Hellgate London PC DVD
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Flagship Studios
Release Date: Out Now
The year is 2038 and London is in ruins. Quite literally, all hell has broken loose and an opening has allowed demons and other monsters to pour forth and roam the land. Essentially it’s up to you to sort out the mess and you’ll get to play as one of six available classes. The classes you can play as are Bladesmaster, Summoner, Evoker, Marksman, Engineer and Guardian. Regardless of the character class you play as, you’ll be on an incessant drive to level-up your character earning enough money (or Palladium as it’s called here) and collecting all kinds of specialised armour and weaponry to give your character an edge whether online or offline. Of course that’s all pretty much standard action-RPG stuff but Hellgate London has its fair share of unique twists that help to make things feel sufficiently different.
Whilst Hellgate London is very much a traditional action-RPG, it does some things very differently. For a start you’re in a full 3D environment and you’re not playing from an isometric perspective. When using a character that carries out melee attacks, you’ll play from a third-person perspective. Spell casters and those equipped with a ranged weapon (such as a gun or rifle) will play from a first-person perspective. Yes, the first-person view does give the game an FPS feel but it always feels as though you are playing an action-RPG rather than an FPS. The game has randomly designed levels meaning no two games will ever feel the same.
Between levels you’ll hang about in one of the London Underground stations, which essentially serve as hubs from which you’ll acquire your quests. Here you’ll be able to heal, purchase weapons, amour and various other items. You’ll also be able to customise your weapons and converse with those who are simply hanging around for the hell of it. Each station has an assortment of portals that lead to other destinations. Some portals will be off limits until you’ve done enough to earn the favour of those who are guarding them. Completing quests earns you favour and eventually you’ll be able to progress to another station where you’ll have to earn the respect of the locals all over again.
Hellgate London is an enjoyable action-RPG but there are some disappointing aspects. The quests have to be one of the biggest bones of contention. The problem is that they feel very similar to one another and you can’t help but feel that little effort has been put into making the quests as interesting as possible. However the quests are more interesting than the storyline, which is lacking in depth and simply feels like it was tacked on rather that the game being built around it. Your inventory is shockingly limited and soon becomes cluttered. There isn’t even an automatic sort function meaning you’ll have to spend time rearranging the items in there to free up additional space. Those who want to play the game online will be annoyed that they will have to subscribe to unlock additional content. A larger stash, guild creation and management, unique event items and Hardcore Mode are just some of the extras you’ll gain if you’re prepared to shell out every month. It’s possible to play the online game without the extras though and doing this won’t cost anything extra.
Action-RPGs aren’t always the most graphically impressive games but Hellgate London certainly looks very good. As with quite a few recent PC titles, the game supports both DirectX 10 and DirectX 9. We don’t have a DirectX 10 graphics card but even running in DirectX 9 mode, the game looks impressive. London may be in tatters but it certainly looks good. The character models are also of a quality that you don’t normally see in an action-RPG. Unlike quite a few PC titles that have been released recently, you won’t need a stellar PC to have the game looking its best. That said, there does seem to be a performance issue where the frame rate will temporarily become choppy. This is a strange problem as the frame rate for the most part is absolutely fine, even when there’s a lot of action on screen, so for it to dip at times when little is happening (such as when you’re in a train station) is a little odd and I imagine that it’s something that can be fixed via a patch.
Hellgate London is subtitled and the subtitles are enabled by default. The rather lengthy introductory cutscene, which sets the scene quite nicely, is subtitled (if you update the game before playing however, the subtitles are not enabled by default). All of the main conversations during the game are subtitled and they are shown in dark dialogue boxes making the text easy to read at all times. When you initiate and end a conversation with an NPC they occasionally make a comment and these comments aren’t subtitled. Thankfully these comments are of no great importance. When you first play the game you’ll be hit with a tidal wave of tutorial messages (which are in text) and these messages come at you in an unrelenting fashion. It’s easy to miss out on some of these messages because of the rate at which they are displayed. All quest details are shown in text and can be recalled at any time. You can even recall the full conversation in which you were given the quest. As you carry out your quest your objectives are displayed on the bottom right of the screen allowing you to keep an eye on your progress. The game makes good use of icons to provide information and also to highlight which NPC characters can be interacted with. The HUD also provides plenty of visual information at a glance. The game supports text chat, so you’ll have no problems communicating when playing online.
Hellgate London is one of those games that is good but could have been better. The six character classes included in the game are all interesting and offer plenty of replay value. Graphically the game is impressive and, like any action-RPG worth its salt, it’s as addictive as can be. The storyline could have been richer however and the quests could have been more imaginative and less repetitive. It’s also a shame that you have to pay out for the full online experience but the free online experience is certainly good enough. The performance issue (which causes the frame rate to temporarily go a little loopy) needs to be addressed however and a more efficient menu system is certainly needed. It’s a game that fans of the genre will almost certainly enjoy but there’s no denying it could have been better.