STAFF REVIEW of Hunter: The Reckoning Redeemer (Xbox)

Monday, December 1, 2003.
by Stacy Code

Hunter: The Reckoning Redeemer Box art If Gauntlet was the sort of game that sat in a dark room, dressed in black, wearing too much makeup, listening to the Cure and writing dark poetry on black construction paper, it probably would have ended up looking a lot like Hunter: The Reckoning ? Redeemer. That?s not to say it?s a bad thing, necessarily ? just that it?s a descendant of Gauntlet that is a bit more serious in tone than the monster-killing frenzy we threw so many quarters into fifteen or so years ago.

HTRR follows a simple formula of gameplay which doesn?t deviate at any point over the course of the game ? if you see something on the screen that moves, shoot (or slash, or stab) it, repeatedly, until it stops. Rinse and repeat. Played from an isometric top-down view, the game casts you in the role of one of several different hunters of supernatural creatures, each with a distinct personality and character sketched out during the opening cinematics. Unfortunately, these personalities don?t really come into bearing during the course of the game. Nary a quip or wisecrack is heard during the endless slaying of werewolves and undead over the thunder of gunfire and the shik-shik noise of blades cutting bad guys. Evil Dead was a $29 bargain-title and it still had some kickass banter going on during the constant combat. I?m not saying that Bruce Campbell would have made HTRR a better game; just that hearing your chosen fighter do something other than grunt in pain might flesh out the characters further.

The different characters sport strengths and weaknesses in categories such as melee, speed, and defense, and there?s an RPG-like element in that constant use of one style of fighting, i.e. using firearms only, improves your ability in that style incrementally. As well, there are powerups strewn throughout the level ? only they?re in the form of glyphs you have to walk over and then hit the ?A? button. This small degree of interactivity does add a slight tactical consideration in that you can choose WHEN to activate a powerup, which might increase your armor or heal your fighter?s health ? but the levels are so large and expansive that it?s not really a concern and almost seems superfluous. And these levels are large. They sprawl. And they are graphically clean and well-crafted ? early on in the game you will find yourself fighting masses of undead in the streets of a town at night featuring pretty shopfronts and snow gently falling past streetlamps. Some interactivity in the levels themselves would have been a nice touch ? blasting enemies through one of those big glass shop windows would have been great. Fighting in an indestructible world seems a bit of a throwback now that every game in the land features environments that you can leave your bloody, scorched, power-burned mark on.

The controls are simple, and fuse elements of first-person gameplay with the third-person view the game is played from ? the right-stick is used to aim the characters missile or magical attacks while the left-stick is used for movement, Robotron-style. As well, characters feature combo attacks they can string together for satisfyingly violent beatdowns on the undead masses that will gang around your fighter. A single button is used to switch from hand-to-hand to gun attacks, and a second button is reserved for your truly nasty, limited-use weapons you pick up throughout the levels. The arcade-style gameplay of HTRR is served well by the simple control scheme.

Overall, the game?s visuals aren?t revolutionary ? character animations are decent, and enemies give a satisfying sense of weight and mass when you attack or blast them. A darker, moodier look to the levels might have been more appropriate to the subject materiel, with more use of light and shadow, but hey, maybe I?m being too demanding for what is essentially an arcade-style blast-em-up.

The game is more or less acoustically satisfying ? the music is appropriately moody or hard-rocking, depending on what kind of bad situation you?ve managed to get yourself into in the game. The sound effects for gunfire were especially nice, with the more powerful weapons you pick up having a deeper bass and a louder roar, so you get the sense that now you?re really messing with your enemies where before you were just kind of tickling them with that default pistol. Again, some variety in sound and dialogue from your chosen fighter would have added a lot to the game. I found myself muttering things like ?Valkyrie needs food badly!? and ?Valkyrie is about to die!? just to add to the cacophony of the slaughter.

In short, HTRR is a second helping of same-same for those who truly grooved on the first installment ? which is available as a $29 Platinum Hit bargain-title. If you haven?t played Hunter: The Reckoning first, save the additional $30 and go pick up the first one. It?s a good co-op jump-in-and-play party game, but there isn?t nearly enough substance here to justify a new-release price point. Additionally, don?t be fooled by the bright orange Xbox Live banner across the top of the case ? this one doesn?t have Live multiplayer, though that might have justified picking up the sequel. Downloadable content, as yet unspecified, is about all you can hope for right now.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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