Hellgate: London Preview
by Jordan McCoy, Staff Writer
Having left Blizzard some two years ago to found Flagship Studios, the talent responsible for the Diablo franchise have taken their unique vision of the dungeon crawl and flipped it into an first-person shooter.
Attempting to balance the random appeal and shear variety of those early games with an engaging and straightforward personal perspective, Hellgate: London seems ready to deliver on its promised virtues. Hellgate will directly appeal to those who enjoyed Diablo–much of the experience has survived translation, and gameplay seems both fluid and diverse from that perspective–but it remains to be seen whether it will appeal to a wider audience, a goal that seems evident in both its design and promotion.
We got the chance to play an early version of the game at E3, and while much remains to be completed by release (sometime next year), the gameplay and environment seems promising. Emphasis is placed on rapid exploration and engagement of the environment, diverse modification of one’s character and repeated gameplay through randomization. A wide variety of weapons and modifications can be found, and interesting tactics become available through multiplayer gameplay; Flagship is committed to a rich cooperative game, and so remains unsure whether player-vs-player action will become available.
Despite the first-person perspective, the effectiveness of one’s characters remains mostly the result of stats and items; most weapons do not require aiming and often affect multiple enemies at the same time. The interface allows one to target an enemy, then approach and fight them automatically; while not strictly necessary, it seems skill can and does play some part. Like the Diablo franchise, however, success is more a product of endurance then reflex; further, due to the first-person perspective, responsive environment and better AI, tactics seem to have a much more important role.
It is this combination that might serve to broaden the audience for Hellgate, assuming in the end that the game plays enjoyably and keeps one engaged. These games typically allow the storyline to fade into the background, and so the pace and variety of the action must serve to keep one playing. So while Hellgate may not, in the end, appeal directly to the hardcore shooter or hardcore RPG gamer, it should likely straddle the bulk of both markets quite well. Expect to see much more of Hellgate from Flagship, which is considering a public beta sometime early next year.
See more screenshots here.