By: Roberto Nieves
Developer: Easy Trigger Games
Publisher: Coffee Stain Publishing
Available on: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Epic Games Store
Law has collapsed. The police are inoperative—debauchery and anarchy reign supreme. In the criminal justice system, order is wrought by any means, and the fate of the city lies in the hands of three bounty hunters. They are a trio of outlaws and bandits, finding their own path in a world of conformity, making them the perfect weapon. From Coffee Stain Publishing comes Huntdown, a cyberpunk side-scrolling action game that absolutely slaps with its attitude, gameplay, and staging.
The city is in turmoil. Huntdown is reminiscent of side-scroller action games of days past. From the start, players choose any district they want to enter. In a Metroidvania-like style, players don't have to follow a linear path with the game and are given a choice of who to fight first.
Players choose one of three bounty hunters, each with their own look and ability. Each character has a primary weapon with unlimited ammunition, but players can attain a secondary, more powerful weapon with limited ammunition. Secondary weapon choices range from submachine guns to the 'ol reliable AK-47 to grenades, which are useful for eliminating clusters of enemies in tight spaces.
In addition to running and shooting, the most essential mechanic is learning when to take cover. Enemies can take cover below boxes and obstacles, into the background, and alongside walls and structures. Using cover is essential to staying alive.
Huntdown isn't anything like Contra. It's much slower-paced and encourages cover over aggression, but it is action-packed and wildly entertaining. A thumping soundtrack pulsates through the atmosphere, creating a synth-wave dystopia that cyberpunk fans dream of. The shooting action is incredible, with strong feedback and sensation. Bullets and limbs fly through the levels, and plasma rounds mow down the competition.
While Huntdown is challenging, there is a sensation of feeling like a killing machine reminiscent of the Terminator. A sensation that brings back my fondness for the SNES 16-bit action game, Robocop versus the Terminator, which Huntdown is similar to in tone and style.
Every level in Huntdown ends with the main target that needs to be overcome, which usually means shoot it until it dies. The bosses provide that old-fashioned sense of challenge seen in games like Megaman X. Some bosses require trial and error, but eventually, running, shooting, and grabbing health wins the day.
There are challenges to accomplish for the completionist gamer, including unexpected objectives. Occasionally, a criminal with a briefcase will run. Eliminating this particular enemy nets bonus points and contributes towards end achievements. Be warned, such cowardly tactics from them significantly expose players to enemy fire.
Huntdown supports a 2nd player option, so more than one player can hunt and eliminate the dangerous gangs that litter the city. The addition of a player two does not make a significant difference to the game, but it does heighten the enjoyment of playing Huntdown.
There are times where Huntdown can get a little too tricky, and repeated gameplay is needed to fully master and eventually defeat the game's most formidable foes. Additionally, the game can get a little too repetitive with its run and gun shooting, and perhaps some different gameplay variations would be welcome. These are small blemishes to an otherwise amazing game. A game that unlocks my nostalgia for the 16-bit scroller of days past, such as Robocop Vs. The Terminator, as noted earlier, as well as Metal Warriors.
This genre has an exciting appeal for action and atmosphere. It doesn't feel like another side-scroller but a game that wants to immerse players into its no-holds-barred dystopia. Huntdown leaves quite the impression when completed and feels as if it wants you to come back to it as soon as you are ready.
Aggressive, action-packed, and an enjoyable challenge, Huntdown is an excellent action side-scroller. It is another reminder that the side-scroller genre is still going strong. The controls are tight, the gameplay is polished, and the activity factor is dialed all the way up. Bounty hunting is a complicated business, but in Huntdown, it's a gratifying one.
Huntdown was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 thanks to a generously supplied key from Coffee Stain Publishing.