If you offered me the choice between that gorgeous Scottish city of Edinburgh, and the cockney filled, smog polluted hell-hole of London, you’d not be too shocked to spy me strapping on my kilt, affixing my sporran, and downing more alcohol in an evening than I’ve managed in my previous 23 years.
Hellgate: London then doesn’t meander too far from my usual perception of that of soon to be Olympics packing capital city. Set in the very near future – 2038 to be exact, though not too sure if we’re talking the time of year where you might want to pop on an extra layer – London is completely decimated, as is the human race itself.
The story, despite the quite intriguing concept of Hellgates, Templar Knights, and masses of bloody battle, doesn’t particularly progress with the kind of speed and ingenuity that you’d expect from an action based RPG such as this. It all descends rather rapidly into decapitating demons, smashing monsters, and gathering up everything they drop along the way.
With the story guaranteed to take up about as much of your brain power as someone like, say, Jade Goody actually possess, you’d be forgiven for expecting a multitude of goings on to be witnessed on screen. Not that I’m saying she’s dumb … actually, yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
The action is fast, frantic, and incredibly brutal. As soon as you’ve chosen your starting character and taken your place in this future desolate London game world, you’ll be fending off attacks from more beasties than you can shake a magical stick at.
Each variety of character you’re able to start with packs his or her unique features. Ultimately they boil down to your good old fighters eager to take part in some fisticuffs, your magic chap who casts spells with the kind of gay abandon that Frank Lampard aims 30-yard shots at goal, and the "Marksman" who has a handy little trigger finger to make good use of.
To play, Hellgate London is exactly what you’d expect from an RPG. Yes, you might view the game via a first-person perspective for the majority of the game – the view pulls to a third-person behind-your-head perspective when you equip a melee weapon – but that doesn’t mean that handling a gun is akin to playing a spot of Halo.
Nope, this is staunch traditional RPG dice rolling stuff, which means you’re more simply pointing and clicking on enemies rather than actually targeting them. It actually becomes quite a difficult idea to grasp for the first half hour thanks to the first person perspective, but ultimately you’ll be flying through the game, slaughtering enemies along every cockney packed street.
Oh those cheeky cockney chappies make a much unwelcome appearance too, unfortunately. NPC characters litter the landscape, all of which eager to utter a few mainly dull sentences, but some happy to offer up some kind of task and objective for you to complete in order. Sadly the "humour" included usually drifts far wide of the mark, leaving you audibly groaning with despair rather than rolling around the room with a fit of giggles.
The vast majority of levels themselves, like Diablo which this is the spiritual successor to, are randomly generated, meaning no two run-throughs are ever the same. It works in the theory that you’ll be encouraged to play through numerous times in order to extract as much enjoyment as your shelled out cash will allow, but it does mean the levels like a certain design flair. Call me choosey if you must, but the "lines" joining the randomly generated, to the lovingly created areas are blatant even to the most stupid of gamer like myself.
Saying that, the actual design of the graphical part of Hellgate: London does make for quite an aesthetically pleasing game on quite a deep level. It helps cultivate a special brand of atmosphere that we saw all too often in Oblivion. However, the visual quality itself is riddled with errors and flaws, and comes complete with a game engine that certainly feels a few steps behind the real top quality pieces of code of these modern times. One particular bug, which sees you get stuck on pieces of scenery if you jump into them, is an absolute disaster, and one we hope is fixed via patch very swiftly.
Hellgate: London blatantly packs a solid, if unspectacular action RPG experience. The combat may not be deep, but the action is swift, exciting, and gloriously atmospheric.
It’s just a shame that if the story had been risen a fair few levels, all of the games levels had been lovingly created, and a touch more variety has been given to break up the constant action, we could’ve been looking at an absolute classic. Maybe Hellgate: Edinburgh perhaps?