good, and the backgrounds and settings really set the tone.  The game does struggle when there are too many enemies on the screen at once, but that doesn’t happen too often.


Sound: 6.5

Hunter doesn’t offer too much to listen to other than a hail of gunfire, but it can be heard in Dolby Surround.


Difficulty: Medium

After getting used to the controls, completing the game is more about the time commitment rather than competence.


Concept: 8

Hunter uses a good story and great gameplay to make the game fun, but there’s not much groundbreaking otherwise.


Multiplayer: 8

Hunter allows simultaneous cooperative play up to four players, which can be a blast as long as everyone is on the same page.  Hunter does suffer from the Gauntlet-syndrome: There is no split-screen, so if the group gets separated, mobility is limited and no one will be happy.   


Overall: 8

Hunter is a great game for gamers looking for simple action, a good mix of enemies, and steady progression through the game.  Hunter can be a lot of fun to play with friends, but is actually easier to play alone. 



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