I must say from the outset that I approached this game with more than a little skepticism, because I have never been a fan of 2D side-scrolling platform "run-jump-and-shoot" games. From Commander Keen to Donkey Kong to , playing this type of game always seems to result in me facing a wall I cannot jump over or attempting to execute a combination of moves simultaneously (such as run, jump, turn, and shoot) that can never be done with just the right timing. In addition, the graphics in this game genre tend to be annoyingly repetitive, and the plots tend to be virtually nonexistent.
I am pleased to say that Hunter/Hunted significantly exceeded these expectations. While the storyline is not central to the action, at least an interesting one is developed. After a successful invasion of Earth by brutal alien warriors in the late twentieth century, the remnants of the human population were enslaved and forced to fight each other or a savage species of defeated beasts for the entertainment of the conquerors. Set in 2015, "in dark, lethal arenas deep in the guts of decimated cities," the game's playing field may contain a primary opponent (a human named Jake or a beast named Garathe Den), numerous species from other civilizations, and weapons, food, armor or medicine nestled in the midst of a labyrinth of tunnels and hidden passageways. One's goal in playing the game is to survive and ultimately to escape by collecting and assembling parts of a sophisticated time travel machine.
Hunter/Hunted contains 100 missions: 8 are tutorials, 22 are introductory missions (designed to introduce the variety of characters and objects), 35 are single-player missions, and 35 are multiplayer cooperative or head-to-head missions. Each mission has an objective that must be accomplished before moving on to another, but you may start with any mission. In most cases you may choose to be Jake or Garathe Den while playing each mission.
The game may be played with the keyboard, joystick or game pad, with the latter probably being the most effective. The variety of functions is simply too complex to use a mouse. Because of the wide range of predicaments you can encounter and the surprise involved in many of them, the game is quite exciting (and even nerve-wracking) to play without being frustrating. A unique movement option, which dramatically enhances gameplay, is what Sierra calls "interplanal travel," where you can move into the computer screen or away from it as a critical component of your strategy.
The graphics in the game are uniformly excellent, with exceptional detail provided in the characters and backgrounds. Despite the two-dimensional nature of the game, you really feel as if you are inside the gritty environment. Movement in all directions is very realistically portrayed. The quality here is clearly head-and-shoulders above any other game of its kind. At the bottom of the screen, lots of vital information is usefully arranged, and a nifty split-screen option is available.
The music in the game is wonderful and perfectly suited to the storyline -- loud, raucous and quite energizing. The sound effects and the voice clips are clear and up to the latest standards. The only audio feature that I found tiresome was the raspy voice at the beginning of the levels that announced with great pleasure that you were likely to die.
System Requirements & Comments
The minimum requirements specified are: Windows 95, 2X CD-ROM drive, a Pentium 90, 16 MB RAM, a video card supporting 256-color 640 by 480 pixel resolution, and 30 MB free hard disk space. On fast machines, the minimal installation places less than one megabyte of files (aside from DirectX), and users can install the whole game on the hard disk and not use a CD-ROM if they provide their own music.
Online help is available along with an exceptionally well-organized and comprehensive game manual, devoid of the usual distracting hip quips.
I really enjoy playing this game, and I am thrilled to see a rather different kind of shooter enter the game picture. We have too many 3D first-person shooters being released, and while Hunter/Hunted cannot compete with the direct virtual reality of Duke Nukem or Quake, it is not supposed to do so. Sierra's production values are uniformly superb in this game, and it is encouraging to see k.a.a ("knot another adventure game") as a rebellious splinter group within Sierra responsible for this product and moving the company in a new and exciting direction.