|a game by||Flagship Studios|
|Editor Rating:||8/10, based on 1 review, 5 reviews are shown|
|User Rating:||9.0/10 - 2 votes|
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Before today, my last visit to Tottenham Court Road saw me missing the last tube and finding myself happily eating a Bacon Double Cheeseburger on the night bus home. There were definitely no demons, no apocalyptic warzones and very few gaping chasms reaching into the very depths of hell itself. It was definitely an improvement on today's trip to London's electronics-laden High Street, in which a boy called Lil' Timmy asked me to retrieve his prosthetic leg from some hell-spawn he'd encountered.
If there was any doubt that Hdkjate: London will be dark in both its setting and its offbeat humour, it's lost as soon as you begin playing. The search for the kid's missing appendage took me from Covent Garden tube station, through randomly generated tube tunnels and desolate London streets, on to a final encounter with a 15ft hulking mass of flesh. Exactly why he'd nicked the leg remains a mystery to me, but Lil' Timmy promised he'd give me the stump of wood (an entry-level melee weapon) he was using as a replacement leg if I brought his prosthetic back.
I have to admit, the pedant inside me had a bit of a cry when I discovered that London Underground refused to allow their trademarks be used in the game, meaning familiar logos and posters will be absent in the final release (are yon listening mod community?).
Cor Blimey Guv
However, that's really not what Hellgatc: London is about. The randomly generated surroundings of the game are built for those who have only a vague familiarity with the city. It's postcard London, it's the Ripper's London, it's red postboxes, waving monarchy and the sort of peasoup fog which hasn't been seen since the days of Sherlock Holmes.
The fact is, this is London enough for it to work perfectly well, and most players won't notice the fact that the East End looks like the West, and the tube stations are the wrong way round. It's brilliant just to be able to fight the legions of the netherworld among derelict boats on the dried riverbed of the Thames, and being able to look up and see wrecked bridges high above.
The formerly unannounced third character faction, I was informed as I successfully gave the child his leg back, is the Hunter. Joining the Cabalist (demonologist, sumnioner, transformer) and the Templar (knight, religious fanatic, paladin, barbarian), the Hunter falls into the techno-mage category. The faction is militaristic and full of "spit and gumption" as Ivan Sulic, community manager at Flagship Studios, put it. The Hunter is a weapon-heavy Sam Fishertype character.
Apples And Pears
My Cabalist character, on the other hand, had already gained a few levels on his travels, and a rummage inside my class-specific skillset rewarded me with several offensive spells, the ability to summon a fire elemental and a very handy spell for transforming into a zombie. This skill left me free to wander tlie zombie-riddled streets in relative safety, Shaun Of The Dead-style. What's more. Simon Pegg fans will be pleased to hear of the subtle inclusion of a cricket bat melee weapon too, perfect for feebly batting away at zombie hordes.
Of course, coining from some of the principal creators of Diablo and Diablo II, it should come as no surprise that this is a pure action-RPG. The option of an FPS-style perspective belies the sort of hardcore stuff on offer here - at no point is Hellgate: London a shooter, and beneath its 3D visuals beats the heart of a true isometric XP-chasing RPG. Discreet green arrows above enemies' heads dictate whether or not an attack will have a chance of connecting, rather than the pointing abilities of your mouse-hand. Such things are handy when you're fighting your way to Covent Garden market in search of a radio transmission emanating from a portal leading to hell.
So could Hellgate: London be the RPG of the year? It's certainly ticking all the right boxes, but in the wake of more RPG-lite titles such as Oblivion, and highly addictive MMOs such as WOW (and perhaps LOTRO and Warhammer Online too), we have to wonder if, despite it's unpretentious, instant-gratification gameplay, it'll make as big an impact as it deserves to. One thing's certain though - we're looking at a new Diablo.
Download Hellgate: London
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
For Centuries the veil between the demonic and earthly realms has grown weaker and weaker as man has lost his belief in the supernatural and embraced the ways of science whispers Bill Roper, CEO of Flagship Studios and the man behind such diamond franchises as Warcraft and Diablo, in a fittingly dark and mysterious way. Unsurprisingly in his new game, Hellgate: London, the demons have found a way to break through into our world. And they've not only broken into our capital city, they've also broken into the single most exciting role-playing experience currently on the radar.
The story follows the Knights Templar, the oft-covered sect who have been quietly preparing for the demonic onslaught for centuries, yet have been forced into subterranean havens peppered throughout the London Underground system. From here they attempt to rebuild society while nightmares stalk the streets above them. Your character enters proceedings 25 years in the future, and five years after the success of the demons in taking over large parts of the earth. And it's here that the adventure begins.
