Reviewed: December 3, 2003
Released: September 9, 2003
Last year Interplay released Hunter: The Reckoning, one of the most horrific cooperative multiplayer games ever seen for the Xbox. A few months later the game was ported to the GameCube, leaving PS2 gamers out in the proverbial cold. But what they didn’t know was that Vivendi, High Voltage, and White Wolf were preparing a special PS2-exclusive version, and not just a port of the original game, but an entirely new sequel with an original story and gameplay exclusive to Sony’s console.
Hunter: The Reckoning Wayward takes place two years after the events in the Xbox and GameCube original. The designers fill you in on the pertinent information so those of you who didn’t have the pleasure of playing the original won’t have any trouble picking up the story. Our group of four “hunters” is back on an all-new mission more sinister than you can possibly imagine.
Hunter: The Reckoning Wayward features:
In my original Hunter review I made some comparisons to the old Gauntlet games and Wayward doesn’t stray far from the “kill everything on the screen” formula. While Xbox and GameCube hunters had the luxury of four-player cooperative modes, the PS2 limits you to only two players. Now that Multitaps are becoming increasingly easier to find, I was rather surprised this game didn’t allow for a full party of hunters. Considering this was one of the major selling points of the original, it certainly detracts from this sequel.
Whether you play alone or cooperatively with a friend, you will find yourself facing countless evil hordes. The odds are always stacked against you, which means you will need to develop some cunning strategies in dealing with the various types of undead and demonic creatures you will encounter.
Control is a bit different from your typical action game and there may be a substantial learning curve involved in figuring out how the trigger buttons work for the various attacks. Combos are relatively simple and rely on a three-tap method. You also have a good assortment of weapons including melee, firearms, and various magical attacks called Edges. Unlike many action games of this type, you will find your ammo is severely limited, so you will want to save your more powerful weapons for the bigger monsters.
The entire control scheme has been redesigned from the original and makes great use of the Dual Shock to allow for instantaneous combat and switching of resources. The face buttons handle all your inventory and weapon cycling while the R1 and R2 attack with melee and projectile weapons. L2 jumps and L1 executes an Edge attack. It’s a huge improvement over the Xbox and GameCube versions and actually gives the PS2 an added edge in gameplay.
A nice new feature in Wayward is the Hunter Headquarters that serves as a hub between each mission. Here you can choose your next mission and even switch out characters. You can replay previous levels to pick-up missed items or skip other levels entirely. You also have access to any unlockable bonus items you may have earned along the way. This new hub system gives you unprecedented freedom in playing the game however you see fit.
Each of the hunters has a certain class giving them proficiencies in various attacks and skills. These classes come into play in much greater detail in Wayward which only makes the lack of four-player support that much more significant. If you are resigned to playing alone then Samantha is your best choice, as she is the most well rounded character in the game. Everyone else has a certain specialty that makes him or her a great supporting character, but they will often need backup to survive the entire game. Father Esteban is master of the Edge attacks but weak on hand-to-hand and needs the combat skills of someone like Deuce to round out the party.
Wayward makes a valiant attempt to disguise the genocidal gameplay by mixing in some sub-objectives. These usually involve saving innocent bystanders or protecting an important NPC. Of course the boss battles are back, bigger and badder than ever.
Assuming this is your first Hunter experience you will find the levels to be dark, sinister, and rather foreboding, but if you have played the original game you will certainly recognize a lot of the original levels making a return appearance in the sequel. Some of this can be explained away by the story, but for multi-system gamers you might feel a bit cheated.
Gameplay is still a lot of fun even if you are restricted to two players. There are some minor camera problems that crop up and you will often find yourself fighting to scroll the screen one way while your partner is trying to go another. There are also some collision detection issues that weren’t in the Xbox or GameCube versions. It’s not a huge deal, but it is noticeable.
Visually, Wayward takes a huge step back from the quality of the Xbox and GameCube versions. Textures are not nearly as nice and the animation is not as smooth. The framerate even takes severe dips when masses of enemies fill the screen (especially on the harder skill levels) and the special effects start flying. I’m assuming these framerate issues are what led to the decision to abandon four-player support.
In all fairness though, Wayward is cranking out some serious graphics and easily pushing the PS2 to the very limits at times. The stages seem to be intentionally dark; partly to scare the crap out of you and partly to showcase the fancy lighting and particle effects from the Edge attacks. The levels aren’t quite as interactive (or destructible) as the original game, and while the blood flows freely the stains are quickly wiped away to free up video ram for the next spurt.
Despite what seems like overwhelming criticism, I must compliment the art designers for remaining true to the source material. Any fan of White Wolf’s pen and paper RPG materials will instantly recognize the quality artwork that creates a dark and moody atmosphere and some of the best original character designs of recent memory.
Wayward takes an interesting approach to music that follows the “less is more” philosophy. Much of the game is played in moody silence allowing you to hear the eerie sounds of a city lain to ruins by the damned. Music does play an important part of the game and there are several key tracks that you can find and unlock then access from Hunter Headquarters.
Sound effects leap to the surface of the audio presentation and they are as diverse as they are sinister. Even harmless sounds like dripping water will send a chill down your spine given the context of the game. Zombies groan, werewolves howl and the sounds of clashing melee weapons, gunfire, and supernatural Edge effects will dominate the sound experience.
The voice acting is surprisingly good but suffers from a low recording volume, making it difficult to hear some of the dialogue in a few of the movies. I couldn’t even fix this through the sound options. The game is presented in standard Dolby Pro Logic so there is good 3D sound but not as good as we’ve come to expect from the more recently released crop of action games.
With six character classes, dozens of weapons, volumes of Edges, and more than 30 missions, Wayward will keep the average gamer occupied for 15-20 hours. The game gets even better when played cooperatively with a friend, and the highly challenging Nightmare mode will test the mettle of even the most skilled hunters provided you can tolerate the problematic framerates brought on by hordes of enemies onscreen at any given time.
The four-player mode is sorely missed but with six unique characters and the ability to only play two at a time, there is more than enough incentive to play and replay this game to explore each class thoroughly.
Xbox gamers looking to extend their time in Ashcroft would probably be better off playing Redeemer (the true Xbox sequel). There is just too much rehash of the original Hunter game in Wayward to offer enough new content to veterans of the original game.
Hunter: The Reckoning Wayward is a worthy title in the Hunter series and a great introduction for the franchise on the PS2. Despite a few technical glitches like framerate and sound, Wayward is a solid and satisfying action game whether you are playing alone or in cooperative two-player mode.