You know what it’s like. You and your wing-man are gracefully slaughtering your way through a street full of grunts with the balletic tactical ease of Chow Yun Fat channelling Napoleon, when suddenly your partner goes down in the thick of the fray. Cue an abrupt end to your apocalyptic flanking bid as you drop what you’re doing, backtrack to your fallen comrade and stumble through a cloud of bullets in order to pick him up. Then he has to do the same for you as you’re trying to retreat. Ball-ache.
Above: Finding the grunts hard to hit? Use a levitation spell before firing
Hunted aims to remedy that whole irritating fiasco by implementing a long-range approach to co-op. The most obvious upshot of this is that you’ll be able to revive fallen partners from a huge distance away as long as you’re within line of sight. Just toss a regen potion like a grenade (from what we saw they lock on automatically if you’ve got a clear shot) and they’ll be straight back up again without you having to break the flow of whatever you were up to.
And that’s going to be a very important innovation, given the way that battles in Hunted play out. The major skirmishes that we witnessed all took place over arenas much bigger and more open than most of what you’ll find in the likes of Gears of War, with architecture and scale tailored around the two characters’ contrasting abilities. Ground-cover, open brawling areas, staircases and multiple levels of verticality can gel over a single arena to open up a boatload of tactical options.
All of this adds up to a game that takes the cover-shooter model and runs it in every direction it possibly can, with the marriage of melee and shooting birthing all kinds of possibilities. Both characters can hit the enemy with a pincer melee attack, E'lara’s weaker blade providing support at the back while Caddoc wades in at the front. Or Caddoc can step out swinging while E'lara softens up the oncoming horde with arrow fire from behind cover. Or she can throw in an elemental magic buff to increase his hacking power on the fly.
Above: If all else fails, get up close and kick their faces off
But most exciting of all is the way in which the team looks to be able to split up completely in order to work on different sets of bad guys in different parts of the environment according to the suitability of their skills. Thanks to the long-range healing system there’s no need to stay close to your partner when a distant target takes your fancy, and should either character get jumped by something they can’t handle, there’s still a way out.
If, for instance, Caddoc comes up against some well-armoured uber-grunts, E'lara can swiftly make with the long-distance headshots to pull him out of trouble. And if she in turn gets mobbed by short-range melee baddos and can’t flee to a shootable distance, Caddoc can throw in one of the aforementioned magic buffs to temporarily up her comparatively weedy hand-to-hand abilities until he can wade over and make a rescue with his mighty blade o’ justice.
Some monsters will require the combined skills of both characters to take down, and it’s sometimes even possible to perform co-operative God of War-style QTEs in order to finish of particularly tricky enemies, either directly or by using the environment (ie. having the option to knock a huge statue down on top of them).
By blending shooting with proper, combo-driven melee like this, and doing so much to facilitate player freedom outside of traditional teamwork, Hunted’s developers genuinely seem to have created a smooth and elegant evolution of co-op action, and it's one that we really can’t wait to get our hands on. Watch this space for more just as soon as we have.
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