The Haunted: Hell’s Reach Review
While a game titled “The Haunted” may invoke visions of a survival horror experience dripping with spooky ambiance and a mounting feeling of dread, this game doesn’t inspire fear so much as adrenaline-bolstered panic. Despite its name, The Haunted: Hell’s Reach is not a horror game, but an action game — and it delivers non-stop action that will have your heart racing until either you or the minions of the Underworld emerge victorious.
The Haunted: Hell’s Reach (PC [Reviewed], Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network)
Developer: KTX Software Development
Released: October 25, 2011 (PC), TBA (XBLA, PSN)
Initially released as a mod for Unreal Tournament 3 that won the $50,000 “Make Something Unreal Contest” in 2010, The Haunted maintains the fast-paced gameplay of UT titles and the familiar look of the Unreal Engine. Much like earlier UT titles, there is no pretense of a story — you receive all the context you need once you load into the game: kill the minions of Hell before they kill you.
You select one of four characters, all identical for gameplay purposes, but each seasoned with a different flavor of badass. As you send demons back to Hell, your character spits campy one-liners, many taken straight from action films, and though it’s all terribly cliché, it just *works*, in an Army of Darkness sort of way.
Four game modes are offered: Inferno, Survival, Battle, and Demonizer, each of which can be played on any of The Haunted’s eight maps. Inferno consists of four rounds of meeting a demon-killing quota before fighting Abaddon, a huge boss monster in a separate Hell level. Survival simply makes you keep fighting until you die, which isn’t a particularly engaging objective, while Battle and Demonizer are The Haunted’s efforts at player-versus-player modes.
Battle pits a team of up to four humans versus a team of up to four demon spawners. As a demon spawner, you fly around the map like the Smoke Monster from LOST and summon demons, which are then controlled by the AI. You also have the option of possessing a demon, which allows you to control the minion as though it were your character.
Demonizer starts off with up to four humans working cooperatively in Inferno mode — however, any time a human dies, he becomes a demon spawner. Thus, as the match wears on, the difficulty increases not only due to the natural progression of demonic minions, but also because your allies become your enemies.
As fun as it is to fly around as a demon spawner, these player-versus-player modes don’t feel properly balanced. Once a player learns the right gimmicks as a demon spawner, the only way the humans can win is if the demon spawners are merciful.
Fortunately, Survival and Inferno can be played co-operatively with a four-man team, and this is where The Haunted shines. Unfortunately, networking issues can make locating or connecting to someone’s game difficult, and I once experienced a glitch in which Abaddon stopped attacking and could no longer take damage, locking us in an eternal stalemate.