Hunted tasks you with playing as one of a pair, Caddoc or E’lara, and gives you the options of brawling melee attacks (sword and shield) or cover and shooting attacks (bow or crossbow). Caddoc works well up close and E’lara has access to better ballistic weapons than Caddoc, yet deals less damage in melee attacks.
In single player you may change between the characters at specific points in the level (whenever you come across a jewelled pedestal) and it might take you a while to decide which character you prefer to play. It can be less frustrating to fight from a distance as E’lara and allow Caddoc’s AI to slow down the enemies, but playing as Caddoc lets you find more secret areas as his strength occasionally enables you to move walls to access higher powered weaponry or bonus jewels. You can compete with your partner to collect jewels to upgrade spells and abilities, but you must come together to enter the ‘shop’ to spend your points.
Story wise, there’s really not much going on here. The Wargar (a generic race of monsters) have attacked civilisation and seem to be using a mystical fluid to enhance their powers. Most of the game is spent following kidnapped villagers from town to town and the dynamic between the two protagonists doesn’t have much depth beyond complaining about having to open too many doors. The role reversal of the female character being more aggressive and foolhardy than the male is welcome, but any hint of female empowerment is insultingly framed within a ridiculously scant leather bikini. In fact the female character models in general seem to be there for titillation only. Such a shame.
The pre-release spin for Hunted made a big deal about the co-op elements and the cover based shooting. Prepare to be completely underwhelmed by both. The cooperative moments consist of simple puzzles (hey stand on this switch while I kill bad guys) or combined kills (you freeze that enemy while I smash him apart). Slightly better is the AI for healing as the other character will usually throw a health vial at you when you are struggling on the ground.
The cover mechanic is dreadful. Instead of allowing you to organically choose your own cover points from the environment, you’re limited to huddling behind a series of conspicuous waist high barriers. You’ll spend much of the game hiding until the enemy stands up, before firing your arrows and then waiting. This works well in the Gears of War games but it is handled poorly in Hunted. There is little thrill or incentive to take pot shots at enemies that are only slightly poking out from cover. They cannot be targeted regardless of what the user interface may be telling you. Other instances of sloppy design, including a sniper mode that forces you out of cover and an AI glitch that sees Caddoc continually drawing his sword overwhelm any potentially clever aspects of the game. There are the usual end of level bosses to defeat, yet the greatest potential boss is a real letdown, a King Kong sized ogre that you repeatedly observe but never actually encounter!
Graphically, Hunted is a bit of a mess. The main character models are ugly (Caddoc looks like Don Knotts, but with muscles) and the atmosphere is undermined by frequent texture pop-in and bland design. You’ll find yourself again and again getting stuck on geometry or blocked from exploring the map by impenetrable blades of grass and invisible walls. Environments contain the usual assortment of dull browns and enemies look a bit silly. Only a couple genuinely impress, most notably the minotaurs and the spider inspired Wargar-Infected. You’ll be subjected to some extraordinary slowdown in the last level, something which is really inexcusable on a console for non-launch titles. Voice acting is serviceable with the bland script not allowing for much genuine character interaction or plot surprises.
The best feature in Hunted is the level creator known as the Crucible, where Horde style maps can be accessed and new ones designed. Money collected from the main campaign unlocks characters to inhabit your levels which you can save on your system. This is a solid extension for the game, but it doesn’t allow you to use your maps online. You’ll admire the idea but shake your head at the lack of usefulness of this mode.
It isn’t a nice thing to have to say about a game, but quite simply, don’t play it. Hunted: The Demon’s Forge certainly had the potential to do something different, but you can’t help but feel that the developers’ level of care for their art was found wanting. The solo campaign is dull and co-op is really not that much better. It can’t even be recommended as a rental or a time-filler. Steer clear.