Take one muscle bound hero, one hot elven heroine, add one devilish mysterious leather loving woman, sprinkle liberally with squishy mobs and garnish with Co-op and Viol-la!! Instant gaming success... Surely?
Enter 'Hunted: The Demons Forge', the new Co-op game from inXile and Bethesda.
You play either Caddoc, the lean, muscular hero who specialises in upfront melee action and cracking walnuts with his steel corded butt cheeks, or E’lara the Elven huntress who dispatches enemies with both bow and some hardcore pouting.
Both are beautifully rendered, from the armour and weapons down to Caddoc’s bizarre tattoo combover (clearly wigs had not been invented yet in this fantasy romp from the time of yore, so our bald hero has opted for a tribal side parting.) E’lara too has had time to swing by LA ink before starting the adventure but has gone for tattoo stockings that will have most red blooded males drooling like a bus-load of criminally insane serial killers driving past a scissor factory located next to a school yard.
Just when the teenage boy within believes that this can’t get any better, up opens a big wabbly portal and out steps a distinctly leather (could be rubber, could be rubber) clad temptress. Think, Joan Jet meets Elvira meets Dolly Parton. Where the graphics designers have probably had to be restrained while making our Elven heroin for movement and combat reasons, these restrictions have been lifted for smoking mystery woman and it's clear that they took full advantage of this and whacked the breast enlargement slide bar tool as far right as it would go until the Country and Western singer indicator lit up with a definite 'Ding!'
So there you are, a Warrior (who can do magic) and an Elven bow mistress (who can do magic) working for Jetvira Parton (who can do magic but which she mainly uses for popping up at random moments through her portal and inciting E’lara into dialogue questioning the aforementioned trustworthiness. Breast envy can do that to an Elf) facing hordes of baddies who are a little short on the old abracadabra side of things. Hurts to be them.
Onward then – let us hunt this Forge! For the first hour you will love HTDF. What's not to love? The scenes are pure eye candy, the Warrior and the Huntress kick ass, there is blood, snot, explosions, the odd flash of E’lara’s knickers (ok, it took a while to position the camera, but it's there to be had) and some skilling-up with weapons and magic. In single player the AI isn't total fail, though when playing E’lara, it would have been nice for Caddoc to take point rather than making me face pull mobs and then run behind him until he finally stopped contemplating his naval and cottoned on to the fact that we were in combat. There are shiny epics to be had, puzzles to solve and Gold to be grabbed. You can feel the BUT coming cant you...
BUT... after about an hour, just like an old Princess Diana wall plate in a large posh department store owner's living room, the glaze starts to crack and things start to get noticed.
The playing area, whilst looking open and exciting, is crammed full of invisible walls that keep you channelled into a narrow corridor. Drop off points or cinematic controlled choke points make it impossible to go back to explore places you might have missed, or go back for that epic weapons cache you saw be couldn't stop to pick up because you were out of health and mana (again!) and running for your life because you didn't know when the next infrequent, randomly placed save point was going to appear.
The characters try to keep things moving as they banter between themselves about kill scores in a very Gimli/Legolas kind of way, which is made doubly funny when you realise that Caddoc sound a bit like Bill Oddie ('Goodies.... Goody Goody yum yum'....and you never see them together). The Boss fights are fun but after a while you start longing for them and for the waves of tediously monotonous mobs to stop. There is a plot, but after 3 hours the same old shield bash, pew pew, you have lost it and don't care.
It’s not all bad, for this is a Co-op and much fun is to be had from sticking it to the demon spawn as a twosome. But after a while, this too starts to get a bit jaded, even with the added bonus of real life Beer, JD chasers, Team Speak and drunken rambling.
I was excited about this game – I wanted to love it – I wanted it to drain hours out of my life like Guinness barrels are drained at Irish funerals. I wanted to get excited about the posters and the Jetvira action figure (with erect-able nipples) but sadly the bugs, linear gameplay and two button combat system has left me feeling let down and frustrated, a bit like a bi-curious teenager in a straight nightclub.
So would I recommend this game? Yes.
What?? Well OK, there are a couple caveats to that statement. 1.) The full price tag is not worth the game as it stands. Give it a couple of months and buy it on special offer. It's worth playing for a tenner. 2.) Buy it with a friend – get beer and JD and coop it one rainy weekend. 3.) Make sure they put napkins in with your dial a pizza – for you never know when that hot leather/rubber chick is going to pop out of a big wabbly portal ;)
Expected rating 9