In 20XX, territory wars between numerous gangs threaten to engulf the cities and destroy life as we know it. With the police outnumbered and outgunned, the only thing standing in the criminal’s way are the bounty hunters: skilled, lethal killing machines taking contracts for cash. Let the carnage commence in Huntdown.
Reminiscent of the kind of body count and one-liners offered by films such as Demolition Man and Robocop, Huntdown offers players a choice of three would be anti-heroes. Set against a number of highly stereotypical adversaries, the gangs themselves wouldn’t be out of place in the 1979 classic The Warriors. Each Hunter has the task of working through a number of smaller bounties within each gang across a city dipped in ‘Blade Runner’ neon signs and saturated in bullets before a face-off against the head of each collective.
Whichever bounty hunter takes your fancy, all three control in a very similar manner and come equipped from the get-go with their basic sidearm and unique secondary weapon which regenerates on a short cooldown timer to avoid weapon spamming . This, coupled with a directional dodge and a jump are the extent of the complexity of the controls, it’s the fluid nature of them and the surrounding enemy placement and weapon designs that make Huntdown a joy to play and a challenge to master.
It’s not long however before the first set of enemies fall to the hail of bullets and you find your first weapon pickup. The arsenal grows as the enemies start to differ and the variety on offer; in not only design but each weapon’s strengths and weaknesses keeps things interesting at all times. As powerful or useful as some pickups are, all weaponry picked up is finite and once the ammo or magazine is depleted, the hunters revert back to their primary arsenal, with the exception of blades and bars like Katanas or Crowbars which must be manually dropped. Players also have the option of switching back to their sidearm at any point and saving the picked-up weapon for a later date and this type of strategic deployment can make or break your progress in some sections depending on your evasive skills.
Enemies start out simple. Goons with bats and knives who run directly into your line of fire. Quickly, however, armoured variants appear in addition to those packing some impressive heat including most of the weaponry you will be utilising yourself shortly thereafter. As you progress both through the game and difficulty settings the game mixes up both long-distance and close-quarters assailants keeping players on their toes with their weapon selection and their evasive options.
Levels themselves are stylised after the gang you are currently targeting. As an example, the No.1 Suspects headed by the enigmatic ‘Shogun’ inhabit a futuristic Tokyo with classic Japanese imagery amidst the neon laden buildings. Most are a side-scrolling affair from left to right with some vertical platforming thrown in to hide secrets, collectables and extra weaponry. Each level also includes an element of cover that can be utilised by the hunters and their gang prey alike and doorways, garages and shop fronts that can be used to avoid direct fire but not physical or explosive attacks are strategically placed throughout.
At the end of each subsection, the bounty hunter inevitably reaches their target. Rather than the side-scrolling format of the levels, these boss battles take the format of an arena battle confined to a single multi-platform screen. The bosses themselves are armed with a number of quips and one-liners to match their batch of deadly attacks. Although the first few bosses can be dealt with via brute force tactics, it quickly becomes a game of attrition as players try to memorise the boss attack patterns whilst avoiding their repertoire of game-ending attacks. The varied cast of characters is definitely one of the highlights of Huntdown and most can easily be identified as directly inspired by cinematic material it clearly imitates.
There’s the option for local cooperative gameplay with a friend on the couch as well, but no online supported multiplayer. On the lower difficulties, the multiplayer component can be a one-sided affair but comes into its own on higher ones with the added damage and the increase in targets moving the game from frustratingly hard to enjoyably challenging.
Huntdown successfully emulates the gritty ultra-violence of the late eighties and early nineties cinema scene with an excellent electro futuristic soundtrack that accentuates the run and gun gameplay. Paired with a great selection of offensive options and a drive to master “just another run” it eases new players in gently whilst continuing to offer a challenge to genre veterans and speed run enthusiasts.