Hunter: The Reckoning

Year: 2002
Platform: Xbox, GameCube
Publisher: Interplay
Developer: High Voltage Software
Genre: Action
Review Date: 10/11/02
Rating: ****

White Wolf's pen and paper RPG makes its way to the TV screen with this entertaining video game adaptation. Terrible things happened at Ashcroft Prison with the execution of serial killer Nathaniel Arkady. Undead creatures spilled forth from the prison, and a group of four individuals became imbued with the power to see them and stop them. These four finally managed to seal away the restless spirits, but now a year later, they've broken free and come forth again. It's up to the Hunters to take them down and restore order to the city.

As biker dude Spenser Wyatt, Father Estaban Cortez, police officer Samantha Alexander, or punker chick Kassandra Cheyung, you travel through the streets of Ashcroft, looking for the source of all the supernatural mayhem. And killing lots of zombies in the process. LOTS of zombies. More zombies than you could EVER imagine... Each character carries a melee weapon, an infinite ammo range weapon, a range of mystical powers, and can pick up various heavy artillery along the way. There are lots of guns and lots of shooting in this game, and your hands WILL cramp up. The controls are tight and intuitive, although cycling through and selecting the three categories of weapons at your disposal is complicated and takes a few hours to memorize and get used to (if you're an old guy like me, that is). Running, jumping, strafing, and targeting are a breeze and everything feels very natural.

Presentation wise, the entire game plays out like a John Carpenter movie, in all of its camp glory. Even the theme music sounds like it came right out of "They Live" or "Prince Of Darkness." And in that vein, the game is very fun, campy, gory, and over-the-top. The graphics are nice and moody, the levels are large and full of detail, and the character animations are great. Zombies spray blood everywhere and are constantly losing arms, legs, heads, and torsos from your relentless barrage. Very visceral and very satisfying. Objectives are simple and well defined, and you rarely end up backtracking for hours trying to find a corpse or a lost key. Boss fights are fierce and punishing, and usually require running around in circles for ten or twenty minutes while unloading everything you have into them.

While it's certainly fun in single player mode, it's even more fun to go through the game with a friend. Not since "Streets Of Rage 2" (1992) have I had so much fun playing a game with a partner. (Hey Sega, we're all still waiting for "Streets Of Rage 4...") While it supports up to four players, anything more than two starts to crowd the screen and severely limits freedom of movement. Having two players really comes in handy with some of the boss fights, and when you need to protect innocents who like to run into the midst of battles.

If I have any complaints about the game, the first one would be that this is probably the least stable Xbox game I've seen. The game crashes regularly and often experiences dropped sound and audio glitches. Another irritation is that the subtitles are not well timed and don't match the audio. I'm also not particularly fond of any of the characters, although Kassandra has grown on me considerably since I started playing. (I naturally gravitate towards schoolgirls with guns) Even with her ridiculous hair and absurd fashion sense, she is a no-nonsense, kick-ass, bubblegum chewing, zombie slaying machine. And she's all out of bubblegum...