Hunter: The Reckoning started its video game career on the Xbox and GameCube last year. The game, based on a pen-and-paper game by White Wolf, played as a sort of modern-day take on the Gauntlet formula, and it did a good job by including four-player support and a mess of enemies. Hunter: The Reckoning Wayward marks the first time the series has appeared on the PlayStation 2, and the game essentially picks up where the first game left off. Unfortunately, some of the original's strong points haven't made their way to the PlayStation 2.
Wayward takes place after the original game's completion. The four hunters from the first game have done their duties and have returned to some form of normal lives. But the town of Ashcroft isn't quiet for long. A cult has taken hold of the town, and undead creatures are again roaming the streets. So, the original foursome, tipped off about the events by a new, unknown hunter, journeys back to Ashcroft. Their new quest is to put these creeps away, once and for all. Along the way you visit several different locations, destroy hundreds of enemies, and fight a few bosses, including a large, angry werewolf.
Wayward gives you a small handful of attack options. Each of the game's hunters comes equipped with a melee weapon and a ranged weapon. Each character's weapons function slightly differently, and the timing of each hunter's melee combo is a little different. The attacks, however, basically work the same from hunter to hunter. Each character is rated in a few different categories. The judge has a higher conviction rating than the rest, giving him the ability to cast more spells, while the martyr is the game's fastest character. As you play, you earn experience, which causes your character's stats to increase over time. You also learn new magical spells, called "edges."
Edges are what truly set the game's characters apart from one another. The most valuable edge is the defender's healing ability, which she has at the outset of the game. Other edges do things like enhance your attack ability, create protective shields, and so on. Each time you use an edge, it uses up some of your conviction meter, but this is easily regained by collecting blue gems that somewhat regularly pop out of fallen enemies. Combine the constant flood of conviction gems with the defender's healing ability, and you'll find that you spend a good deal of the game walking around with both your health and your conviction meters full.
Aside from your melee and ranged defaults, you also collect special weapons, with limited ammunition supplies. You happen upon shotguns, machine guns, a flare gun that serves as a sort of rocket launcher, and several others. If you finish a level with additional weapons, you can choose to take any one of them into your next outing.
You select your missions from a map screen, and you have a general idea about what you're attempting to accomplish in each level. Some missions are as basic as surviving until the end, while other missions have you backtracking through levels you've already completed to collect pieces of silver--all the while leading weaker, AI-controlled characters to the level exit. Most of the levels are pretty straightforward in design, but you occasionally find a level--like the graveyard, for example--that is simply too big and open to explore effectively. In the first graveyard adventure, where your mission is to bust open two tombstones and collect data CDs from them, you practically have to wander around aimlessly until you stumble upon the correct tombstones.
The big deal about the original Hunter was that it made a great four-player multiplayer game. Like Gauntlet, Hunter: The Reckoning was a much more entertaining game when played by a group. That's also the case with Wayward, but, unfortunately, the game only supports two players. The game is certainly better as a two-player game than it is solo, but four-player support would have been nice to see here.
On the graphics side of things, Wayward is a very dark game. Given the game's gothic nature, that's not entirely surprising, but at times the game does get a little too dark to follow the action. The game has a built-in brightness setting that can take care of that problem, though. Wayward looks decent, but it doesn't move especially well. The animation is a little jerky and the textures used in the game aren't very clean. On top of all that, the game has a blurry look to it. This effect seems to be meant to make the game look a little creepy, but instead it just feels like someone snuck in and smeared butter on the television; the blur makes the game a little hard to look at for long periods of time.
While the graphics fall short in a couple of spots, the game's audio does a good job. The game doesn't use a whole lot of voice acting, but what's there is done well. The game's monsters all sound appropriately eerie, and the sounds of gunfire and other combat-related audio is also done nicely.
In the end, Hunter: The Reckoning Wayward is a good game, if you intend to play it with a friend. As a solo endeavor, Wayward is on the dull side of things. If you're interested in action, without too many adventure strings attached, Wayward is worth taking a look at, but it's also a short enough game that you could easily get by with a rental instead.