Overall Score 55%
I am in a space fighter above an alien planet. I'm hovering next to a large freighter vessel. Everything is eerily quiet. I look around, but all I can see is the hazy pink atmosphere of an unknown world. Then the computer voice sounds - "Enemies approaching". I'm flying the state-of-the-art "Hellhog" fighter, assigned to protect this freighter, and the enemy has just arrived.
Hellhog is an ambitious and heavy-duty game from relative newcomers StateVector Games, bringing many years of 3D coding experience together. Here at Bytten we are fortunate enough to have access to four computers of varying types, since only one of them could actually cope with the system requirements. The ones listed below are the minimum, and if you can exceed them, all the better for you. No doubt the market will catch up.
You fly the Hellhog fighter in an 'orbit' around a much larger ship or similar. You can change your position with the arrow keys and (much more importantly) look around with the mouse, and your mouse buttons operate two weapons from a choice of seven (four in the demo). Waves of enemies attack, and you have to destroy them before they blast you to tiny pieces.
Let's start with the good news. The graphics are frankly superb, and the screenshots here can't do them justice. Take a peek at the company website. The backdrops are beautiful, though you have little chance to look at them during battle. The motion is smooth and the ship designs seem to be modelled on spiders, a refreshing change from the usual (boring) fighter designs. This game makes horrific demands on your machine's graphical abilities but the resulting quality justifies it.
Sound, too, is excellent. It keeps up with the action even during the most chaotic battles and all the weapons have their own effects. Synthetic speech is both clear yet distinctly robotic in style. The background music fits the game and doesn't intrude.
The main obstacle that Hellhog falls down at is the playability. I've given this a better score than I originally intended because I'm not playing from an ideal position - I'm right handed but the laptop I use (because no other machine we have can play it!) has no mouse, only a touchpad, so I either switch hands or get wrist-ache. A real mouse would be far easier to use.
That said, this game is still hard. I've been playing on Easy mode and keep getting killed, sometimes in seconds. Enemies are both powerful and fast, and worse, they watch where you're going and predict where you'll end up. You need to fly very erratically to dodge them. Your shields regenerate, but not when you move and fire. What is Ridiculous mode like??
Hellhog XP is an excellent example of graphical prowess, and as I write this is still under final development. With some playability tweaks, and perhaps a less advanced graphics option for weaker machines, it could become a great game.
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