Name: Hunter: The Reckoning
Format: PS2/Cube/PC/Xbox (tested)
Genre: Top Down Hack 'n' Slash
Region Reviewed: PAL
Year of Release: 2002 (UK)
According to video game logic to be 'imbued' one must encounter a series of horrific events at what should have been a simple execution and according to gamer logic. Hunter the Reckoning is best played at night, with three other players as this game utilises the four ports of the Xbox superbly. Here's how the backstory kinda goes...
One year before the events of the game convicted killer Nathaniel Arkady was set to be executed by electrocution.
As predicted, things didn't go to plan!
The tormented souls of the ex-prisoners who had suffered as a result of the prison have surfaced in vengeful rage, setting out to seek their vengeance on the residents of Ashcroft. That day four people who were present at the execution (Spencer 'Deuce' Wyatt, Samantha Alexander, Kassandra Cheyung and Father Cortez) were able to see the souls and the supernatural's who were disguised as the guards. This ability was given to them by mystical benign supernatural beings known as 'the messengers'. Yeah it's not the best really is it?
After driving back the evil into the depths of Ashcroft Penitentiary the four imbued seal what remained inside hoping that it would never resurface. Yeah because putting up a wooden barricade on the exterior after a hefty gun-battle is going to prevent the undead from reeking havoc on the general public. Video game logic does jazz hands, apparently though according to the story it works for a while.
A year later the presence of a rowdy rave awakens the spirits, although I doubt that the presence of hormonal driven ravers and their loud music was the result in the rude awakening, just the really dodgy dance moves. It was very, er, awkward to see cut scene ravers bust-a-move and let's just say that I won't be whipping them out on a Saturday night at the club! Monsters and Zombies and Spirits...Oh my! Soon after this an in-game cut scene is loaded and your character arrives in the deserted surroundings of the subway when unexpectedly it derails into a fiery blaze and queues in a few zombies (also known as Rots). You discover that this is the only train out of town and as well as, once again, trying to push back the angered evil, you also have to save at least 50 innocents to help get the train running!
The introductory level (so to speak) isn't hard nor scary in the slightest, however it gives you a taste of what's yet to come which is plenty of re-spawning hoards of the undead... And the rest! The standard zombies aren't that frightening in comparison to the other things you're about to face. They hop along with their gangster swagger in torn-up clothes and a bloody get-up and their advances are easily avoidable, if not comical at times. On numerous occasions I would manage to obliterate the torso so that a pair of angry legs would be chasing me. Pretty entertaining stuff. These are just your basic of standard enemies that you will encounter throughout the game, so they just re-spawn in fairly large quantities and are easily avoidable and as well as destroyable.
Other rather interesting creature that you 'meet' in the deserted streets are these eight-legged freaks, literally the best way to describe them, with their stretched out faces on top of spider legs. Although equally as laughable to look at, these buggers pack an explosive punch on impact. It's fair to say that there is some diversity in the monster designs, such as gargoyles. These are rather intimidating at first, with their luminous blue aura beaming from within their stone bodies as they fall seemingly from the sky above you in an already over crowded monster-fest but after defeating one or two, the intimidation dissipates into smug realisation that they're rather pathetic. Missed opportunity!
There are a vast amount of ghastly creatures to face, all usually congregating and attacking at once but that's the generalisation of Hunter the Reckoning going a bit trigger happy and blasting your way through the hoard of angry creatures or running like a sissy and hiding in a corner. Not that that's any help as usually monsters will just appear out of nowhere within a cloud of rusty dust! After a while repetitiveness does kick in mixed with a combination of dull level designs (at times) and boring objectives, had me yawning at some stages and wanting it to be over. Other stages like searching the Wardens mansion leading up to a challenging boss fight was by far one of the more amazing action packed and difficult levels. That fun though was rather short in comparison to the long tedious parts of the game.
Getting onto boss levels; they usually occur at the end of a some stages, not all and vary in difficulty and in degrees of awesomeness. The first one I encountered was at the park when a giant mutant-rot with trunk like legs appeared with a hoard of spider-faces and zombie rots. First reaction - run into the dumpster and pray for this to blow over, but then I locked up my pistols and ran around shooting whatever I could whenever I could avoiding its attacks. This boss wasn't difficult but it just lacked that OOMPH that every big battle should have so I was relieved when I was greeted with a Teddy Bear enemy later on. I'm actually not kidding, nor am I being sarcastic!
Soon after defeating this first boss in the park you have to get this little girl to her parents, who happen to be waiting for her at the church. So queue in the annoying quest, having to lead this really slow child around the graveyard and while waiting for her to catch up. You are literally being harassed by anything and everything constantly resulting in your arse being handed to you on many on occasion. It was such a relief to make it to the destination, handing her over to her parents... Only for the spirits to manifest themselves into that Teddy Bear and slaughter them. Oh shit the parents are dead. But hey, I get to have a rather fun battle. Seriously, nothing is funnier and more satisfying than avoiding being puked on and being belly flopped on by a stuffed animal. It may sound like I have lost my mind, quoting this as one of my favourite bosses, but its just to state that not all such creatures are equally as pleasing throughout the game.
