Hellgate: London

Reviewed by Arep | 7 February 2008
Genre: MMORPG | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Developer: Flagship Studios
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The Good
The Bad

* Originally authored by Deadfyre *

A long time ago, having played numerous pay-to-play betas, alphas, shoddy releases, and dismal games in general, I set down myself a list of rules to follow when picking up a new game. There is nothing worse for any of us than dropping a decent chunk of change on a game to discover that it is either broken graphically, flawed in its core game play, or looks good on paper but not on our computer, simply doesn’t work, or just blows up the computer when the disc goes in.

To those who have a recent NASA capable computer, you will find HG:L a very visually appealing gameThe rules: firstly, I desire a game to be stable, above all. It has to have been patched several times, and been out in release for 4-5 months. I must have played a Demo, to prove that it has merit, able game play and features, enough so for me to warrant spending money on it. A game should also be original, and not so much cloned off anything else. I also require this game to not need a NASA super computer in order to play it. I, like many, do not go out every month and upgrade my computer to the latest and greatest thing-a-ma-bob on the planet.  To those who have a recent NASA capable computer, you will find HG:L a very visually appealing game, especially to those who are on DirectX 10 with Vista, however, as the game is still new, HG:L can be a tad buggy in this respect with DX10.

My rules for game buying aren’t all that much really, more for protection of my enjoyment than anything else. I have played games where login features were broken at release for weeks at a time, or where the game client would crash every 10 minutes (cough Shadowbane), or cool games that just have no heart and soul (cough Eve - to its credit, Eve is a really good game, just needs WASD flight controls and travel time cut down); games which I bought with no prior knowledge of which wouldn’t even play, and when removed would eat my registry (cough Hitman 2); games such as Crysis, which do require a NASA super computer to use, and hence leave it lacking as two frames per second is not playable for anyone.

Has my entire gaming life been bad? No, far from it, I have had a fairly enjoyable gaming existence, but enough of the bad games has led me to be more selective of that which is good and enjoyable. I also have a rule against EA games in general. They do not release perfect games, they seem more concerned about the money, and rush games out in broken states and expect people to be happy with it instead of taking the time and the love to make sure it works, and works well, before selling it. I have watched EA do this time and time again, in short, I don’t believe they truly care about their games as much as we gamers tend to.

Now Flagship Studios, led by Bill Roper is most of the original key force (RIP Blizzard North) behind the games Diablo & Diablo 2.Now Flagship Studios, led by Bill Roper is most of the original key force (RIP Blizzard North) behind the games Diablo & Diablo 2. To its merit FSS has done a great job, and a heinous one at the same time. To us gamers, we are used to this though. When I picked up Hellgate: London, I broke most of my rules in the process of the purchase. I had played a day or two in beta, and decided to make the plunge when it was released. Yes, it was that good; or I hoped it could be, at least enough for me to can my major game purchase rules.

Hellgate: London; The Bad.

I have explored much of the game, I have yet to find a BFG9000. This is bad.

Now HG:L is not meant to be a lot of things, such as a Massively Multiplayer Online game, even though it resembles one. MMO’s typically have everyone in one world, no instance hubs, limited to X players for server stability, and everyone has access to the same overland monsters. It violates both of these rules, so it is not an MMO in the typical sense. MMO’s also do not repeat themselves halfway through the game on a harder difficulty level. HG:L does do this, and while its not so bad as to hinder the core game play, it does feel repetitive after a while.

I really have no experience with the single player version of HG:L, as I tend to play games on line, with other people, however online mode is nothing more the single player with chat and more players. One of the biggest peeves I have, is that chat in HG:L is unmonitored. They rigged a profanity filter to filter out many of the racist words which could be used to harass people, but they left about half of them out. There is a reek of immaturity in the online chat, where it makes me just NOT want to chat in anyplace but TOG guild chat. Those of you familiar with WoW, think Barrens chat, only worse. No other online game I have played to date has made this mistake - and yes, it is a mistake to not monitor chat. Many on line games, City of Heroes comes to mind, where there is a sense of maturity to the community, where chat does not even need to be monitored.

the game is half broken, the game half works, and the game is just waiting to be fixed“The glass is half full, half empty, or waiting to be drunk” could easily be analogous to “the game is half broken, the game half works, and the game is just waiting to be fixed.” The potential of this game is staggering, never mind the fact that EA, the publisher, rushed the game out the door. Quality Assurance on HG:L was left to beta testers who were given no time to report enough bugs, nor were beta players allowed to level past 22, so they could not even report bugs in the higher end content. The end game content in St Paul’s station hub on Elite Nightmare is one of those large glaring errors.

