During the mid-eighties, there was a four-player arcade action game into which many a teen pumped endless ten pence pieces, in an effort to conquer various goblins, wizards and witches. It was of course that classic, Gauntlet. If you’re nostalgic for such four player mayhem, Hunter the Reckoning drags it kicking and screaming into the new millennium on the X-Box.
Screaming indeed – for it’s a horror affair, a zombie-filled, limb-separating gore-fest with overtones of Resident Evil, played out in scrolling third-person 3D. The plot is something to do with a disused penitentiary, within which an unspeakable evil slumbers… that is until the local kids decide to have a Halloween rave with enough volume to wake the dead.
Needless to say, the dead get out of the wrong side of the bed, and those surly, grumpy corpses proceed to stiffly amble around, letting everyone know that it’s not cool to be woken at 4am, free glow-sticks or not.
With the unwashed undead sprung on the town, it’s up to the “hunters” – that’s you and your mates – to dispose of them. Up to four can play, with four very different characters to choose from. There’s the axe-wielding meathead “avenger”, the lightning-quick, dual-pistol-wielding “martyr”, the defensive fighter “defender” and the magic-wielding priest “judge”.
Some characters are hardy, some quick, but all have a basic melee and ranged weapon along with a severe need to inflict carnage. Which is useful, as this game is just one long zombie bloodbath after another. There’s the odd puzzle, such as finding keys to unlock gates, but it’s pretty much blast, reload and blast non-stop action.
And this is great fun for a short while, but it does start to become repetitive, particularly when each level feels very samey in terms of both the environment and monsters. After a mere hour’s play, Hunter the Reckoning starts to become something of a bland experience.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its moments of trouser-filling excitement. Facing some of the awesome boss monsters (including a giant psychotic teddy bear!) is quite a rush, and they’re a real challenge to beat too. But it’s just not enough.
As you progress through the game you gain experience points and new “edge” powers (spells), which add some variety to the blasting. Plus there are some pretty cool weapons to be found along the way; rocket launchers and chainsaws among them. But none of this is quite enough to elevate Hunter from its ultimate turgidity and one-dimensional gameplay. Even the fairly impressive graphics aren’t enough.
Sure, it’s a good laugh in multiplayer mode with your mates – after a beer or two you can appreciate the low-tech action – though even the multiplayer has its problems, as you can find yourself stuck at the edge of the screen if you don’t all move together. This can be really nasty when an end-of-level boss has you trapped.