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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Nov 11, 2011

Review – The Haunted: Hell’s Reach (PC)

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The Haunted: Hell’s Reach is one unique game. It’s a balls-to-the-wall gory shooter that’s made with adult players in mind. Back in 2009 Epic Games held a contest called Make Something Unreal, and The Haunted came out as the winner in glory the following year. It was a huge contest, The Haunted beat out all others, winning $50,000 and a commercial license for the Unreal Engine 3, which powers the game. I had a chance to pick up the game, and I was excited to jump into this bloodfest.

Visuals and Presentation

It’s easy for me to say that The Haunted is the most gory game I’ve played in a long time. Enemies burst into explosions of blood and bodily fluids, filling the screen with crimson liquid. The different levels are all painted with a visage that offers up its own unique style. Though the same vibe can be felt in each level, it’s presented in different ways. The stages are full of dark, gothic settings that make the players search high and low for cover, choke spots, and safety. Spooky architecture drapes across each level, making it the perfect place in which to tackle the undead horde.

Enemies come in a variety of forms, though they are the same on each level. You’ll start off with normal undead, then move through the minions, upgrading with each attacking wave. You’ll go through enemies in straight jackets who spit poison at you, sorcerer zombies, undead with metal jaws that spit fire, and even juggernaut zombies with huge spikes running through their skin. The level of detail added to the enemies and settings really make this game pop. It’s no wonder why it won the Make Something Unreal contest.

The menus are easy to navigate, and the camera controls are on-point. Though the gameplay is fast-paced, which I’ll get into momentarily, you never lose sight of where you are. Eventually you’ll recognize parts of the map by distinct details, and know what you’re up against depending on the look of the enemies coming towards you. Visually, this game is amazing.

Gameplay

The gameplay in The Haunted is where things get a bit tricky. I ran into some issues, and after doing some research I’ve seen these are not too uncommon. First let’s look at the main points, and how the game works.

The Haunted performs as a team survival shooter, though it can be played fine solo. There are four characters to choose from, and they look almost the same. They even spit out one-liners throughout the match, which are funny at first and turn sullen by the time you die, which won’t take long. The game has two playable modes, Survival and Inferno. In Survival players take on wave after wave (though there’s no waiting in between wave, only upgrading as enemies get tougher) of undead scourge. Basically, you fight for survival to see how long you can last. In Inferno, players will fight continually until you reach a certain score, at which point you’ll be teleported to Hell to fight the big bad boss himself. Each mode is fun in its own right, and you’ll have to try each out to experience the full potential of the game.

During each game mode, you’ll need to destroy health stones to regain any health that you’ve lost thus far. This will become insanely important to progress through each level. At some points, enemies will steal the health stone, and if you don’t destroy them you’ll lose it until you reach a certain score level. As you plow through enemies they will drop ammo and weapon upgrades which will come in very handy. Each upgrade will raise the tier of the selected weapon you have equipped, and each one will have its own impact on the way that enemies are dealt with. You’ll also be able to pick up different explosives throughout the level which have a great affect on crowd control.

Multiplayer makes a show in The Haunted, allowing you and three friends to take on the undead together. You can create your own game and invite friends, or join an existing game in progress. In multiplayer two new game modes are added, Battle and Demonizer. In Battle four humans take on four undead and it turns into a deathmatch type game mode. Demonizer mode sees three humans versus one undead, and each human that’s claimed will turn undead and hunt the remaining living humans. It’s a zombie type game mode.

Now that the basics are all out of the way, we can get into the issues. While The Haunted is extremely fun and entertaining, it’s certainly difficult. Seriously, shooting the undead shouldn’t be so hard. Even on its easy setting the game is so hard I couldn’t even make it through to face the end boss on solo. Enemies come at increasing speeds, become tougher, and the ratio of kills to ammo drops is insane. Most of the time you’ll be melee-ing enemies to conserve ammo, or just to get out of tight spots. Before you know it, enemies will swarm you and it’s too late. You’ll be seeing a death recap screen before you can blink. The game has been rated “M”, but it clearly boasts a brutally unforgiving rating that hasn’t even been discovered yet.

Multiplayer server issues also bring some frustration to the game. If you try and enter a match mid-round, you’ll have to sit out the entire round before actually getting to play. This can lead you to sitting around for an hour waiting on a match to end, just to jump in. Respawning is another issue in itself. When you die you don’t respawn automatically. Your soul gets sucked into a soul stone that appears randomly on the map. At this point you’ll have to rely on other players to get you back into the game. With the difficulty stacked against them, players tend to focus on survival instead of helping each other out. Just like with the health stone, if players don’t get to you quick enough a minion will steal it and you could be forced to wait again until enough time has passed to get back into the action. See where this can be irritating?

Conclusion

The Haunted: Hell’s Reach is an entertaining, gory shooter. It has everything that a fan of survival horror and shooters alike want to see. It does, however, run into issues when it comes to difficulty and multiplayer. The only real issue is the unforgiving difficulty, because it makes the game almost unplayable. You’ll start it out, not even make it through a match, and realize that you want to move on to something else. On the other hand, it’s a great game to pick up and play when you’ve only got a certain amount of time. The game is running for $20 on Steam, and I would say it’s worth it. Though it has issues, it’s still a fun game. If you’re into gory shooters, or maiming the undead, this is a perfect choice for you.

The Good

  • Copious amounts of gore
  • Detailed levels and unique architecture
  • Fun toss up of shooting and melee combat
  • Nice choice of weaponry

The Bad

  • Extremely difficult and unforgiving
  • Multiplayer issues cause trouble when trying to connect and play online
  • Character movement is slow, and a bit sloppy

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