reviews\ Jun 19, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Hunter: The Reckoning - XB - Review

The story began when Nathaniel Arkady was electrocuted at Ashcroft Prison. Something went wrong and a doorway was opened, allowing all manner of evil to walk through. Before that, these evil spirits fed only on the inmates of the prison, but with Arkady’s electrocution they were freed.

Four people also changed in that moment. They were imbued with attributes that allowed them to see the undead creatures for what they were, and given the power to battle and win. Ashcroft prison was sealed that day, the spirits locked inside. For one year all seemed quiet, and the horrific deeds of that day forgotten.

But something has found a way to open the portal again. The evil undead is not only free to roam about, but they are very angry. Now the whole town is a target. It is up to the chosen to once again turn back the terror.

That is the storyline behind Hunter, The Reckoning, an Xbox release from Digital Mayhem, White Wolf Studios and Interplay. A well-rendered, and often bloody game (but you can turn the blood off), this is hack-and-slash, slice-and-dice at its ultimate.

You play one of four characters (the game allows for multiplayer cooperative mode, but you had best be cooperative or else the wave of undead will drown you) – Spencer “Deuce” Wyatt, Samantha Alexander, Kassandra Cheyung, or Father Esteban Cortez. These are the games heroes, the hunters. Each has special abilities, otherwise known as Edges. As you progress through the game and accomplish the various tasks set before you, you can earn bonus points and Edge points. You can upgrade the Edges and gain new ones.

The game begins in the subway, and this level is akin to a training ground. You will learn some of the basic ideas behind the game, like the glyph system, and there will be plenty of opportunities to test your battle skills. You will also find out that the only way out of town is on that train which has been disabled. The man you rescue estimates it will take 50 people to get it running.

Ok, no problem, just pop up on the street and rescue some folks to help with the train. The people above ground think they are in the throes of a riot, they can’t see what it really attacking them. But you go wading into the throng of zombies and assorted monsters to free some of the folks. One of them tells you she was attacked and the little girl with her ran away. Therein lies mission number two – find the little girl. After countless battles, you encounter someone who tells you they saw the little girl (Kaylie) running for the school grounds.

Level three is the school grounds, and the battles there. You will encounter a very tough boss monster. After you defeat it, you are approached by an undead, talking creature, which has Kaylie. It tells you what is really going on – and it isn’t good. Apparently someone opened the portal. Find that individual, kill it and all the undead creatures (and living people, for that matter) within a 20-mile radius will be evacuated to the other plane rather violently. Oh, and by the way, get Kaylie to the church where her parents are waiting.

While battling on the school grounds, Kaylie was invulnerable to attacks. On the next level, that is not the case. The little girl, clutching her teddy bear, will be attacked and you will have to watch her health bar. Avoiding monsters is not an option. Not only does Kaylie not run particularly fast, but some of the undead creatures are carrying keys that they will drop when you kill them. Grab a key to open gates and doors as you progress across the mapboard. Getting Kaylie safely to the church is not the end of this game. Of course, something evil is waiting inside. But no spoilers here – just be ready for a fight with a very strong, and somewhat surprising, boss monster.

The control elements of Hunter are set up fairly well, and players should get the hang of it after the first two levels. One drawback is the lack of a rotatable camera. It is in a fixed position, though you can zoom it in and out in the single-player game.

Graphically this game is very dark. The environments are either in poorly lit buildings or within a darkened city, and even the night is overlaid with shadows. The environments are well rendered, and the animation is very good. One does wonder, though, how an undead creature can continue to attack and do damage when the Hunter has blown off both of its arms and its head – all in a staining shower of red. The environments are a mixed bag when it comes to being interactive. Some items will resist when you hit them, some seem like they aren’t there. If you use an axe, or sword, you may bang it against an abandoned vehicle, but your weapon will pass right through a lamppost. And that barred fence with a bevy of creatures on the other side – well, you can’t walk up to it with a machine gun and blast those creatures back to whatever level of hell they emerged from. The fence is an impenetrable wall.

The sound of the game is also well done, from the clunk of your weapon hitting a car, to the screams of the people being attacked.

The game has a variety of weapons you can gather (arcade style) and use, from chainsaws to machineguns. However, the weapons you gather on the street have a finite ammunition supply.

Hunter, The Reckoning is a gore-fest that dances down the path of evil unleashed. There are not many startling elements, just new challenges. And when it comes to challenge, this game has its share. Game players will have to move quickly and decisively.

This is definitely not a game that will appeal to everyone. It will appeal to the hardcore action fan that likes a little back-story with his or her game. From the moment Hunter launches, you will be on a non-stop run-and-gun ride.

The game is rated for Mature players due to blood and gore, and violence.

Gameplay: 8
Each level is action-packed and moves smoothly from beginning to end. Cutscenes drive the story, but there aren’t many and they don’t seem intrusive. The mapboards are not overly large, or puzzle-ridden, and you will encounter barriers that will keep you in the zone. The fixed camera can create some minor inconveniences.

Graphics: 8.5
This is a well-designed game, from the environments (even if they are dark) to the animation. The options menu allows players to customize the look of the game, which is a nice adjunct to the overall package.

Sound: 8
The music cranks up at odd times, but isn’t too bad. The vocal acting and ambient sounds are well done, and support the graphics well.

Difficulty: Medium
The control elements are kept simple and players should not labor over mastering them. The game does present challenges in terms of combat, and you can run out of lives, ending the game and forcing you to begin over (of course, you can save prior to a level and then begin at that point).

Concept: 8
While there seems to be a great deal of emphasis on the combat, the game does have a creepy though basic storyline to power the action.

Multiplayer: 8.5
Cooperative play means just that – cooperate. Up to four can play as the individual Hunters. But you need to stay close. Because the camera is fixed, you can actually trap a player on the edge of the screen, and if there are wave after wave of undead attacking, that is not necessarily a good thing. You can toggle the game in the options menu so that characters either are or are not affected by friendly fire.

Overall: 8.4
This is a graphically strong game that is crammed with action. It is not for everyone, and does have an undercurrent of pure evil in the story. But the Hunters are the good guys, capable of extreme violence but with the intent to set the world right. Hardcore action fans should enjoy this game.  


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