If there was any doubt that Hellgate: London will be dark in both its setting and its offbeat humor, it’s lost as soon as you begin playing. The search for a kid’s missing appendage took me from Covent Garden tube station, through randomly generated tube tunnels and desolate London streets, on to a final encounter with a 15ft hulking mass of flesh. Exactly why he'd jack the leg of a kid remains a mystery to us, but Lil’ Timmy promised he’d give me the stump of wood (an entry-level melee weapon) he was using as a replacement leg upon returning his prosthetic.
The randomly generated surroundings of the game are built for those who have only a vague familiarity with the city. It’s postcard London, it’s the Ripper’s London, it’s red postboxes, waving monarchy and the sort of pea-soup fog which hasn’t been seen since the days of Sherlock Holmes.
The fact is, this is London enough for it to work perfectly well, and most players won’t notice the fact that the East End looks like the West, and the tube stations are the wrong way round. It’s brilliant just to be able to fight the legions of the netherworld among derelict boats on the dried riverbed of the Thames, and being able to look up and see wrecked bridges high above.
The formerly unannounced third character faction, we were informed as we successfully gave the child his leg back, is the Hunter. Joining the Cabalist (demonologist, summoner, transformer) and the Templar (knight, religious fanatic, paladin, barbarian), the Hunter falls into the techno-mage category. The faction is militaristic and full of “spit and gumption” as Ivan Sulic, community manager at Flagship Studios, put it. The Hunter is a weapon-heavy Sam Fisher-type character.