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May 2022


Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Coffee Stain Publishing
Developer: Easy Trigger Games
Release Date: May 12, 2020


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PC Review - 'Huntdown'

by Adam Pavlacka on June 1, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Challenge yourselves in this 1980s hard-boiled co-op arcade shooter as you run, jump and take cover in mayhem streets of the future.

Originally released for consoles and the Epic Game Store last year, Huntdown finally made its way to Steam in May. While the release is sure to please those who have made Valve's launcher their only method of playing PC games, the Steam version of Huntdown wasn't just the same game on a new storefront. As the saying goes, this one was "new and improved," with extra features that weren't in the original release.

For those who haven't played it, Huntdown is basically a love letter to 16-bit shooters and the dark and gritty sci-fi noir aesthetic of the late '80s. Each level is overflowing with custom pixel art that looks beautiful in screenshots and in motion. Character animations are smooth and flow nicely, but it's the backgrounds where the details really shine. From graffiti that includes nods to popular culture to low-res movie posters that still have enough detail to identify the films they're from, there's plenty to keep eagle eyes busy.

Gameplay also hearkens back to the 16-bit era with a focus on precision movement and pattern recognition. Simply running through the levels while shooting like a madman (or madwoman) is a quick way to die. Huntdown may look simple, but its challenge is in discovering the best way to eliminate all of the enemies on the level.

Helping you survive is a wide selection of guns and a surprisingly useful cover system. Basic cover is here in the form of boxes and other items, and they'll take a number of hits before finally disintegrating and leaving you exposed. Also available are wall nooks that you can flatten yourself up against. This is a good way to avoid bullets, but it won't protect you from physical attacks or explosives. Enemies can also use cover, which keeps things interesting because you have to time your shots to hit when they're exposed.

Each of the four main areas is split into five levels, with a miniboss at the end of the first four levels and a larger boss at the end of each area. This works out well for busy players, as you can tackle the game in bite-sized chunks. If you have four to five hours, you can blow through the story mode in one sitting, but you can also take it on in 10- to 15-minute sessions. That's about how long it takes to get through a level for the first time.

Difficulty starts out easy enough but quickly ramps up. While pattern recognition is helpful with the basic enemies, it is absolutely required for the bosses. If you can't learn their patterns, you're going to hit a wall pretty quickly. I found that taking a short break was the best way to beat a tough boss. Coming back after a breather meant a fresh look, and I'd inevitably see something I missed the first time around.

New to this release (and being added via an update to the other versions of the game) is the arcade mode. If you thought story mode was a challenge, you're going to really be swearing at arcade mode, which lives up to its name.

In arcade mode, you get a shorter health bar, weapons and enemies are remixed, and the difficulty is bumped up a notch. The goal is to quickly rack up kills and earn points. You've got to do it without dying, however, because you only have a limited number of lives and your health no longer recharges at checkpoints. Each of the four areas is selectable, and high scores are tracked individually by area.

While it may not seem like much of a revamp, arcade mode does a great job of extending Huntdown's replay value. The constantly increasing timer acts as a subtle push to keep you moving, while the tiny health bar reminds you that you're always one or two mistakes away from death. Because of this, it's also more important to choose the right character for your play style when doing an arcade run.

All three of the characters can pick up the same weapons across the game. Where they differ is in their default gun and throwing weapon. Your choice basically boils down to slow and powerful, fast but deals less damage, or a middle-of-the-road mix of the two. It may not sound like much of a difference on paper, but I found myself playing favorites after spending a bit of time trying to perfect an arcade run. That said, it's a good thing that Huntdown's arcade mode doesn't actually take quarters, or I'd be in quite a bit of debt right now.

If taking on the hordes of hoodlums ends up being too much, you can always tap a friend for an assist. Huntdown supports local couch co-op as well as remote play together over Steam. The latter mode allows you to invite a friend to join your game as if they were local. It's a nice option to have, especially because your friend doesn't need to own the game, but a proper online connection would've been nice.

Speaking of streaming, for some reason the Steam version of Huntdown is not eligible for streaming on GeForce NOW, while the Epic Games Store version of Huntdown can be streamed on GeForce NOW. It's an odd distinction to have, but if streaming from the cloud (versus your own computer) is important, you'll need to purchase the game from EGS for now.

Huntdown may not appeal to everyone, but if you have a soft spot for 16-bit retro shooters and '80s action movies (or if you happen to be a nostalgic gamer of a certain age), it's pretty much guaranteed to please. It's just as punishing and satisfying as you'd expect, and that's a very good thing.

Score: 8.5/10

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