Hunted: The Demon's Forge ReviewPublisher: Bethesda
, Xbox 360, PS3
UK Price (as reviewed): £14.99 (inc VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $41.95 (ex tax)
Hunted: The Demon's Forge is a third person action RPG that keeps the RPG elements to a minimum - you control two mercenaries, Caddoc and E'lara, who play as two members of what's basically a medieval SWAT team. Meanwhile, the plot charges you with tracking down a captured woman who appears in Caddoc's dreams, and periodically pops out of a magical portal to assist the duo with magic upgrades if they bring her enough magical crystals.
The pair follow a group of captured townsfolk across the game world through dungeons, caverns, forests and the smouldering ruins of towns that have been attacked by various fantasy monsters. These include undead skeletons, spider-like creatures, the Wargar (pale- skinned orcs) and minotaurs, all under the directorship of a dark lord who's carrying out his own nefarious plans.
What's striking about Hunted is its cinematic atmosphere, and the game has to throw constant reminders that you're playing a game in the form of collectables, upgrades and random achievements. The story is a very linear experience and, although there is a smattering of side quests alongside the main brunt of the plot, they mostly feel redundant.
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Unfortunately, the gameplay is all very familiar too, although this isn't necessarily bad. The gruff and slightly reluctant Caddoc uses a selection of melee weapons and a shield, while the nonchalant pyromaniac elven E'lara uses a bow. This splits the gameplay into one part God of War-style brawler, and one part Gears of War-style cover based shooter. Both characters also have access to a magic system that can be useful if used correctly, and it's not overly complicated either.
Each character's magic abilities often complement the other's as well. For example, Caddoc can immobilise an area of enemies around him by raising them into the air, which then gives E'lara the chance to swiftly pick them off one by one. Similarly, E'lara can also freeze monsters in place, enabling Caddoc to crash into them and convert them into ice cubes.
As you might expect, Hunted's character design is heavily reminiscent of that of Games Workshop, and the unrealistic body shapes point embarrassingly towards the adolescent male demographic too. However, it was refreshing to find that we didn't hate Caddoc and E'lara. Their banter is entertaining and only occasionally gets repetitive in combat.
It's the action that makes this game, though. Hunted doesn't quite recreate the feeling of being in a medieval SWAT team that we mentioned earlier, but it comes close. Although Caddoc's movements can sometimes feel slow and lumbering, the pace is otherwise near perfect. E'lara's bow and arrow mechanics, for example, are great, and the way in which she calmly walks along while firing arrows into your target feels exactly as it should: highly satisfying. However, the lack of a jump function is frustrating, and the way in which the cover system sticks you to objects can also be annoying. For example, it's highly irritating being velcroed to a chest high wall while a giant cow with a battle axe is bearing down on you at speed.
A significant focus and selling point of Hunted is, of course, the co-op aspect. Playing with a random co-op partner wasn't particularly satisfying as it lacked the personal element needed for a game such as this, but playing with a friend is an enjoyable experience. Co-op play also adds different elements to the puzzles, although not in a particularly challenging way. Most of the game's puzzles subscribe to the Zelda logic of 'light fire to open door,' while co-op puzzles add elements such as the 'standing on two pressure plates at once' trick or the 'balancing the see-saw' stunt. Either way, there's nothing here that will tax you in the brain department.