The future sucks, doesn’t it? There’s always something. Either we’re enslaved by robotic overlords, starving because we ran out of natural resources, or we just blow ourselves up with weapons of mass destruction. We’ve all seen the movies. Even if by some small chance the human race isn’t eradicated by Terminators or roasted in the fires of atomic war, one day the sun will expand and wipe us all out anyway. So don’t get any ideas.
Anyway, on that cheery note, here’s a review for a game set in the future called Huntdown. The future sucks as we’ve already established, and in this particular sucky future, murderous gangs roam city streets doing whatever the hell they please and the cops can’t do a damned thing about it. It’s a bit like Escape from New York or Mad Max or Tesco on a Friday afternoon during the coronavirus lockdown.
With the police outgunned and outmanned they call in professional bounty hunters to sort it all out, and this is where you come in. Huntdown plays like an old school side-scrolling shoot ’em up, but unlike a lot of titles in the genre you only need to concern yourself with shooting horizontally — there’s no diagonal or upward fire. The levels are short and the checkpoints are forgiving, so even when the difficulty ramps up the game never feels unbeatable.
You can take cover, either crouching down behind boxes or in doorways. Either puts you in prime position to avoid most incoming fire, allowing you to pop back out and fire off a few rounds before getting back to safety. On your travels, some vanquished enemies will drop weapons like shotguns or machine guns which makes taking care of business considerably easier, but you can also choose to keep the heavier weaponry in reserve for when you reach the boss if you feel like you can get by without it.
And the bosses! The rogue’s gallery in Huntdown is one of the definitive highlights. Each level in the game is presided over by a boss belonging to one of four gangs. You’ll take on all manner of amusing and challenging weirdos, and it’s a testament to the quality of the game that none of the twenty bosses really feel similar. There’s flying snipers, a maniacal hockey player on rollerblades, a rockerbilly swinging for you with his guitar, and an old kung fu master to name a few.
You play as one of three bounty hunters – there’s a mercenary lady with an eye patch, a cybernetic ex-cop with a metal jaw, and a sassy posh robot. Aside from how they look, and how they sound, they all play in largely the same way, but we found ourselves gravitating towards the robot, Mow Man. He’s a bit like what you’d imagine Robocop would be like after four or five Jägerbombs.
Of course, if you don’t know who Robocop is, or even worse, you do but you’re thinking about the godawful remake with Michael Keaton in it, then you might be befuddled at many of the references in Huntdown. The game is a love letter to 80s action movies, and since we’re old and we love thinking about how much better everything was back in our day, we got a real kick out of it. Anyone born after Spandau Ballet broke up will be missing out, not just in regards to recognising the references in Huntdown, but also in life.
The game is proud of the 80s movies, music, and pop culture that inspired it, and this love for the decade shines throughout. The characters are ridiculous stereotypes and walking tropes and the dialogue is clunky, but that’s all part of the charm, and it feels like an authentic recreation of violent action cinema from decade that did it best. There’s one liners ripped directly from classic movies of the era, characters that reference cultural icons, and even one baddie that talks exactly like legendary WWF wrestler “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Ooooooooooooooh yeeeeeeeah.
It’s not all hilarity, though. There’s one boss in particular that really ground our gears. He’s a veteran of a presumably awful future war who’s suffering from shellshock and can only say the phrase, “Oh, the horrors!” But he doesn’t just say it once, or twice, or even thrice. He says it every three or four seconds throughout the entire boss fight. If you get killed fighting him about twelve times like we did, this is really going to start grating on you. In the end we actually had to mute the television because our fiancée was getting so annoyed she almost called off the wedding.
You won’t want to mute the TV the rest of the time, though. Huntdown liberally borrows one-liners from classic 80s action movies like Predator and Rocky IV, and these will likely raise a smile if you’re familiar with the source material. But beyond the amusing quips your character utters when dispatching foes, there’s the absolutely killer soundtrack to consider. It’s one part Blade Runner, one part The Running Man, garnished with a bit of John Carpenter for good measure and if it was on Spotify we’d be listening to it right now. That’s a hint, Easy Trigger Games.
And it’s not just your ears that are in for a treat, either. Visually the game is a stunning recreation of the 16-bit side scrollers of yesteryear, with an impressive attention to detail that means there’s always something catching your eye. Whether it’s flying cars zipping past skyscrapers on the horizon, or neon lights glowing in a grim backstreet, Huntdown looks the part.
Huntdown is an ode to the gloriously violent and ridiculous action movies of the 80s, revelling in cheesy one-liners, larger than life characters, and wanton bloodshed. It’s challenging but largely fair, with some thrilling boss encounters that require a variety of tactics to bring to justice. The thumping soundtrack and beautiful 16-bit aesthetic are just the icing on the cake, like a perfectly delivered “Stick around!” after Arnie pins an enemy to the wall with an expertly thrown blade.