Hunter: The Reckoning - Wayward

Year: 2003
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Vivendi Universal
Developer: High Voltage Software
Genre: Action
Review Date: 3/28/04
Rating: ***

Two years after the events in "Hunter: The Reckoning" (2002), evil once again comes to Ashcroft. This time, it's a demonic cult led by a powerful witch, and Ashcroft's hunters have their hands full. A hunter named Joshua manages to send a distress call to Father Esteban Cortez, and he rounds up Deuce, Samantha, and Kassandra for a reunion tour of their old stomping grounds.

This game is somewhat of a curiosity. Instead of getting a straight port of the original "Hunter: The Reckoning" like the GameCube got, "Wayward" is more like a refactoring of the original. Apart from the storyline, it's not quite a sequel because it reuses most of the levels and monsters from the first game. The first difference you'll notice is that the characters are radically different. Deuce has long hair, Samantha sports a swept back afro, Kassandra can't keep her pants up and shows off a tasteless amount of butt crack, and Esteban is doing his best Guido Sarducci impersonation. It's all rather disconcerting. The gameplay is also considerably different, and it utilizes a mission-hub framework instead of just a straight linear path. The mission structure actually encourages the player to change characters per mission, based on who is best suited for the task at hand, which adds another level of strategy. I, however, just found it annoying, because I like to stick with one character and not be psychologically torn apart by RPG schizophrenia. Fortunately, that character is Kassandra, whose speed is essential for several missions in the game. There are lots of extra goodies in the game that add depth to the world of "Hunter", but for me, they just tended to bog down the gameplay. I think "Hunter" fans just want to run and gun, not have to think, do research, or make decisions. As a result, "Wayward" wasn't as fun for me to play as the original game.

Production wise, the game is very similar to the original "Hunter: The Reckoning." For the most part, the look and sound of the two games are identical. Unfortunately, only the voice actors for Deuce and Carpenter returned for this outing, so the other characters sound noticeably off. It's not bad, just different. There are lots of secrets, bonuses, and unlockables in the game that reward perseverence, but why is it that Kassandra only gets two costumes when everyone else gets three? That hardly seems fair, especially since she's the only character that I play. Another noteable difference is that "Wayward" features pre-rendered cut scenes instead of the engine driven sequences found on the Xbox. They look nice, but they're not long enough to really engage the viewer. Oddly enough, the game doesn't offer a teaser movie or a demo movie, and just throws you right into the main menu, which is a bit disappointing. Another curiosity is that the game has a "mature" rating for "strong lyrics." Huh? Were there songs in this game? I don't recall ever hearing any...

Stability wise, "Wayward" is a lot more stable than the Xbox game. The only bugs I experienced were some audio drop-out, and once the camera got stuck inside of a wall so I couldn't see where I was going (which led to a quick and painful death). Fortunately, you have the option to abort missions, instead of just resetting the machine.

As far as accessibility is concerned, the game offers an easy difficulty setting for those of us who aren't so nimble. While the majority of the game is easy to get through, there are a handful of missions that are unreasonably difficult, and the final battle against Nephrack is absurdly hard. I burned through thirty lives trying to fight that creature, but the game was nice enough to give me a chain gun after losing about twenty of them, which is absolutely necessary to make any progress. I wonder if that happens on the harder settings? Overall, despite all the differences, "Hunter" fans will likely find something to enjoy in this entry.