Mike is basically right when he compares Hunter: The Reckoning to classic run-and-gun games like Smash TV or Gauntlet. However, I wouldn't say that Hunter was an evolution, but rather, more like a genetic anomaly.

I'm a fan of this genre since the fast action and simple gameplay refreshes me between drawn-out role-playing games (RPGs) and standard adventure titles. However, Hunter really didn't do much for me. I can imagine what type of end result the developers were shooting for, but to me the game is more like an annoying flesh wound instead of a dead-on bullseye. It has a proven formula at its core, a great horror-based theme and a few role-playing elements to boot. On paper, it seems like it would be right up my alley. However, despite all of these different bits appealing to me, Hunter never came together as an enjoyable whole.

The first thing that turned me off was the control. For the most part it was fine, and I appreciated using the old-school two-stick setup. Moving one way and aiming another is always good, but the advantage gained by this was unfortunately hampered by a few cumbersome choices. For example, it may seem logical or realistic to reload a weapon, but in a game that throws countless undead at spellcasting holy heroes, using a magically-reloading pistol to speed up the flow of combat wouldn't seem all that far-fetched to me. It was especially annoying since you'll be reloading a lot—practically once every few seconds. There's definitely a disconnect in the design logic since your guns can't hold infinite ammo, but your characters' pockets can. I imagine players will quickly tire of going through this unnecessary vanity.

Besides reloading, switching between ranged weapons, spells, and melee implements was also problematic. With the amount of buttons the Xbox controller sports, I think High Voltage would have been better off remapping each function to a separate button, or at least giving players the option to do so if they choose. Being caught in the middle of massive swarms of zombies is not the place where I want to be fumbling around a menu real-time trying to equip something. By comparison, I'd say that Gauntlet Legends did it best by automatically switching to a melee attack within a certain range, and then reverting back to projectiles once any close-in threats were gone. It's fast, easy, and is one less thing for the player to worry about when hip-deep in unholy horrors. While Hunter may have cribbed the amount of hostiles to fight from Gauntlet, they forgot to swipe the simple interface.

Since the reloading and wonky weapon-switching keep it from playing as quickly and naturally as Gauntlet Legends or Smash TV, I hoped that the extra RPG and stat elements would compensate and bring it to a level comparable to Diablo or the outstanding Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance. Sadly, this was not the case. The amount of player control over the characters' development is minimal at best, and there's no equipment to manage or find outside of the weapon pickups. I just don't understand what kind of game Hunter is trying to be. It doesn't have the reflexive, no-thinking-required action of a straight arcade title. It doesn't fly as a customizable RPG-dungeon crawl. It's not original or creative enough to be its own genre. Instead of occupying this unsatisfying middle ground, Hunter would be better served by picking a side and committing to it because it isn't very much fun the way it is.

Mike says that Hunter succeeds by taking an aged gameplay formula and breathing new life into it. I disagree. To me, Hunter tries to replicate past successes but fails by ignoring the polish and focus that made those titles so great in the first place. It'll keep you busy for a day or two provided you've got some friends over, but I'd recommend any of the other games mentioned in my review over Hunter.Rating: 4.5 out of 10

Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox version of the game.

Brad Gallaway
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