HG:L can freely be played online to anyone who purchased the game and a key for an account. Flagship gives the option for subscribing to the game on a month to month basis, the perks for this include respecs on a monthly basis (skill retraining), new content for subscriber only areas, and subscriber only equipment and weaponry. Subscribing is also mandatory to run a guild. I would be happy with extra bandwidth, cooler music, better graphics for that $10 a month. Flagship states that though the game was rushed out the door too quickly, the 1.0 patch for Stonehenge (the 1st new content update) is how the game was meant to be shipped for subscribers and non subs alike.

Hellgate: London; The Good.

As the major bugs have been fixed: the memory leaks are gone, I can see my party mates, my group members don’t crash out as often and I don’t crash once an hour, I feel a lot better playing HG:L now (and reviewing HG:L). While the game may have gotten off to a somewhat rocky start, the London roads are beginning to even out.

Hellgate is a genre blender of really all things good that have come out of games before.Stonehenge, the 1st of many new content updates has been released now. Flagship will release new content every couple of months, which include a new station hub, new gear and weapons, new mobs and generally more fun. Difficulty modes, these are a good thing. Normal mode is fairly easy, basic game training, elite mode is fairly challenging with harder mobs and more named critters. Hardcore mode, aka: one death dead is a real challenge. You really would need to play in order to get a feel of what it really is. Hellgate is a genre blender of really all things good that have come out of games before.  Does it do anything new? Not really, but what it does do, it does surprisingly well. I will admit it, I love HG:L for what it is and what it will be.

HG:L is a first person shooter (or third person shooter), combined with the aspects of an MMO, with elements of Rogue, Hexen, Serious Sam, Unreal Tournament, Diablo II, plus the modern day graphics to make it look good, really, really good. It has the feel of games of old, but rendered quite well (if you have the NASA super computer to run it that well). It is brutally fast paced, as you will fight your way through countless hordes of zombies, undead, demons and other ghastly ugly things in the process.

Set in 2038, post apocalyptic London, where the world was ambushed by an invading demon horde, Hellgate: London is a very dark and macabre game. It has the skill trees of Diablo, the nitty-gritty gun down feel of Sam the Serious, the smack down swordplay of Hexen & Rogue, and the creepy adrenaline rush of obliterating untold numbers of bad guys in Doom. One of the nicer aspects of HG:L is there is no dedicated healing class, the cleric. There are a couple of classes that can heal, but unlike traditional MMO’s (EQ/Daoc/WoW/CoH), there is no poor class that does no damage, gets no armor and just heals till the cows come home. All of the classes are there to blow stuff up, kick demon buttocks, and chew bubble gum. Except in 2038 London, there is no bubble gum (there doesn’t seem to be any food either).

Weapons: what would a shooter/slasher be without weapons? HG:L has a wide arsenal of weaponry just waiting to be loaded. What’s more, they don’t charge you for ammo; this is a plus because some of the guns can fire at 1600 rounds per minute (dual wielding vulcan mini gun pistols anyone?) which would be a virtual metric ton of ammo to lug around. Swords aplenty can be found, as can a plethora of machine guns, rocket launchers, land mine layers, laser pistols, sniper rifles, and shot guns. So many guns in fact, that one wouldn’t really need bubble gum.

Equipment is a constant upgrade, and follows the line from Diablo, with randomly generated plain white, enchanted green, rare blue, legendary orange and unique yellow objects. Rarer objects can be really good, as long as the randomly attached stats benefit whichever character you play. What’s more, unlike traditional MMO’s, they don’t do the ever frequent “use this item once and no one else can” hassle. I never understood why games attach that bind on usage to equipment. There are better ways to get around it. Flagship did not go that way which is a good thing. I can pass around all of my good weapons to guildies in need.

In future patches, new zones and textures will be added for additional feel. Stonehenge is first on that list of new additions, and adds quite a bit to the game, as far as a break from the dreary run down and semi destroyed London. Stonehenge zones are mainly outside, and concentrate on fields and a variety of other zones. In game mail is on the horizon. Raid content is also rumored to be forth coming, and hopefully they will monitor chat, and continue to fix the bugs they find in game. Arenas have also been added now, and more group based Player vs Player content is slated to be on the way. Achievement awards are only due out sometime this quarter. All is fairly well and good in London, as Flagship takes a heavy interest in what players think of the game, and what as of needs fixing.

Hellgate: London can be a roller coaster ride of goodness and demon chunky gibsIn closing, Hellgate: London can be a roller coaster ride of goodness and demon chunky gibs, if you let it be what it was meant to be, a game that is really good, but needs some work. But what game can’t we say needs some work, as alas, no game, even the monstrous raid or die of World of Warcraft, or the titanic space gargantuan that is Eve, couldn’t also use some work? Sure, this game, like every game, just needs some loving attention by the developers, who are actually listening to the player base. Is HG:L a good game now? Yes! Will it get finer with age, most likely, but as always, only time will tell. One of the more interesting things about Hellgate, is that a crew of 15 people were responsible for its creation.

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