Huntdown is a gritty, action-packed side-scroller that demands accuracy, quick-thinking, and lightning-fast reflexes. Created by Easy Trigger Games and led by developers Andreas Rehnberg and Tommy Gustafsson, Huntdown manages to harness all of the challenging aspects like other modern side-scrollers, but maintains that satisfying feeling of success. Released on May 12, 2020 on PC, PS4, Xbox, and Switch, Huntdown is absolutely dripping with 80’s nostalgia, tunes, and vibes, showing you the best (or worst) of what the 80’s had to offer. Neon, bright clothes, and sports cars with angles so sharp you could use them on a chopping block to fill the 2D streets with everything every teenage boy watching Terminator in theaters thought the future should look like. Tear through the streets, subways, and rooftops picking up weapons like rocket launchers, sniper rifles, and katanas to destroy your enemies in style.
Story – The Future Is Neon
Huntdown sets the stage by giving a cutscene synopsis of the events that led to the restructuring of world power and the forces which now control the major cities. Private organizations control security and do their best to uphold the peace with their so-called law enforcement. Gangs and rivals rise from the ashes of destroyed governments and constantly throw their weight against their corporate counterparts.
The Man, The Myth, The Bounty Hunter
You are disassociated with both parties, loyal only to yourself and where the money comes from. This time, it happens to come from someone wanting a troublesome gang leader wiped out. However, in typical videogame fashion, one thing leads to another and you end up taking on the rest of the rival gangs in the city, now that a power vacuum is created with the completion of your first contract. Boss by boss and block by city block, you shoot, blast, and slash your way into the heart of the metropolis to complete your sacred mission. Made sacred by the all-powerful motivator of cold, hard cash.
Gameplay – Adapt and Survive
There are four gang territories you must wipe out: The Hoodlum Dolls, Misconducts, The Heatseekers, and The No. 1 Suspects, in that order. The first gang is easier to defeat to get you prepared for the onslaught to come. Huntdown, however, does not give any power-ups, skill trees or stat boosts to aid you against tougher enemies. You must rely on your own growing skill alone to defeat stronger subsequent bosses. Think you have the current roster of enemies down? Here’s a flamethrower man with a shield you have to defeat. Here’re enemies with jet packs that rocket toward you and light the ground on fire. Around every dumpster-laden alley corner lies a new enemy waiting to take you out of the zone and throw you off balance. Huntdown knows when you’re getting comfortable, and will throw a wrench in your gears when you start feeling confident.
Guns, Guns, and Baseball Bats?
The gun play feels very polished, and it should! It’s the main course of this game’s meal, after all. No gun in of itself feels overly powerful or unfair. I used all the guns I came across, although some more than others, and none of them felt like they needed to be nerfed. I picked up a melee weapon occasionally but quickly switched back to ranged weapons as distance from people is your friend in Huntdown. The further away you are from enemies, the more reaction time you have to duck, drop, or jump over incoming projectiles. Getting within melee range on purpose is all but suicidal.
There’s three bounty hunters to choose from. Anna Conda with her machine pistols, Jon Sawyer with his heavy handgun, and Mow Man the android with a middle-of-the-road handgun and mean throwing knives. All three have their benefits and, depending on your play style, might prove to work better over another, but I played the majority with Mow Man and Jon Sawyer. You can also change the bounty hunter mid-game should you wish, although you’ll have to start the most recent level over to do so.
Kill me once, shame on me. Kill me twice, I’m probably playing Huntdown
Ah. Speaking of starting over. You’ll be doing a lot of that. This game is difficult – even on normal. I died multiple times on many of the bosses until I had their move order memorized and calculated. For someone who is new to side-scrollers (I’ll admit myself I don’t play as many as I’d like), I’d recommend the easiest difficulty. You can always go back and play a harder difficulty later, but putting it on easy allows you to enjoy the beauty and nostalgia of the game instead of gripping the controller with white knuckles and unblinkingly mashing buttons in self-preservation… unless you like that. Also, you can’t change the difficulty after starting. So choose wisely.
The controls are strange on keyboard and mouse. It’s very much set up like an old arcade might be. Movement is done with the arrow keys and the actions buttons are on the left – XCVB. I didn’t even try the keyboard settings. I’m far too deep into the world of moving with WASD to try to get accustomed to that. However, since it’s a retro side-scroller, I chose the 8BitDo SN30 Pro. It seemed fitting for the job. I highly recommend playing this with some sort of controller instead of the keyboard alternative. It’s hard enough to be accurate and fast enough with a controller, let alone trying to re-map my brain to a whole new set of keys. Yikes.
I should also mention that I did not have anyone to play with as a second player. However, there is a two-player mode where both you and a friend can take part in the wanton destruction.
Graphics – That Old Time Feel
This is a 16-bit game, so graphics aren’t technically its strong suit. However, it looks better as a 16-bit game than many others do with their massive worlds and 3D assets. Sometimes, doing things simpler is better. Regardless of the graphical limitations, Huntdown pushes the visuals to their limit and immerses you in a chunky, gritty world. There were many times I stopped the senseless slaughter to respect the beautiful active backgrounds and ambiance of the city.
Sound – Techno City
The soundtrack is great and adds tension to an already hectic world. Everything sounds crunchy and techy. Like it was run through an electric synthesizer, then run through a second time for good measure. Guns feel meaty and powerful according to their characteristics. The bounty hunters often pipe up after a grizzly kill and make puns that every dad on the planet would be proud of. An exclamation point is put over the person’s head who is talking in-scene, making the vocals easy to follow. It’d be difficult to know who is talking otherwise.