The Haunted: Hell’s Reach [Review]
November 3, 2011
In a world where major labels have over-saturated the market with tons of the same old stuff, Indie developers tend to try to shake things up for the burned out gamer. In these mix-up experiments, sometimes great things can result of them. If you threw a third person perspective game like Killing Floor (or any game with a horde mode), a grindhouse horror movie, and ludicrous gibs from Unreal Tournament together into a blender, and then topped it off with a multiplayer feature set that was a combination of Left 4 Dead, Counter Strike, and playground tag, the result would be The Haunted: Hell’s Reach. The game originally started off as an Unreal Tournament 3 mod hosted on Mod DB and then was taken to the 2010 Make Something Unreal Contest sponsored by Intel and Epic Games. The mod eventually took 1st place netting the mod’s creators $50,000 in cash and a license for the Unreal Engine 3 SDK. The results of their labor are now a full retail game that is finally available to the world and it is a fantastic game!
The game’s plot is relatively simple. You are one of 4 demon hunters who is dropped into a zone to clean the demon onslaught that is incoming. Clear the demons and the world is saved. However, if that’s only just the surface because The Haunted is far deeper. It’s an action shooter, mixed with the mechanics of a fighting game, and jam-packed with chaos all around. The basic mechanics of shooters like being able to sight in and shoot are there, but the fighting game element is from the melee fatalities that can be performed on the enemy demons.
What makes The Haunted fun is that there are 4 modes: Inferno, Survival, Battle, and Demonizer. Inferno is a 4 wave format that as you go through the waves, they get progressively longer and harder to contend with and on the final wave is a final battle in Hell against Abaddon. Survival is just like its namesake of surviving as long as possible. Battle is a 4 vs 4 format pitting 4 human players against 4 demon players in a battle royale. Demonizer is a mix between Counter Strike and playground tag where a team of 4 humans begin and on death become demons until there is one human standing.
For the game mechanics, The Haunted plays like most shooter games. There are special weapons and explosives around levels that help players dish out additional hate to the enemies for good measure as well. However, the melee combat aspect changes things up. Each player can use melee weapons that can be upgraded, however, the fun part is all on hand to hand combat. The hand to hand combat mechanic works almost like a fighting game where certain combinations of movements and key presses will allow the player to do things like punches, kicks, sweeps, and etc.
The fun value comes from when you pummel a demon to submission, they will have a yellow aura around them. That aura is your cue to perform a finishing move on the demon to end its misery. The result is purely satisfying and great fun. Also, when the life total reaches 10 points… The player goes into a rage overdrive where the melee attacks turn kicks into Chuck Norris approved roundhouse kicks strong enough to make demons explode on impact. The disadvantage is that the player is extremely vulnerable to meeting a brutal death.
There are also some other items that help balance out game play. Weapon upgrade pick-ups are available on occasion to give weapons more punch for the job. Ammunition is scarce almost like a survival horror game at times, so making shots count is extremely crucial. For solo and two player games, there are Healthstones that can be shattered open for the ability to regain life if they are found in time. For 3 or 4 person multiplayer games, Soulstones appear when players die and on shattering them revives them.
Chronostones are also another element that can make matters tough. They don’t do anything on being broken in time…but if a Chronostone isn’t broken in time, it can cause minor to major natural disasters. They all can be stolen by enemy demons, but by slaying the demon the stone is broken open as well. The stones can drastically change the scope of difficulty if not contended with. This element of the game keeps things fresh, and far from being another horde-mode game clone.
The developers over at KTX Software Development have told fans that because the game does have roots in being an Unreal Tournament 3 mod, they will publish tools to allow players the ability to create even more custom content for the game. This is a good thing to see, as it’s becoming more and more rare to find companies providing those tools to creative players. In addition to this, KTX Software Development has expressed that it is committed to making future content for The Haunted free, which is refreshing in an era where we are seeing more and more companies get greedy, and make players pay for additional content packs.
Overall, The Haunted: Hell’s Reach is a concise game that is cut and dry while being to the point. The variety of mechanics makes it a pleasure to play and have fun with either weapon or melee kills, unlike most other shooters where using one option can feel like a chore compared to another. The added benefit of a toolkit to allow free custom player content is awesome and definitely a welcome bonus as the developers do want to show that they do honor their roots as a former Unreal Tournament 3 mod. The Haunted: Hell’s Reach is now available for PC on Steam for the price of $19.99 and there is a future console port that will arrive in 2012 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation Network. Personally, I encourage any player burned out of the Call of Duty games et al to check out this game because it’s simple, entertaining, and focused on being a tightly made game.
[Trailer from Machinma on YouTube]
Out Of 5
The Haunted: Hell’s Reach
The visuals of the game overall are wonderfully rendered in the Unreal Engine 3 technology. The explosions and flames are just brutal and can almost bring the intensity of the game alive. Some of the environments can be a bit dull on detail which is a minor detail on a few maps.
The weapons sound great and progressively get more savage as they are leveled up. The explosions and environmental effects are spectacular... The monsters sound a bit generic but they are the least of your concerns in a horde swarm.
The controls are pretty basic and can be customized to a player's liking. However, some may find that doing the special melee moves from a list can be daunting to memorize. There are also a lot of commands spread out though the game, but after a bit of practice they do become second nature.
The only main gripe I have with The Haunted is that there isn't a tutorial or orientation mode for those who have not played the game before. You are thrown into the game with a small expectation that you have read the basic instructions. Other than that, the mechanics of The Haunted are just awesome and solid.
The fun comes from the chaos of battling out the onslaught of evil with your friends. From all the modes, it's just great fun all around. The remix of the situation in Demonizer is fun because it's like a twisted game of trying to either be the last human alive or trying to demonize your human friends. Add in the ability to go into rage mode and either go Fist of the North Star or Chuck Norris on the demons, and what you have is demonic brutality at its finest.