This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Hunted: The Demon's Forge and explains why it isn't Duke Nukem Forever yet.
It might be worth explaining a bit about how my schedule works. Making videos takes longer than you may realize. I mean, all these questionably royalty-free images don't Google Image search themselves. So as I write this, it is the pre-Industrial dark age of June the 5th, and the eventual video won't go out until the futuristic space year June the 15th, like a swearing time capsule. You astronauts of tomorrow are no doubt even as I speak playing Duke Nukem Forever and inFamous 2 and getting really excited about all the E3 announcements like a prisoner requesting a second bowl of pigeon shits, all if which come out this week just a little too late for me to make a video about any of them. And I just know that the very first comment after this video (after all the usual ones saying "first" and getting immediately banned) will be someone demanding to know why I haven't done Duke Nukem Forever within the twelve minutes since it came out. Not that I'm bitter, so here's Hunted: The Demon's Forge, a shit game for twats.
No, really, I'm not bitter. Trust me when I say that Hunted needs no assistance from circumstance to come across as a shit game for twats. It could be the only distraction available in a house that's slowly sinking into a lava flow and it'd still be a shit game for twats, because a non-twat would presumably move to a different house.
Hunted is a swords and fantasy affair that first set off my "shit for twats" alarm when the box blurb announced it as "a fantasy game for the Gears of War age!" As we all know by now, cover-based shooting in itself is about as entertaining as you'd expect pressing your face into a bit of wall to be, so the developers of Hunted examined this critically and said to themselves, "I know how to fix this! Let's take out the guns!"
So now you just hide in cover from arrows. But it works in conjunction with melee combat, doesn't it, so either you're taking surprise daggers up the strap while trying to aim or sprinting towards archers with battle axe held high hoping that perhaps you'll be able to deflect arrows with the arrows that are already embedded in your face.
The two-player co-op set-up involves an open-quotes "adorable" (mostly) partnership between Caddoc, the most manly of men, and E'lara, an elf-lady who thinks nothing of wanton cruelty to inverted commas. Like most fantasy characters, they both seem to be actively trying to give themselves really, really weird tan lines, but they also have kooky konflicting personalities.
Elina, for example, has never been able to cum, and thus enjoys blowing things up. Which doesn't sound like much to base a personality on, but she brings it up every bloody time you blow something up or could potentially be blowing something up, so apparently it's all they've got.
Callic, meanwhile, acts as a sort of reluctant, grumpy dad, occasionally referencing some tragic dead family backstory as casually as he'd bring up a cold sore he had the other week. He's voiced by the same bloke who played Dante, of Inferno fame, a man apparently possessing a mutant immunity to sore throats, who can't swing anything heavier than a set of salad tongs without squawking like the rusty gate outside a whore house.
These two zany funsters have a great chemistry, in the sense that I hope they both get dissolved in acid. Anyway, Bollock has a dream about some pasty lady waving her flumpies around, and after laundering his sleeping bag he and Vagina set off to find her, because she has no pupils and white skin and is constantly trying to tempt you into surrounding to dark powers, which are always sure signs of trustworthiness.
And thus begins a prime example of one of the laziest forms of video game storytelling, Fashionably Late Syndrome, wherein you have precisely one goal that is dangled in front of you like a carrot from a string that has constantly moved on by the time you get to where it's supposed to be. But you can't let that be your only plot device, because it raises the question of why the heroes don't get exasperated and sod the whole business to go whoring. Because such thought be not a million miles from my own.
Maybe we wouldn't always be late if we didn't keep taking the most circuitous possible route through every linear labyrinth of enemies and invisible walls. You see, Hunted proudly wears the label of "dungeon crawler", with the emphasis on crawl. If you're not familiar with it, "dungeon crawler" is a term used to excuse the fact that you only want to design one room and then copy-paste it five hundred times.
But it's not all about combat. There's also the occasional puzzle that makes full use of the co-op mechanic, but if you're relying on an A.I. partner, then it's like teaching a legless dog how to shit on the paper. Vagina can only do certain puzzles and Bollock can only do others. And if you don't happen to be the right one, you just need to wait for the contextual command system to stop staring blankly into space. Once, I was trying to make Vagina stand on a floor plate to extend a bridge, but the contextual button kept commanding her to light a torch. And then I guess she got offended, because she just stood perfectly still and refused to move. She kept agreeing to do what I asked, though, so the A.I.'s not just broken, it's sarcastic, too.
There's a hideously token magic upgrade system, but I guess they forgot to balance it after they'd finished padding out the game with copy-pastes, because I'd upgraded all the spells I ever actually used by halfway through the game and then just had to horde upgrade points like Scrooge McDuck. And I don't see why I have to press one button to select a spell, another button to equip magic, and then the same button again to actually cast it. I'm not trying to operate a fucking forklift.
It's just all around a bit of a pisser, but the first boss fight is the most disheartening moment. Through a lengthy network of caves and dungeons, some sections of which were so fucking murky I literally ended up resorting to casting fireballs everywhere just so I could see where the fuck I was going, I was buoyed by the ongoing promise of a boss fight with a giant spider that kept appearing over the horizon like the bedroom eyes of a courtesan peering coquettishly over her fan. But it very clearly had only four legs, so I don't know why everyone kept calling it a spider.
Through tedious multitudes of chambers the game went "ooh, it could be in the very next rooooom! I guess you'll only find out if you keep going, won't you?" And then finally the giant spider found a window in its meeting schedule and chased me through a big cave for a bit before I lobbed two bombs at it and dropped a rock on its head. "Exciting," said I. "Can I fight it now? What do you mean it's dead? What, we're just going to move on?" I felt like I'd queued for hours to get on a roller coaster that went down one dip then dropped you off at the gift shop.
On the whole, it's probably a good thing no one gives a shit about the game. And that's okay, because by the time this goes out neither will I!
Hunter of lost Maltesers behind desks: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
The voice actor's name is Graham McTavish and he gets brought in to play English characters who have their goolies trapped in things
Hey I bet I'm the only one to notice that 'hunt' rhymes with a swear