HUNTER: THE RECKONING (XBOX) REVIEW
Developer: High Voltage Software
Release Date: 6/25/2002
Hunter: The Reckoning is based on the popular White Wolf pen-and-paper role-playing game by the same name. However, don't expect to see any 100-sided die or other traditional role-playing elements in this game: Hunter is all about straight-up no-nonsense killing. Sure, there are fundamental RPG additions like standard experience-based enhancements, but that is secondary to its nonstop action. There is also a background story involving an underground population of various monsters, vampires, and werewolves that are scheming to take over the world - but any preconceptions that Hunter is reliant on its plot are immediately thrown out the window after five minutes of playing the game. Tearing baddies apart is incredibly satisfying as you reign brutal death on the enemies, either solo or cooperatively with three other friends. Pumping lead into monsters will result in their limbs being blown off, spinning in every direction with blood splattering on the ground, followed by a permanent bloodstain that doesn't conveniently disappear over time.
Four playable characters are readily selectable from the onset of the game, each with his or her own unique powers and attributes: the 35-year-old Spenser 'Avenger' Wyatt who wields a battle-axe and a lever-action rifle, the 29-year-old curvaceous Samantha 'Defender' Alexander with her Katana-sword and Magnum Revolver, the 19-year-old Kassandra 'Martyr' Cheyung who uses Twin Daggers and a couple of auto-loading pistols, and lastly, Father Esteban 'Judge' Cortez, a chaplain-turned-badass who violently 'judges' his enemies using the Crusader Sword and Crossbow. These four personalities all have their own reasons for enacting revenge on one Nathaniel Arkady, who is the venerable bad-guy in the game and the cause of inconceivable tragedy to the four anti-heroes in Hunter. Each character will have unlimited use and ammo for the weapons mentioned, but they'll also be able to use any of the other 20 weapons that can be found scattered throughout levels. Aside from melee- and artillery-based offensive options, each person will have their own 'edge' (Hunter's equivalent of magic spells) that can do anything from replenish health to enchanting their melee weapons. The differences between playable characters extend far beyond mere cosmetic qualities - some are more effective at close-quarter combat, while characters like Judge are physically weak and are better suited for taking out foes from a distance. The most well-rounded character in the game seems to be Defender, who is able to take out baddies from a distance but can also hold her own at close range with her Katana.
The ability to have four players simultaneously active in the game is an attractive prospect, and thankfully, the developers (High Voltage Software) took the time to include this feature. Multiplayer action is not separated into split-screen areas, but rather, every player is seen at the same time in one area from the same perspective. This is good for people who cannot stand tiny screen allocations, but unfortunately the progression of the game can take a major hit in natural consistency due to this configuration. For instance, if a player decides to hang back while the others insist on moving forward, the action will come to a literal stand-still until all players decide on a direction in which to proceed. Luckily, the action is nearly as entertaining in single-player though, but even so, camera perspectives have a tendency to get a bit cramped in claustrophobic areas.
The control scheme in Hunter: The Reckoning is pick-up-and-play simple, with the exception of the R-Thumbstick which is essentially used for aiming. Moving around is achieved by pushing the L-Thumbstick in the direction you want to go but since the R-Thumbstick is used for aiming, you can shoot in any direction while moving in any direction. It's a nice touch and particularly useful, once mastered. Shooting is performed by squeezing the R-Trigger. Simple enough, right? The 'edge' spells and other special moves are mapped to various buttons on the face of the controller.
Graphics are incredibly sharp, vibrant and aesthetically appealing. Atmospheres are literally teeming with detail. Environments are somewhat interactive, allowing you to blow up nearly every object in sight while they cast real-time shadows on the surroundings. Expect a large dose of four-pass bump-mapping, volumetric fog, anisotropic filtering, real-time reflections and many other fancy-schmancy visual effects. Character models include a plethora of different animations and help to give the game a very realistic and almost creepy feel. The reactions of enemies to your gunfire is incredibly detailed. For example, unloading a few rounds of buckshot from pointblank into a zombie results in the opponent keeling over - but not before the stomach-area of the enemy is blown clean out with blood flying in every direction. Believe me when I say that this game is more than deserving of its M-for-Mature rating. Can't put nothing past those ESRB folks, they sure are sharp whippersnappers!
Sound consists mainly of blunt organic atmospheric-type undertones till you meet up with large groups of baddies, and music explodes into life out of nowhere and starts pumping high-tension rock/electronic music. The audible dialogue that transpires throughout the game is fairly impressive with voiceovers that sound appropriate and believable. There are various sound effects for the many weapons, all of which convey an extreme sense of excitement and power. No detail was overlooked sound-effect wise. Great job, High Voltage.
There is just something about unloading an automatic-weapon into a crowd of 30+ zombies that gets your adrenaline pumping. The extreme level of carnage and chaos found in Hunter is something rarely seen in games. In some scenes when the action really heats up, you'll experience instances of nostalgic memories of playing Smash TV back in the day. The biggest downfall of Hunter may also be its most beneficial attribute: it's over way too quickly. On the other hand, the gameplay is decidedly repetitive and I'm not sure it would have fared as well score-wise if it had been, say, 40 hours long. Though there are 23 unique areas, you will reach the end credits in a paltry 5-10 hours. However, High Voltage did include a few incentives to continue playing the game, like Hunter Mode, which gives you new character costumes, and Nightmare Mode, which ramps up the difficulty of the game by a few notches. Cut-scenes also change depending on the character you use so you may want to revisit the game with another character if you simply must squeeze every bit of usefulness out of the game. Nevertheless, despite the game's small amount of lasting appeal, it does not change the fact that what is there is incredibly entertaining. At the very least, Hunter is worth checking out because it is a visceral, straightforward and bloody shooter that satisfies on multiple levels.
"Hunter : The Reckoning" has been deemed WORTHPLAYING