We all remember Robert Rodriguez’s gory action flick From Dusk till Dawn. It was a rollercoaster ride of trashy humour, buckets of gore, Hispanic stereotypes and cheesy monsters, all while being oddly endearing in spite of itself. Inevitably, it resulted in a video game at the time which was largely a mediocre and forgettable affair. Ironic, then, that an indie studio would do a far better job of capturing the movie’s essence and atmosphere over a decade later, as is the case with KTX Software’s The Haunted: Hell’s Reach.
The game is a multiplayer third-person shooter fiasco where up to four players take on the role of gritty, self-styled demon hunters and attempt to slaughter a seemingly endless army of infernal minions in various cursed locations. The enemies just keep on spawning and soon it turns into a frantic frag-fest that even the most hardened of Painkiller, Serious Sam or Killing Floor fans would approve of. They’re nothing too special, mind you: diseased-looking guys with ugly faces who seem entirely too clingy. As you play, more fearsome foes appear, some of which are obvious homages to horror movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street. Once players have survived four rounds of near-relentless demonic onslaught, a final boss level opens up which is considerably more difficult to beat.
Fortunately, our hapless motley crew are not starving for weapons, and they have multiple killing machines at their disposal. Starting off with simple knives, pistols, shotguns and assault rifles, weapon upgrades appear as the body-count rises, including six-shooters, chainsaws, double-barreled shotguns and miniguns. Hidden throughout the levels are assorted special weapons, including flamethrowers and grenade launchers. All of them are obscenely fun to use and the gore levels are just over the top. Environmental hazards are also present, such as volatile barrels, and luring enemies into an explosive barrage is a spectacular display of blood and fireworks. In addition, there are melee attacks such as punching, sliding and kicking, which can be charged to deliver utterly devastating blows reminiscent of the Berserk Pack from Doom.
What really sets the title apart are the levels. Though fairly small in number, they are amazingly crafted and truly a blast to play in. Rather than a string of rooms or open arenas, the maps twist and weave and fold in on themselves, offering multiple pathways in all directions and forcing players to explore and constantly keep an eye out for approaching enemies. Each level also has a “plague” associated with it, such as fire and brimstone raining from the sky or thick fog, which occurs if players fail to destroy objects called Chronostones. These appear at random intervals and at random locations throughout the maps, in addition to similar objects which restore your health. Fighting enemies and attempting to reach said objects in time makes for a truly frantic, soul-crushing but wonderfully enjoyable experience.
If you want to get your fix of unholy action, browse on over to the official Steam page here. While it does feature a single-player mode, it’s an absolute must to bring your mates into this for maximum enjoy. Sadly, only Windows users can get into the action for now. Get it and be prepared to SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT.