Hunted: One Step Too Far – Review

This is one of my game reviews directly issued to the developer. This review has been copied here from the Game Guru forums.

You can buy “HUNTED: One Step Too Far” on Steam

H U N T E D: one step too far review

Note: I’ve been reviewing most games that came out for FPSC and now GG for over 5 years now. I value objectivity and honesty yet everything you are about to read here is just my subjective opinion. I’ll also review these in an upbeat, joking manner unless the game is so bad that it made me miserable. With that out of the way, its time for the review.

Hunted: One step too far is about an insane mental patient. And I don’t mean the tourguide, I mean the protagonist. Hear me out.

What is immediately striking about “hunted” is the production quality. You really went through with creating a presentation worthy of a commercial product. You introduce us of the general feel and style of Hunted in the start menu screen and keep it consistent throughout.
A well made, yet minimalistic intro sequence introduces me to the plot. Apparently I’m a bloke (all videogame protagonists are dudes until proven otherwise) who enjoys himself some geocaching. To add extra adventure to his ventures he likes to do so at night/towards the evening.

So far so good!

I’m an outdoors person myself and the game’s first level is immediately so filled to the brim with atmosphere that I really felt like wandering off into the wilderness at night. The levels are well designed and hide their “game guruness” very well yet the simple terrain and some not too stellar looking foliage give it away. I’m surprised that these shortcomings did not hurt the game at all. The sound design was excellent from the get go and an uneasy feeling started to creep in when I started my little venture. Note that recent AAA horror games had to work way harder to get me in this state of mind that I kept checking if something spawned behind me. Also note that I never felt like I was in the botanics when walking through the stunning landscapes of skyrim. Despite being way more low-tec…Hunted really nailed that aspect for me.

You have to take the story to Hunted with a grain of salt and despite some odd design choices towards the end, the story that is unfolding in this game is framework at best and groan inducingly juvenile at worst. At first it seems that someone is leading us on with cryptic notes that point us to the direction of a “test” and maybe even the geocache we are looking for.
Note that in the first level we are finding some place where it is apparent that someone was trying to burry a hacked up corpse, notes that already have the allure of being written by someone less-than-stable leading us into the wild and in the house we find a diary talking about murder and someone watching us. It also downright states that the adventurers before me have been shot. The more we proceed, the more dire our surroundings get.

Keep in mind that we are here to find a geocache….you know! Fun! There is absolutely nothing set up to motivate us to keep going towards something that is obviously a death trap. If Duchenkuke’s writer staff of several people (apparently) would have given us some simple motivation to not “nope” back to the car like any sane person would, this’d be so much better because then we’d “have” to push on. The plot as it stands now is a willful suicide trip.
(( You could have written in that your son/daughter/brother/whatever was into geocaching and went missing, you found the last coordinates he downloaded from the computer and then you went looking for him. This would give you enough motivation to go on even after you find traces of a serial killer in the woods.))

What is immediately striking is the attention to detail.
Note that not every model is well chosen, some things seem to be used out of lack of a better alternative and there is a sharp contrast between the quality of many models, however, Duchenkuke managed to make it all click together and little things (birds flying around and casting eeriee shadows on the floor, a little pigeon on the roof of the house, critters in the woods.) really made this stand out to me.

You can venture into the wilderness any time you want and the soundtrack makes it feel really unsave!

This game is one of many “horror walking simulators”. However, due to its atmosphere, its not as teethgrindingly boring as most of its peers.
Hunted understands escalation and build up. Its upping the anty and creep factor slowly but consistently and does so far better than most indie horror games I have been forced to sit through at gun point so far.
What is also refreshing is that Hunted is entirely unpretentious. Its an indie game and it knows it..where other games (“Doorways” for example) can get so hung up on their symbolism and the “deeper disturbing meaning” of things that they tend to just feel childish and plain navle gazing.

As I ventured on I was legitimately surprised by the clever use of Duchenkukes limited catalogue of assets and use of detail. The levels are also quite large with many hidden things off the beaten path.

In the second level I heard a wolf howling…and when I looked towards a hill I could see an actual wolf on top… howling!

A design choice that I did not agree with was the presence of many axes and picks. You can even pick one up and use it to enter the asylum. If these things are present there better be a reason for the player to not be able to pick them up and use them as a weapon.

The game later proceeds into an asylum. I can see why a lot of players’d groan at the cliché of the haunted asylum in the woods but I found it “okay” personally. The game changes scenery and has been increasing the dread factor to a point that I’m fine with the concept of this place at this point.
The asylum was also well designed and decidedly cluttered yet this is the point where the design starts to be inconsistent. @Duchenkuke: Hunted is quite fantastic for an “Erstlingswerk” but I do recommend to learn the basics of texturing and maybe even modeling for future games. You need to learn how to adjust textures to a look and feel. In the Asylum you’ll find many furniture items (lots from my old packs! Thanks for using these!) that are utterly misplaced. You’ll find brand new furniture in a run down asylum, some obviously medieval looking. I must admit that this took me out of the game here and there.

This is where the game decides to be metaphysical and paranormal. The horrorsnobs have a dire battle over if that is better than something more grounded or not. I’m definitely into paranormal threats because crazed people or killers fail to frighten me the least. I’m also among the few people who liked the idea of the “morphogenetic engine” in outlast.
Now, the game proceeds to slowly amplify the creep factor with these statues that only move when you do. …and they move fast and have better pathfinding than the other enemies in the game.
The lobotomie character has been spawned before yet I found it utterly misplaced. It seemed a big stretch to have this here. What was it? How did it survive all these years? How did it fit in with the tourguide and the paranormal entities? Definately one of the weaker choices in the game.
Maybe because I often used them in my 2011 release “Euthanasia” and associate them with that or maybe because they are so overused by now?
If you combined a vague paranormal force with the real presence of the tourguide without throwing the lobotomies in, I’m sure this’d have felt more consistent.

Anywaysies, I’m rambling on and try to make this short from here on out:

The game keeps going and getting increasingly weird building in some dream sequences to break up the dark nature of its levels. I found this to be very effective and well made. The cutscenes in between are stellarly well done and your german accents are barely present (except for the radio thingie towards the end ) I feel like the levels have lost some quality as the game went on, yet the increasing weirdness of them made up for that. Also using ominous foliage at night paired with eeriee sounds is one of your strenghts in this!

An emberassing moment for me was the part where the female statue was suddenly hunting me. It startled me and the way it just hung there, suspended in mid air when I looked at it creeped me out. The worst part about this is that I made that statue.

I like the ending! Its also a sign that you are not a pretentious game designer. teenage horror fans seem to hate the idea of a happy ending. I prefer them, simply because I hate following a character through strife and challenges only to see him fail at the end when nothing was accomplished. having an empty feeling after a horror film does not make it “deeper” and overcoming challenges is not “schmaltzy”. A good horror story, to me, is built like night. We get eased in through the evening, then the sun goes down and we descent into darkness…night is darkest before dawn: then dawn and end of story. I know this is harder to do effectively than just having the protagonist descend into darkness and end on a somber note but hey! You kinda pulled it off.

I say kinda because the last levels in the sunlight are way too long and uneventful. The level design quality in broad daylight is also way below the first nature levels. They are really dragging the overall quality down, and I believe a short glimpse of “hey! I made it, its day and I go back to my car” would have sufficed. The ending levels just keep meandering and dragging on for too long. The music is really really good but everything else is way worse than what we saw before.

What I find haunting is that this game had so many writers. Maybe the story seemed good on paper? In the final product, there was no motivation to venture into danger. Things are brought up (the tourguides dead wife/girlfriend, the tourguides pupil) and never delivered upon. There is no explanation to the paranormal aspects except that the tourgude wanted to “create a world for himself”. Did he have psychic abilities and somehow dragged you in his parallel universe? What about the statues? Are they at all related to the Asylum? How far away from the Asylum can they operate? Who made them? Why does the tourguide bleed and live like he does? What exactly did he try to do to the protagonist? If he really is a remaining patient from the asylum why does he have nightvision binoculars and use a cell phone? Did the police notice the glowing eyes on the tourguide or run into the death statues? the lobotomies? How did the coordinates get to the player…is the tourguide using the internet?
It all feels like horror elements thrown in as a framework (that works) and not a consistent story.

Here is what I would have done to have fewer contradicting elements in the game: The Asylum conducted fringe experiments during the cold war on the tourguide as a child. We do the usual psychic ability amplification thingie. The player later finds an old rusty lab and strange equipment in the asylum.
The tourguide managed to influence other patients in the asylum causing some kind of incident resulting in closing the facility. He has been put to death (cause of death somehow reoccuring theme in the game, like if he has been hung, you keep seeing hanging corpses in the game) yet his amplified abilites allow him to live some kind of vengeful unlive between dimensions. this would explain his glowing eyes and appearance. His expanded conciousness could then also control these statues and so forth. Alternatively, the torturous methods of the asylum could have led to him being posessed by a demon. Resulting in similar powers and giving him a reason to lure people out to consume them or whatever. You could even give him a split personality, his demonic side luring the player in and his human side placing these notes to warn him. Ah! just raw ideas to not have too many things going on at once and not explaining any. None of this is good but I believe it could be worked with.

On a personal note: The mystics lair and scenery models from megapack 2 are old models of mine. I know a lot of them don’t hold up too well but I find that you used them very effectively in this game! Thanks for that as I have seen them in way too many bad games on steam and otherwise in the past. If you ever need something modeled or retextured, please ask, maybe I can help you.

So! The conclusion

The Good:

* Well made and clean presentation
* Atmosphere
* Gradual and well made progression in chaos and creep factor
* Using game guru to your advantage and overcoming limitations
* Impressive atmospheric detail and use of animated props
* long levels and clear goals as well as clear gameplay mechanics.
* minimalistic, yet never boring
* Excellent music and sound design
* Another GG game on steam that is not terrible!
* Good set of well made levels
* Length!

The Bad:
* Meandering and pointless levels with decreased visual quality towards the end. (the game overstays its welcome)
* Limited interactivity: The player has no reaction to worrying signs you find early on and you can only interact with the notes. Yet later in the game we see his thoughts displayed on screen “lets see where this road leads me”. Being able to examine the environment would have added something I believe.
* Lack of motivation for the player to go on and storyline that goes nowhere
* Some ill chosen and ill fitting models here and there.

Final Notes:

– in a game where the main focus is reading and finding notes, make all notes readable. Never use paper as clutter or detail objects

– post-traumatic stress disorder is a relatively new therm. I’m not sure when the asylum was supposed to shut down but this has been in a handwritten journal so I assume like the 60s? PTSD is a term from (I think) the 80s. Just a thought…not important.

– Don’t place potential weapons when we can’t use them in a game that is about survival

– Let the player interact more with his environment. Especially the dreamstate levels where a good place for weird puzzles.

– Keep it up! This game was great!

I’m not a fan of numbered ratings but I’d probably give this a solid 76/100.

You have also been awarded the BOTB badge for this title! Congratulations.

-Wolf

 

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About serygala

Who really has time to think about a summary of himself on the internet? I like art, women, gamedesign and I love coffee. Everything else is too much information.
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