Billed by some as Gears Of War meets the RPG, Hunted: The Demon’s Forge sounded like a promising title. Taking the well trodden Gears-style cover-rich gameplay and mixing it in with eons-old RPG elements, the end result was something that would surely be a success, wouldn’t it?
Starring gruff hardcase mercenary, Caddoc, and his Elven, bow-toting vixen partner, E’lara, Hunted takes us into a fantasy world full of demons, brutal beastmen and undead hordes. After Caddoc wakes from a particularly worrying vision, a vision that soon comes true, the duo set off on a journey through a land rife with death on a dangerous quest. In order to survive, the two warriors will need to work together, which is one of the main focus points of the game.
Clearly aimed at the co-op market, Hunted, although it can be played through solo, is, at heart, a co-op title designed for online or split screen play. The third person action sees both Caddoc and E’lara battle in tandem at all times, and the two have their specific skills that need to be combined to proceed through the various environments.
Caddoc is the strong warrior, preferring up close and personal attacks with swords, axes and maces, with special moves focusing on brute strength, whilst E’lara is a ranged attacker, favouring the bow and arrow, and her specials mainly deal with ranges element attacks, such as fire and ice arrows. Both characters can use melee and ranged attacks, but the two are designed for specific fighting styles.
These differences are implemented with a purpose, and that’s to allow two players to work together as a team, complementing their chosen character’s abilities. Players using Caddoc can run into battle to deal damage and take most of the flak, whilst E’lara players can keep their distance and provide cover. Likewise, whilst E’lara may need to attack long distance snipers, Caddoc can be her bodyguard, ensuring melee enemies don’t throw a spanner into the works.
It’s a good idea, and when combined with the ubiquitous puzzle elements, it’s one that should produce a solid gaming experience. Sadly, though, this is far from the case.
For a game so heavily based around co-op play, Hunted is very light on actual reasons to work together, above and beyond what I’ve mentioned here. You see, for the most part, the only co-op movements you’ll undergo are hands-off door opening animations (yes, it takes two hard as nails warriors to simply open a door in this particular world) or back to basics, ‘‘my first puzzles’ setups. I mean, come on, just how lame is having Caddoc push heavy objects? Is that the most original idea they could come up with?
E’lara’s contribution is often simply a matter of setting fire to things at range with her arrows, and even then the game practically screams direction to you, leaving little to the imagination.
Granted, some of the puzzles do get a little more complex, but these are no grey matter taxing challenges, and anyone who’s played even one or two action adventure games will find little to worry about.
The promised RPG elements are also a major letdown, in my opinion. Instead of growing character stats and the usual RPG levelling, all we get is a meagre selection of enhanced attack abilities and a smattering of magic. E’Lara has some elemental arrow powers, Caddoc has such moves as charge attacks and enemy lifting swings and both have access to the same magical abilities. In fact, aside from a couple of powers and the ability to wield different weapons, the two warriors aren’t all that different.Squelch, smush!
All of this isn’t helped by the fact that the actual gameplay isn’t all that great either. Although it’s by no means bad, it’s just not all that great. Combat is a rather limp affair, and hitting foes has no oomph to it at all. Thwacking evildoers with bloody great clubs, or slotting an arrow into their foreheads should feel far more satisfying and visceral than this, and the end result is more of a wet fart than a meaty hammer blow to the face.
The cover system is hit-and-miss, with cover sometimes working and sometimes not, leaving you guessing at which cover has been implemented properly, and that’s when your character actually responds to command to get into cover in the first place.
When you grab better weapons and armour, there’s not even much need to use cover in many battles anyway, and even on the hardest difficulties, you soon become an unstoppable powerhouse.
It’s easy to get hung up on scenery (which isn’t helped by an ugly colour palette that causes walls and rocks to blend into the murky textures), and in single player, your partner often gets in the way of your ranged shots.
The environments are also very linear and corridor-based, and you’re rarely allowed to explore and wander off. Not that you’d want to, as the world you’re fighting in is one ugly looking wasteland, not helped by uncharacteristically unattractive Unreal-powered visuals. There’s very little original flair here and the locales are dull and repetitive in equal measure.
The included level creation tool is a surprise, though, and this lets you create your own arena-style levels, which play in a very similar way to Gears‘ Horde mode. It’s a cool little addition, but like so much of the game, it’s fairly basic and it doesn’t do enough to elevate the title.
One of Hunted‘s main problems, aside from occasional bugs and glitchy online play, is that it’s just so generic. The world and characters are instantly forgettable, including the two protagonists, who are not only cookie cutter RPG stereotypes, but have little in the way of likable personality.
The co-op features, what there are of them, anyway, are so lean and pointless, they amount to little more than basic puzzle solving, and the ridiculous need to team up to perform simple tasks like opening doors or crawling through tight spaces just gets in the way much of the time. It amounts to a wasted opportunity to create the mixture of Gears and RPG gameplay and feels much more Quantum Theory than Epic’s series, and the underlying gameplay is average at best.
It’s a real shame, and I was hoping that Hunted would offer so much more. In the end, it simply delivers below par hack and slash action and very light RPG and co-op bolt-ons.
If you and a friend are bored and have some time to kill, you might find some enjoyment here, but this enjoyment certainly won’t last that long, and you’ll soon move on to bigger and better things.
Hunted: The Demon’s Forge is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.