Hellgate: London Updated Impressions - Early Levels and Last-Minute Updates

We get an updated look at this first-person hack-and-slash game and come away with a few new details.

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It was probably hard to predict the tremendous success of 1996's Diablo, the hack-and-slash action RPG that led to the 2000 sequel Diablo II. Both games would be responsible for countless wrecked computer mice as players clicked endlessly to lead their fantasy warriors and wizards to victory by hacking away at hordes of monsters in a dark, demon-infested world. What was perhaps even more surprising was that Diablo II was a very hard act to follow. Few other games dared to follow in the incredibly addictive sequel's footsteps, and arguably, none of them was up to the task. Now, the creators of the original Diablo series have returned as a separate developer, Flagship Studios, and Hellgate: London has finally been dated and set for release next month. We had a chance to catch up with the always-upbeat studio head Bill Roper at a recent press event and take a look at a near-final DirectX 9 version of the game's earlier levels.

The game itself looks much more complete than it has on previous occasions. It takes place in a postapocalyptic version of London in the wake of a demonic invasion, and the environments look more complete and more lived-in. The game's character and weapon models have also benefited from several additional layers of polish and detail, as has the game's interface, which looks much more streamlined and perhaps less overwhelming. A full tutorial has now been added to the content-complete game that will walk beginners through the basics, but make no mistake--Hellgate: London will have a lot of stuff to play with. For starters, the game will have lots of different customizable weapons with modular components that you can swap in and out to power them up, as well as one-handed and two-handed weapons your character can dual-wield. You'll also pick up several different types of armor your character can wear. Furthermore, in order to avoid making your character look like a multicolored clown who wears an orange helmet, a brown chestpiece, and purple boots, the game will have an "eyedropper" tool you can use to make every piece of your character's attire have the same color scheme.

Hellgate: London will also have lots of different character skills you can unlock and develop as your character gains experience levels, and even lots of randomly generated, "instanced" environments (that is, environments will be treated as separate areas that exist only for you and any other players who have joined you in an adventuring party). The game will even have "rare" sublevels that may randomly be generated in various areas, such as a sewer level hidden under a surreptitious manhole cover that may or may not spawn in the next area you explore.

At the event, Roper also confirmed details for the game's much-discussed paid subscription service, which will eventually offer new content to players in the form of new items, new quests, and even new playable character classes. However, the game will be fully playable in single-player, as well as online, without any need for players to sign up. The Flagship chief also confirmed that players who purchase the game but do not subscribe to its monthly service will be able to play online with paying subscribers with no restrictions, as well as form adventuring parties online. Roper said that the studio "remains committed to giving people a great experience right out of the box." From what we've seen, with the huge depth that Hellgate: London's weapon, character, and random level systems will offer, players should get plenty of bang for their buck. The game is scheduled to launch this Halloween.

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