Hunter Hunted, slated for November release, is Sierra's bid for the side-scrolling action shooter crown. Designed as a one- or two-player game, Hunter Hunted allows players to take the role of the "Hunter," a two-horned, Wookie/Minotaur-from-Hell sort of creature, or the "Hunted," a blue-jeaned human street brawler named Jake. These two SGI-rendered, motion-capture combatants - trapped in an urban arena for the amusement of super-aliens - pursue each other through a dark warren of crumbling walls, pits, traps, and automated defenses. Players begin the game unarmed, attacking with punches, kicks, and bare-handed blows, and eventually locate guns, rocket launchers, ammo, and other resources in their search-and-destroy competition.
So far, this might sound kind of astoundingly normal, especially coming from the company that has of late been gearing up for world-class flight sims (Red Baron II), first-person and action overhauls of gaming classics (King's Quest 8: The Mask of Eternity) ... and now seems poised to take its first tentative steps into the console gaming pool (NASCAR, Cybergladiators). In fact, I'll save the reader some time: this side-scrolling action game would be remarkably, almost disenchantingly, normal were it not for one novel twist that could be the saving grace of the game: the action goes into the screen as well. When Jake or the Hunter reaches a 2-D door set into one of the many side-plan levels of the game, a stroke of the up arrow sends him or it running ass-and-elbows into the screen, "away" from the player, into the "next" lateral level of arena. Certain other special doors which require keys or other objects/actions to open are presented edge-on to the viewer in a kind of cutaway view. All very clever and new ... but, in the end, maybe not quite enough to constitute anything really astounding.
Sierra info sheets on Hunter Hunted make much of the SGI-rendered characters and motion-capture movement, but the plain fact is that nothing here looks any more fluid or realistic than simple sprite animation in a hundred other games. On the plus side, the straight gameplay elements of the title are as solid and fulfilling as a good cheeseburger; the tight graphics of the characters, the flying shell casings as players unload into their onscreen enemies, and the sheer crispness and power of the sound effects are reminiscent of the sheer joy of gunfire in Out of This World or Flashback. The soundtrack is equally impressive, ranging from screechy metal tunes to clashing industrial bangers that suit the action. The two-player split-screen mode is no more nor less annoying than most split-screen game situations, and you do, at least, have the ability to delve horizontally into the world and attempt to sneak up on your opponent from behind, above, or below, depending upon how creative you feel at the moment. Hunter Hunted won't rock the world, but it's a sharp, dark-looking game that will satisfy ... besides, it's good to see that some effort is being made to crank up the classic side-on action game in this brave new world of 3-D everybody-rip-off-everybody shooters.