How I tried to play Hunted: Demon’s Forge, but couldn’t take it

By Bill Jones

Hunted: Demon’s Forge mostly flew under the radar for me until its release, but once it got here I was strangely compelled to play it. The characters and art style did absolutely nothing for me, but the idea of a more melee-centric co-op experience akin to Gears of Wars but placed in the realm of a fantasy dungeon crawl sounded like it could have been awesome. Not to mention, Bethesda, the game’s publisher, was kind enough to send along two copies for review, to cater to the title’s co-op nature.

So when I asked who else wanted in, Eric took the bait. It took about a week to coordinate, but we both hopped online one night and decided to give it ago. And based on the preliminary results, I’ll be happy if we never decide to play it again.

First of all, ZeniMax Media’s Hunted: Demon’s Forge absolutely hinges on its co-op element. And yet, for some strange reason, upon launching the game on our respective systems, we could find no option for a co-op playthrough. As we learned the hard way, at least one gamer must first play through a tutorial – not an easy 5-minute tutorial, mind you, but close to a half-hour tutorial packed with story elements and slow, plodding action – before two can play together. Apparently, this applies to either split-screen or online co-op.

So what? It’s a tutorial, right? But Hunted’s poor design effectively takes one of two players out of the game from the get-go in an awkward way, when a tutorial should have been made for two to enjoy. It’s a fairly big offense, and ultimately a momentum killer from the start.

The gameplay is the next major offense. It’s clunky. It’s boring. And it barely feels like a co-op experience out of the gate. Instead of the melee we hoped to engage in, Eric and I found ourselves popping off projectiles from behind cover, trying to avoid an onslaught from enemies, and this was only at the second of four difficulty tiers. Ultimately, this was not what we were expecting, nor our idea of fun.

The cameras moves in awkward places, the level design is bland and uninteresting. We didn’t feel like we were playing anything new, but a hastily-made derivative title that did not feel fun in the few hours we played, but rather tedious, like we were pushing ourselves through the world, rather than wanting to see what came next. And I can’t speak for Eric on this one, but I absolutely hated the art style. The screens on the back of the box looked like a bunch of overly dark, muddled images, and the game doesn’t look much better in action.

Possibly the biggest offense, though, and the thing that caused us to throw down our controllers for the night and say “fuck this” was the death/revival/checkpoint system. Similar to Gears of War, when one’s partner is downed there is a limited amount of time when he or she can be revived, in this case by a magic vial. Aside from the unfortunate need to always have one of these vials on hand, it is (like everything else in Hunted) clunky and doesn’t always respond accurately. In one scenario, I had a vial, but could seemingly not use it standing right next to Eric’s character. But when I climbed the stairs to another level of the structure and stood on a floor above him, it all of a sudden worked.

I know, I know. A Bethesda game, glitchy? Say it ain’t so. But the deaths seem to come relatively often, especially with a revival system like this in place. But what’s even worse than that are the checkpoints, because they seemingly come far and few between, meaning more than a half-hour worth of work can be erased with one mistake.

That’s how our session ended. We played a bunch of a mostly unfun game – with terrible story elements, poor animation, bad graphics and clunky gameplay – died, and got set back a good chunk of the game. It happened again. We thought about giving it one more go, but Eric’s character started moving entirely in slow-motion, and we didn’t know why. And he couldn’t go through checkpoints or perform any movements — yet another glitch locked him out from being able to control his character. And we threw down the controllers and said, “Fuck this.”

Pads & Panels received two copies of the game courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.