First of all – many thanks to Rodeo Games for supplying Arcadelife with a special build of the full version of Hunters – Episode One. I’ve been playing it for an hour or so, enough time to learn the basics, try a couple of different missions, sorry, contracts, and see myself annihilated by the ruthless AI…
All the screenshots included in this hands-on preview were taken on my own iPad. Click any image (apart from the Rodeo Games logo above, which is a link to their site) to see the full iPad resolution screenshot.
Artwork and presentation throughout is of a very high standard.
Right from the start, it’s obvious that this is something special. The artwork is nothing short of stunning, from the subtle animations of the base ship on the main menu to the crisp, slick graphics of the armoury and trading screens. As for the game itself, more on that soon…
The subtle animation on the ship is rather cool
The main menu is built around an animated image of a ship travelling through space. This is the base ship from which your team of Hunters operates. You can do everything here – trade looted gear, swap each Hunter’s gear around, marvel at the options on offer and, something that I think is particularly fantastic… you can rename each member of your team and also the team name! And you can choose what colour uniforms they wear!
Little details like the ability to rename your squad (as I have done here) just add to the feeling of a really polished game.
The menus are great; intuitive, slick and fantastic looking on the iPad screen. Just browsing through a couple of them I could immediately see how much care and attention to detail has gone into this game.
Tutorials appear as overlays the first time you go into a new menu. If you ever want to refer to them again, swipe up with two fingers to review them.
Upon starting a new game, you are dropped into a short tutorial where you are led through the basic mechanics of the game: initial placing of your team, selecting and moving each Hunter, attacking an enemy and adopting the “Guard” stance. All of this is presented in the same slick, efficient manner that appears throughout the game.
Your view of the action is top-down. The overhead view can be rotated and zoomed by familiar and intuitive swipes and pinches. I didn’t notice any instructions about how to zoom and rotate, I just started doing it, more to try to get some nice screen shots than for any tactical advantage – I’ll talk about my suicidal complacency very soon.
Hunters is a turn-based game. There, I possibly just lost a few readers. Still, that’s their loss entirely. Each Hunter has action points that you can use for movement or to execute an attack on an enemy. Action points are represented by a series of small, filled circles around the lower portion of the selected Hunter. Once all the filled circles are empty, that Hunter can’t do anything else until the next turn. Once you have finished ordering each Hunter around, there’s an egg-timer icon to tap to end your turn. At this point, the enemy gets a turn. That’s damned unfair, I thought, but where would the challenge be if they just sat around waiting to be shot or bludgeoned with massive sledgehammers?
My team decides it would be more fun to get slaughtered than to make any attempt at using cover.
There’s a line in Top Gun, something about the defence department regretfully informing you that your sons were all killed because they were stupid. Well, I got my entire team wiped out in the very first mission because, well, because I was stupid. Ok, maybe stupid is a bit harsh. I was … learning. Learning from my stupid mistakes. So, not only is this a turn-based game, it’s also pretty tough right from the start. Did a few more of you just leave? Ok, that’s cool. You wouldn’t like playing a proper game anyway.
The first thing to do after wiping - blame your gear and go buy some better stuff.
Feeling rather foolish, having killed all my Hunters on the first contract, I was overjoyed to see that they had not only forgiven me but returned to life, and were waiting expectantly to be deployed on the next mission. How this actually works is that a complete failure on a contract means that it never happened. You don’t get any cash (or glory) and your dead guys don’t stay dead. The contract is there to be taken again, if you feel like it. If it didn’t work this way, well, you really wouldn’t ever want to fail!
So I picked a different contract and started making a whole new set of mistakes. Different contracts take place in a variety of environments. The first one I tried was all claustrophobic corridors and dark corners. The next one was a fairly wide open space in a snowy compound. I should have instantly run for cover. I didn’t…
See all those bodies? No, they're NOT ALL MY HUNTERS! Not that time anyway.
At last, I completed a contract. Sure, I only had one Hunter left alive and he had no armour and about 30% of his health remaining, but a win is still a win for team Arcadelife, no matter how close it was.
Completing contracts is not the only way to earn credits. Integrated into the contract listings are adverts (for real apps on the app store) to tap on for free credits and also the option to buy credits via in-app purchases. None of this is essential to enjoy playing the game, it’s called having a choice. Personally, I wouldn’t be interested in buying game credits with real money but that’s just my choice. Other people are free to choose whatever they want to do; all this is doing is giving them that option. It’s not intrusive and it isn’t necessary in order to play the game. So please don’t have a meltdown just because it’s there.
Closing comments… That was not a review. I haven’t played the game long enough to write a review yet – that will be coming soon. I’m glad I had the chance to play this game before it was released; it’s a great looking debut from Rodeo Games, slick, polished, fun, hugely entertaining and remarkably challenging. If you love turn-based combat, war-gaming, sci-fi space marine gung-ho stuff, big guns, small guns, massive sledgehammers, strategic thinking or just good, solid games … you need to be keeping an eye on the app store for this one.