Played from a goth/cyberpunk first-person perspective, the potential contained within the ruins of London town is phenomenal. Actual sites that exist beneath London make for some amazing places to take players, since they act as modern-day settings for good old-fashioned dungeon crawls, explains Roper. From the Underground stations, to Roman Aqueducts, to the old underground Mail Train line, to Victorian hospitals, to World War II bomb shelters, to plague pits..." The game and its environments are randomly generated, and although quests will be nudging you forwards in terms of storyline, random events will change each player's experiences. You might be adventuring and randomly come across a rocking van full of Flesh Eaters, for example, or a Templar surrounded by Ravagers - who, should you save him, will stick his details onto your PDA and team up with you later in the game. Or, you might come across nothing at all.
The way we approach story-telling is from what we call the water cooler experience,' explains Roper. If we all started form the same point - say London - and travelled to the same destination -like Rome - we would be involved in the same parts, or nodes, of a story, but our experiences along the way would be vastly different. We like the idea of each character having their own tale to tell that revolve around the same key elements. It's like players hanging around the water cooler, sharing their unique experiences even though they were all on the same basic path to the same destination.
So that's Hellgate: London - a highly randomised RPG, from a company whose leads are intimately connected with Diablo. It's set in London, obviously. The inspirations that Bill Roper cites include A Clockwork Orange, Dawn Of The Dead and Shaun Of The Dead, Diablo, Marilyn Manson and Green Day. It also looks gorgeous. Are we excited? Hell, yeah...
London, a wretched, smoky eyesore, overrun by demonic overspill, and populated mainly by hand-claspingly sycophantic homosexuals and fat-tongued cockney imbeciles. At least, that's what the scriptwriters and voice actors at Flagship seem to think. Within minutes, I'd had sexual advances from a besotted Techsmith, although he'd probably have said the same sycophantic earscratch to a female character. An hour later, I bumped into a shy tribute to Morrissey who refused to meet my eye (nice touch), but bellowed a randomly-selected pick of his stock phrases with the thick shout of a Cornish bumpkin (not such a nice touch).
The roughly 25 per cent amusing, 75 per cent mortifying script and voice acting is one of the most immediate barriers to enjoying Hellgate, a game which is otherwise immediately very playable. The storyline involves a demonic assault on a post-Olympics London, but unfolds so slowly and un-engagingly that looking through my notes, I've got "Hellgates", "I am the HERO!" and "Who is this seer guy? written down, and I'm still none the wiser. The story is just generic enough to ignore, as you focus on the geographical progress, which involves winning favour with a chain of London Underground stations. These act as hubs to dungeons, new areas of London, and eventually the next Tube station.
Character selection is a breeze; in that it's easy, and a little weak. There are six classes, but it boils down to pet-users (Summoner and Engineer), melee specialists (Guardian, Blademaster), spell-users (Evoker), and I'd-Rather-Be-Playing-Doom (Marksman). Each character has strong attacks and is responsible for his own health levels. Tactics start off with damage avoidance and potions, but all classes eventually learn healing skills to divert costs into their regenerating mana supply. I say mana, it's actually called power, but... well, it's the blue sphere on the bottom right, and that's mana, yeah?
Your choice of perspective is pretty much made for you by the class you choose. Marksmen and Engineers won't find the third-personvfew an option, because pulling back the camera forces you to aim uselessly at the ground. You'll only really use the third-person if you're dual-wielding a couple of swords, because you just watched Ninja Scroll or something.
The first-person works well, though. A green reticule means something's in range, and so long as you point within the green box, the rest is down to imaginary dice rolls. It's a decent enough compromise of action and role-playing, and makes the action scenes feel more... well, action-packed.
A warning to the pet-using classes, though - for the early levels, you have no control over them. Your job will be to chase them around, getting them out of any pickles and scrapes they get into. Word to Flagship - nobody liked Scrappy Doo.
So, action. Action, action, action! Is all this action at the expense of the RPG side? Depends what you mean by RPG. You never really fell like your avatar has a personality, and in a world populated by awful cockney gobshites, you'll never fall into character beyond saying 'yeah I got this mission let's kill some monsters yeah".
If you mean loot levelling up, and dungeons, then you're more in luck. Loot is constantly spitting out of corpses, and is based on the familiar colour-coded scale of common to legendary. It's also randomly generated as you kill, with enough higher-end stuff coming out to have you quickly clad in rare loot.
Speaking of random generation, the feted dungeon generation of logue-likes -and more notably, Diablo - is intact too. This does increase, to an extent the replayability of some areas, leaving you only with repetitive monsters, design and increasing easiness to fatigue you to an area. But it also has the potential to stifle more imaginative designs; to stop the dungeons being anything other than a linear-feeling trudge. Very little of the likeable sprawl that is London makes it into the game. It's therefore a relief to note that not all areas are random. Covent Garden, for example, remains intact, and impressively like the real thing.
