Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age preview - Crytek's surprisingly original co-op shooter

By Samuel Roberts and Evan Lahti

US Editor-in-Chief Evan Lahti and UK Editor Samuel Roberts sat down together to see Hunt at E3, the new project of Crytek's Austin studio, formerly the creators of Darksiders. Below, thoughts from Evan and Sam on what they saw.

Evan: So, this was a delightful surprise. I'm not going to hide it: initially I'd expected Hunt to be some sort of 19th-century Left 4 Dead knock-off. It seems like quite a bit more than that.

Sam: I must say, this was one of my surprises of the show too. The creators of Darksiders are just having a load of fun in a team-based horror shooter with randomly generated levels, and an art style that recalls maybe TimeSplitters with some notable Resident Evil 4 overtones. Like you, Evan, I thought the four characters depicted in the promo art was an effort to mimic Left 4 Dead, when actually this team-based horror shooter offers a lot more in the way of player expression.

Evan: We sat through a 20-minute demo, and not 60 seconds into it possessed villagers were throwing hand-sickles and hatchets at the player-characters. It was like I was in 2006 again!

Sam: Absolutely. The level we saw was set in the Bayou, and right away I noticed some Resident Evil 4 in the enemy designs, too. Later on, though, I think we discovered The Hunt has its own identity, and that it borrows liberally from other horror-based games and multiplayer shooters without ripping any one of them off.

Evan: Bingo. L4D2 and Resident Evil have had swamp levels, but they didn't feel like this: I lot of what I liked was probably owed to Cryengine's good lighting, honestly; the way that campfires and lanterns illuminated the green-brown of the swamp felt dark and original somehow.

I liked Hunt's sense of humor, too—instead of respawning in a closed closet, as was the case in Left 4 Dead, killed teammates came back from the dead through a coffin that another teammate had to bust open. While trapped within, the player inside could only look on through a cross-shaped opening.

Sam: I loved that respawn idea, and the capacity it'll give players to piss off their teammates.. Another example later on had a respawning character hanging upside down from a hook. You'll need all the help in fighting back the monsters, however—The Hunt won't be easy. That's why experimenting with character creation and finding matching specialties will be key in surviving a level.

Evan: The big question is exactly how varied Hunt's randomly-generated environments and missions are. We only saw two combat areas and a boss encounter, so it's probably unrealistic to assume that what we saw will be replicated perfectly, but will Hunt hold up over dozens of playthroughs of the same recycled and reconfigured content?

Sam: Yeah, the first level we saw had the players hunting a witch in swampland, and apart from that one prescribed scenario, everything else was random. That's one thing that wasn't illustrated by this demo—what they did tell us is that certain events will only happen in so many playthroughs, meaning that there might be some replay value in trying to seek out those variables. It really depends how many there are, and how pronounced the differences can be. Different clusters of enemies positioned together was one example they gave us. I might have to change my focus to killing the boss as soon as possible

Evan: The boss encounter that the demo culminated in was pretty encouraging. The four players fought a spectral witch in a graveyard that only one of the players could see at all times, except when that player scored a successful shot against her. The boss kind of otherwise seemed like a damage sponge, but I liked this nuance in the mechanics, and it hints at the idea of each boss having their own quirk.

Sam: Yup, in that instance it was great to see such an onus placed on one character. I would assume each boss has a way to upset the party's strategy and force more reactionary thinking, much as the spectral witch did. Each environment—they're picking globally from 19th century locales—will have their own sets of enemies, as I understand it. The villagers we saw harassing the party today were some of the more conventional designs, we're told. I love what they showed me of The Hunt, but the amount of creature sets will be a big deal-breaker in sustaining long-term interest for me. I've got little reason not to be optimistic, though—the chaos we saw playing out on screen was a ton of fun, and the quirks of respawning is hopefully indicative of a number of fresh spins on existing co-op ideas. I really want this to be good.

Evan: Well, it's encouraging that we both felt similarly positive about it. At this point I'm mainly wondering how well its systems will hold up under the dulling force of repetition—Left 4 Dead had its terrific dynamic gore system, for example, to mitigate repeated playthroughs. Crytek mentioned that the Louisiana environment shown at E3 wasn't the game's only setting, and I'm very interested to see how varied the rest of Hunt's levels will be. A lot is hinging on that and stuff like its progression system, which we know nothing about.

Sam: Yeah, and player customisation, too. As we sat there watching this playthrough, though, I think that we both felt like The Hunt was tapping into something that no other co-op shooter is quite offering right now. There's a certain type of player that's gonna love this, and I like that this team has survived the THQ closure to work on something they obviously care so much about. Can't wait to play it later this year.


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