As I get older, it seems that more and more I’m drawn to titles that remind me of my start in gaming; retro visuals, easy to grasp, fun mechanics and some great music that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the 16-bit consoles. Huntdown fits this bill perfectly and is an absolute blast.
There’s not a great deal to get to grips with; we run, we gun and make our way from start to finish of the fairly short stages, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great fun. If anything, this simple premise means we have very little friction in getting in to the gameplay. Each of the 3 main characters differ slightly in their default weapons (slower, more powerful bullets, or a weaker burst fire pistol for example) but it doesn’t take long before we get access to dropped weapons of the gang members in each area. Each come with limited ammo, but refills or replacements are plentiful enough to not really worry about running out. There’s a good variety too, with powerful rockets, snipers, shotguns and more all mixing up the flow of combat. Throwables feature too, again differing for each character’s default, but molotovs and cluster grenades are just some of the options in order to dish out vigilante justice.
The problem is, we need to actual kill the enemies before we can get their weapons, and charging head on into battle is a sure fire way to get torn apart. It’s here that one of my favourite elements of Huntdown comes in to play; we can take cover behind crates, or in doorways, popping out to retalitate when it’s safe. It’s super intuitive to pull off, our character ducking behind a crate as soon as we run up to it, or a simple press of up on the d-pad has us slide in the a recess. It helps to prevent the carnage on screen overwhelming us, as Easy Trigger aren’t shy about throwing a relentless stream of foes towards us.
Which makes blowing them away somehow more satisfying. Shooting them with bullets generally gets a little graphic, but use the grenade launcher or blow an oil barrel up next to them and parts go flying everywhere. Get a group of them together and we can fill the screen with all sorts of grisly colours in a matter of seconds. It’s not always that simple though; some have tough armour to knock off first, others fly about the place making them hard to hit. There’s a great variety in enemies, and each of the different gangs have their own unique line-ups to bring down.
The world has gone to hell (sounds familiar…) and in the wake of oppression, people either join the authorities, or are forced into joining a gang to survive. A select few however show no loyalty either way, as long as someone’s paying enough. We play as one (or two in co-op) of three of these, and are tasked to take down each gangs leader in order to restore some sort of peace. Of course, each head honcho has their lieutenants that’ll need seeing off first, so each of the short stages lead up to a fight with them along the way.
While there are plenty of weapons to pick up, it does pay to try and save some of the bigger hitters towards to end of the level, as some of these boss fights are tough. Each of the encounters are uniquely designed and often great fun to play – a highlight for me was the fight with Bad Boy Bob. If you’re a pro-wrestling fan he should get a pop out of you! It can take a while to figure out each ones pattern and even then, actually beating them can take some serious effort. I was less a fan of the surprise regeneration of some of them though – after struggling to beat a couple through many retries, to have their life bar almost empty and SURPRISE! something happens and they get not only all their life back, but I’m pretty sure one got full armour back too. Having used up all my special ammo and grenades, I was pretty much relegated to fail again, forced to retry and save my ammo for this resurgence.
Really though that’s the only knock I can find here. It has a banging 80’s action movie aesthetic, with some brilliant 16-bit pixel art and animation, cheesy hero dialogue with a twist (as one of the protagonists Anna Conda puts it, “Hail to the Queen, Baby”) and great, adrenaline fuelled music. Even the checkpoints manage to get a laugh, styled as they are as a medic who has clearly had enough of this shit. Each of the gangs have a unique visual style, and I’m particularly fond of the loading screens that look exactly as I remember some classic Mega Drive titles doing.
Outside of some cheap boss battle tactics that arbitrarily crank the difficulty up, Huntdown is an excellent retro styled action game. The combat is fun, brutal and often funny, the visuals and audio are top notch and each stage is just short enough to keep us feeling like we’re moving along nicely.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.