Hellgate is very much geared to be a multiplayer game - the single-player version feels ultimately pointless. If you play computer games to avoid idiots, then the NPCs will infuriate you far more than any 12 year-old yelling 'L2P nOObzoR'. Having said that, the group fighting mechanic is probably the game's weakest element. The classes are all so geared to attack that the instances become a strategy-free slaughter and loot-grab, fostering suspicion and greed as much as teamplay. My game crashed after finishing a dungeon, and I'm certain the Swedish guy I was playing with thought I was running off with some legendary loot.
Flagship appear to be issuing patches left right and centre, so I shouldn't dwell on the following issues for too long in case they fix them, simply to make me look stupid. But there are elements of glitchiness still. A few times, I'd find myself teleporting into the floor of an area, forcing me to go out and come back in again. The framerates on the DirectX 10 version dropped to unplayable levels at more chaotic times, even though the DX9 version ran fine on the same PC.
Hellgate, however, does reward those who persevere. There's nearly always a lull in this kind of game - it's just a shame that Hellgate's lull happens from about Level 6-10. A tip for keeping your interest - spread out your skill points. Not only are you learning new things to do to fend off the repetition, the bonuses for specialising heavily in a certain area are nowhere near as pronounced as in Diablo. And once you have this spread of skills, there's more to notice, more ways to combine fighting skills - and most importantly, more ways to make you feel like you're playing well.
That's what's lacking at the outset, and it's pronounced enough to potentially alienate a lot of people. Hellgate's done itself a disservice, because it's hidden some decent fun underneath a dated, linear and difficult-to-love veneer.
Something Wicked This way comes. A portal to hell is soon to open in the centre of old London town. Residents will be killed, the Knights Templar resistance will be forced underground, the mad Liverpudlian who stands at Oxford Circus asking everyone whether they're a 'sinner or a winner' will be proved to have had remarkable foresight. Put simply: we're up shit creek. Why us? Why us Flagship Studios? What have we done to anger you?
"London is perfect lor the sort of game we sought to make," explains Max Schaefer, chief operating officer of London's imminent destruction. "There are centuries, aeons even, of history beneath tlie streets of London. I rom druidic sites to plague pits Io Victorian era sewers, to WWII bomb shelters and factories, to the modern Underground system: there's a whole host of locations lllat make for great, creepy, spooky gameplay." So, in short, we're the quaintest of the quaint and the spookiest of the spooked - in a nice fuzzy historical way. "But the single biggest factor would be the historical fame of the Underground," chimes in Dave Glenn, art director on the project. "Most major metropolises have subway systems, but none have the recognition or historical significance of the original one. The iconography, the mix of old and new, the varied historical uses, even the construction methods of tlie tube gives us a bottomless well ol history from which to weave our own unique story."
The tiling about your progress through Hellqale, however, is that it's all randomly generated the idea being every gamer will effectively travel the same journey through Underground Stations, Roman aqueducts and dilapidated subterranean mail trains, but each will have different tales to tell. As Bill Roper himself explained to us earlier in the year (for it is he of the likewise randomly generated Diablo heading up the project): "It's like players hanging around the water cooler, sharing their unique experiences even though they were all on the same basic path to the same destination."
This concept of random generation spreads to the very streets themselves, so anyone hoping to shoot at demons while window shopping in Carnaby Street or even visit the sparkling PC towers (to their inevitable disappointment) could perhaps find themselves frustrated - although Flagship firmly believes that it won't matter. "Fortunately, London has a distinctive look that people will recognise," explains Schaefer. "The literal layout of London isn't necessary to capture this, and frankly most Londoners can't even keep track of the labyrinth of London's streets." Clearly he's heard that my regular excuse for being late for work is that I got lost on the way.
"Currently, the surface levels are very much just an interpretation of what the streets of London 'feel' like to us," adds Glenn. "Our aim is to include a few points of interest in each area to really give them a sense of location. But our priorities always lean towards gameplay over realism. If a level including, say, the British Museum is too big or small or confusing then well make adjustments until it feels right according to our gameplay goals in that area." Let's face it, a few hands of Morninqton Crescent' were never hurt by a bit of tube-stop randomisation (reverse-shunting withstanding), so perhaps the feel of the game is more important than being a direct port of the London A-Z (and remember too that the PS2 Getaway games were rubbish despite their street-map accuracy). "Our randomised layouts will contain reproductions of actual buildings, signs, and the familiar icons thatmake London look like London," continues Glenn. "And what's more the major landmarks, like Bicj Ben and the Thames, are fixed in place. We've also tried to capture tlie traits of each area such as the width of streets, the style of buildinqs, the number of parks, and the density of buildinqs to make the neighbourhoods feel like they should, even if the street layouts aren't strictly accurate."