Overall though as previously mentioned the majority of your surroundings are not interactive, apart from doors that you have to pass through and in conjunction with dull and uninspiring level designs caused me to feel bored rather than exhilarated. Maybe I am just being picky? But there is nothing more dull than scouring a seemingly long level shooting at the same creatures constantly whilst trying to bury the remains of ex-prisoners just to accomplish the stage. Then in the next level be engrossed in a massive shoot out outside the prison with a over hundred (maybe an exaggeration) zombie guards until one of them dropped the key! It's all a bit samey and mundane really. Again this game has some severe fluctuations in regards to the entertainment quality but also it should be taken into consideration that its based on what I like and everyone is different in what they value in a game.
There are four varied characters in which to choose from each yielding a unique melee weapon and gun of choice.
Samantha, the leggy-ex cop (who kinda went with the asymmetrical trouser look, before seen in RE: Apocalypse and worn by Milla Jovovich) has a Creed of The Defender which emphasises her urge to protect and defend. She is the more balanced character out of the pack, being fairly quick but fairly strong as well and carries a lethal Sabre and magnum gun. Deuce, an ex-con beef cake is your stereotypical bad-ass and is perfect for those just seeking to live out carelessly through a video game character in a post-apocalyptic settings. His Creed is Avenger the poster boy of cool and sets out to eliminate the monsters with an awesome battle axe and quick-fire shotgun. Although the most powerful character he is rather slow and at times suffers in effect of that, meaning although he can deliver a punch, he'll take a beating too.
My character of choice is Kassandra. The weakest character but by far the quickest. Delivering the advantage of when you need to get from A to B in a short amount of time. Yes her character is rather annoying and its convenient that she is a Martyr as I then don't have much guilt throwing her into the firing line. Her starting weapons of two pistols aren't particularly strong and her two knives don't pack as much as a punch but it makes it relatively easy to run in the middle and button mash your way through a 'situation'. Last but not least although my least chosen is Father Cortez who is a Judge and it's his aim to prevent the monsters from using their powers. His weapon of choice is a crossbow and a sword/crucifix combo, again he isn't a speedy character and his crossbow can be rather annoying but his sword is a relatively good melee weapon of choice.
Along the way there are pick-ups for additional guns such as a machine gun and shotgun which makes things a little easier however there aren't as many ammo pick-ups so its probably best to reserve them until needed. Health situation is more or less the same. Measured by the bar which depletes when hit it can be replenished by finding a health glyph on the ground or by picking up the red orbs that the monsters drop although that is a rarity. If the health bar completely diminishes you are swiftly resurrected on the spot in the place that you died however this too is limited. Once all your lives are out then its game over. This probably won't happen as the overall game is relatively easy, especially if you are playing with another person.
Graphically Hunter the Reckoning isn't exactly exciting. Your surroundings are rather uninteresting for the most part.
I know that it's meant to be dark and depressing but the apocalyptic surroundings are just bland and fail to appeal. Due to the game being 'graphically' average sometimes the cut scenes are rather stale too, not made any better by the voice acting. I guess that I have to compare the voice acting to that of Resident Evil circa 1996 meaning its pretty bad, okay probably not that bad but the voice acting is still lame. With stereotypical lines delivered and combined with stiff character movements it causes the storyline to drag in a sea of poorly delivered metaphors and poetic directive. All of this aside however I must credit the voice actor for the antagonist, Carpenter. A really entertaining character that stole the light from the player at every given moment. Honestly by the end of the game I was rooting for Carpenter!
What takes away from the fear factor of the 'could have been' gruesome creatures is the music to sound ratio, it's a little off. Yes the musical score is fitting to the game with a varied amount of basement techno, goth-esque choir chirping and strumming of heavy guitars but it sometimes drowns out the sounds of the bullets being fired or the snarling of your enemies, completely taking away from the survival aspect robbing you, the player, of intensity and interaction. There's huge amounts of missed potential right through this title.
Verdict:- Hunter the Reckoning takes elements of the games that I love but just doesn't reach it's full potential. It utilises the four player aspect of the Xbox perfectly whilst allowing single player gaming at no loss of quality or inability to complete.
At first the storyline was a little complicated for me to understand, especially in regards to the imbuing and the various creeds as it kinda felt that the storytellers in the in-game cut scenes were just speaking in metaphors and poetically.
Yet as I got more involved in the game the more I began to understand and I should probably state that game is actually based on White-Wolf's RPG World Of Darkness which delivers more of a back story and information on creeds and everything else that the console game left out.
However all in all its an average play. It's something I would enjoy for the hack 'n' slash action packed monster killer appeal but wouldn't be something I would be snatching off the shelves immediately.
Second Opinion:- Games like these are very much of the Gauntlet mold because that's what all of these hack 'n' slash games are trying to copy.
When playing with others you sort of stop noticing how linear and honestly dull it's all getting, especially if the story and cut scenes are average, which this game suffers massively from. Stop playing with friends though and play solo and it all becomes very tiresome very quickly. Transbot finds this amusing as the same game is actually totally different from two perspectives... Strange.
There's vastly better examples out there of this kind of game, Baldur's gate for example for combat similarity but with a deeper RPG background. Yes this game is a bit dull, not bad, not good, somewhere in-between.
Transbot Scores:- 5 out of 10