Posted 28 Aug 2020 at 18:42 by Anil Parmar
Despite being born two months into the nineties, like many, I have a huge fondness for the eighties and everything it encapsulated. In recent years, TV shows like Stranger Things have made people around the world fall in love with the eighties aesthetic, from neon lights to thumping bass soundtracks, and it’s something that 2D shooter Huntdown masterfully throws tribute to.
With an art style inspired by the likes of The Terminator and Blade Runner, Huntdown is a proper old school side-scrolling shoot 'em up where the player takes control of bounty hunters brought in by the police to eliminate murderous street gangs that have taken over the city. It’s a simple premise, but it doesn’t need to be made any more complicated.
Screenshots alone do not do justice to how brilliant the retro inspired visuals are. The heavy 16-bit art style is more than just a throwback to a previous generation, with environments full of detail and with the developers having clearly spent a lot of time on gorgeous animations. Huntdown doesn’t just look good – it feels good. As I made my way through the opening levels, the amount of detail I spotted in the backgrounds was impressive. Combined with the wonderful sound design and synth-heavy soundtrack, the level of presentation far surpasses other independent titles I’ve played this year and it creates a level of immersion that I haven’t felt since I first played the original Hotline Miami.
Things are heating up in the realm of the silver screen.
Unlike other 2D games that the game is reminiscent of, for example the superb Contra series, in Huntdown the player can only shoot horizontally; there’s no upward or diagonal shooting, and platforming is generally kept to a minimum. Huntdown further separates itself from other similar titles in the genre by placing a premium on cover mechanics, with levels regularly featuring alcoves for the player to hide in, or environment objects to crouch behind, putting the player in a prime position to pop off a few rounds before heading back into safety.
In many ways, Huntdown feels inspired by modern AAA titles, from The Last of Us to Uncharted, which have used cover mechanics as standard in their combat. As a result, Huntdown sometimes feels less of a run 'n gun and often becomes a more nuanced, methodical shoot ‘em up. Whilst platforming is never a focal point, the player has enough movement options to keep the moment to moment gameplay interesting, and I regularly found myself dashing from cover to cover before trying to sneak in a few shots at an enemy.
This is one boxing ring anyone would surely be hesitant to enter.
As far as difficulty goes, there’s no doubt that Huntdown is a tough game. The temptation of going for a gung-ho approach is always there, but Huntdown is at its most rewarding when you’re able to settle into a good rhythm, and find the balance between aggression and adopting a cautious approach to the combat scenarios. Crucially, Huntdown never felt unfair, and those moments where I went head-first into chaos and failed miserably never felt unfair, and left me always wanting more. Thankfully, save points were frequent and the developers have done a great job in ensuring that huge segments of levels do not need to be replayed each time you die in combat. Additionally, there’s also an easy mode which offers more health pick-ups and weaker enemies.
Huntdown is made up of five chapters, where each chapter resolves around the player taking down a different gang. The levels are full of variety, offering different enemies and combat scenarios. The end-level bosses for each chapter are also superb, and I was impressed with how different each of the levels ended up feeling. Whether it’s taking on a flame-thrower wielding maniac or battling mechs, there’s plenty of diversity on offer here.
Those low-hanging barrels are just waiting to be shot down.
As I finish writing down my thoughts on Huntdown, I can only be impressed by what Easy Trigger Games have accomplished here. Huntdown isn’t just a fun 2D shooter, but with its added cover mechanics, brilliant level and enemy design, and gorgeous 16-bit visuals, Huntdown becomes an adrenaline filled romp, much like the movies it’s so clearly inspired by. I didn’t know I needed a neon-drenched, highly stylised 16-bit modern video game in my life, but by the time I saw the credits roll, I was immediately ready to start the game all over again. It’s just that good.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Huntdown is an accomplished arcade-style 2D Shooter, which features more than enough intense enemy encounters and fantastic set pieces to keep you coming back many times over. It's a title which has plenty of thought put into its style, yet the gameplay remains focused, never getting drowned out by the vibrant visuals or solid soundtrack; the style serves to reinforce the on-screen action, making this a rare breed of game which plays just as good as it looks, rather than relying on style over substance.
The core gameplay is wickedly fun
Great level design and out of this world bosses
Brilliant audio, including great voiceover work
Exceptional level of presentation
A couple of extra chapters would have been great
Optional in-level missions could have been given greater variety