Ain't It Quaint
Now, Londoners regimentally hate tourists, but perhaps the Pearly Kings and Queens of this world should swallow some of this bile - since sometimes tourists are actually game developers in disguise. "The most concentrated research we did consisted of Dave and I spending a week walking all over London taking thousands of photographs. We both have architectural backgrounds and we were like kids in a candy store walking the streets and alleys of London. One problem we hit was that our game is dark, brooding, and spooky, and we figured that London's grey skies and wet weather would give us the atmosphere we needed in our source photographs. But from the moment we landed, the sun came out and we had the most beautiful, sunny, pleasant weather one could have wished for - in Hawaii! It sure wasn't the cold damp London we'd anticipated and even wished for, as it's harder to get usable source photos in bright sunlight." Devastating summer weather aside, and with one or two more research trips planned, the game is really tripping along nicely - and is without a shadow of a doubt the role-playing game (that isn't Oblivion) to look out for next year.
If the game starts slipping, however, or some of the textures start looking a little blurry, then we reckon we know why... "Yeah, we did extensive research into the pubs of London too," reveals Schaefer. "Once the daylight went, we couldn't take any more pictures, so this was our opportunity to find out exactly why British beer is so superior to the swill commonly served in our homeland. We left no stone unturned in this investigation, and concluded that we'll probably have to make another trip or two to really get to the bottom it."
"Tlie most disappointing thing was the pubs shutting down so early," adds Glenn. "Though I've read news that that might be changing soon." True enough Dave Glenn, true enough. But when 24-hour drinking proves to be the catalyst for the anarchy, chaos and the eventual opening of the Hellgate then we, and the middle-class moral majority, will know who to blame.
Just how did this happen to our green and pleasant land?
Over many centuries, humans like you and me became less and less convinced by the supernatural, believing in nonsense like science instead. Eventually, the realms of evil caught on and used this is a hook. Demons known as Harbingers were the first to break through, making their way to points of ancient power (like Battersea power station) and did complicated blood rituals that would allow - drum roll please - all hell to break loose. Luckily, the plucky Knights Templar hadn't lost their belief in things that go bump in the night and continued to beaver away at amassing wealth and technology with which to fight evil once the day of invasion came. They even had enough foresight to build the London Underground, although clearly not enough to stop it from smelling bad and attracting shit buskers. As London fell, 20 years from the present day, they were forced underground and now live somewhere on the Northern Line. A Northern Line where delays and signal failures are expected every single solitary day. Just imagine!
Hellgate: London is a game that really did grab my attention. It is a horror based RPG and that right there scores it some major cool points. If you like RPGs, but want something different from the fantasy and sci-fi settings that so many have. Hellgate: London could be just what you are looking for.
Bringing The Horror To RPGs
What really made me take major notice of Hellgate: London is the fact that it is set in a near future London that has monsters from hell running around it! It is not just London, the whole globe is at the mercy of the creatures from hell and you are not taking any of it. You play as a Knights Templar which is pretty cool and you are going to use all your might to send these creatures back to where they came from.
The story is actually really cool and like something out of a big budget sci-fi movie. However, as I say that I must admit I wish there was more story to the game. The world and setting they have created here is so interesting that it left me wanting to know more about it.
Make My Day…. I Mean Knight!
As Hellgate: London is an RPG, you have to, of course, create your own character before you try to take down the forces of hell. The game gives you six different classes to choose from. Take a good look at them as each one has its own play style with different moves, abilities and so on for you to use. You might want to be a more smash mouth style of class or you might want to be a class that is more based around speed?
I like how Hellgate: London makes picking a class nice and easy and not too complicated. It does though have a very in-depth character creation suite which is a lot of fun to use. I am one of those people who likes to make their character as quickly as possible. However, you do have a lot of choices here so you can really get in deep, spend some serious time and make the character you really want.
Take Them Down!
The combat system can be what makes or breaks an RPG for many people and I am one that likes what Hellgate: London is offering in terms of its combat. It has a nice mixture of action as well as requiring you to think before you act. You have hordes of monsters to kill and lots of loot to pick up as you do. I would not say the game is an all-out hack and slash style of game, but in some places, it does feel like that.
As you progress you will be picking up these rare items and that is what you can use to improve your character. I had no trouble getting to grips with the combat or the way the progression system worked. On the flip side of this, I think for some people it may be a little too simplistic. As you get new stuff for your character, you will have to try things out to see what works for you and what does not, but this is part of the enjoyment of a game like this.
Final Thoughts On Hellgate: London
Hellgate: London is a game that I had a really good time with. I really enjoyed how it was more about action than anything else and all of the quests you go on end up with you kicking some serious hell monsters butt. I do wish it had a little more depth as far as the story goes, but still, this is one solid RPG.
- The monster designs are really cool
- Combat is fast paced and action heavy
- Nice selection of classes
- The story of the game is very good
- It is a very well made game
- As good as the story is I wanted more
- Maybe a little too action heavy for some