Huntdown

A game by Easy Trigger Games for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One, originally released in 2020.
Huntdown is a sidescrolling shooter where you take on the role of a bounty hunter who has been hired to wipe out all of the city’s most notorious criminals and their henchmen. The game is essentially a celebration of everything you ever loved about over-the-top 1980’s action movies starring hardboiled heroes who are woefully outmatched but still somehow manage to win the day, racking up huge body counts and spouting endless cheesy one-liners as they dispatch colorful criminals.


It’s the 21st century and war has caused nations to fall, leading to the rise in all-powerful megacorporations and street gangs. Offering their services to the highest bidder, a trio of bounty hunters set out to take down the worst of the worst, and players can go it alone or team up in 2P co-op. The three playable characters include a grizzled ex-cop and cyborg named John Sawyer, a human woman named Anna Conda who is a former commando, and an android named Mow Man who is running on black market software.


John Sawyer fits the trope of the veteran officer who has left the force after one too many cases (and in this case, the loss of several limbs). He carries a veritable hand cannon capable of wiping out most bad guys in one or two shots, and he also carries a throwing weapon in the form of a boomerang. The serpentially-named Anna Conda carries a rapid-fire handgun that fires weaker shots but spews three bullets at a time, and she can also toss a hatchet in an arc. Finally, Mow Man has a handgun with medium power but it can fire as quickly as the player pulls the trigger, and he is able to toss three kunai.


While their weapons differ, each character has the same set of moves, which includes a 2x variable jump and a dash, and performing a dash in midair causes them to slam straight downward or at a downward angle if the player is moving to the left or right, and slamming down onto an enemy stuns them. When the player gets up close to a bad guy, pressing the SHOOT button causes him to kick them backward, causing minor damage (or possibly killing them if the enemy is kicked into a pit), but this move also stuns them, allowing the player to follow up with gunfire.


What sets this game apart from straightforward run-and-gun shooters is its cover mechanic. By ducking behind crates, barrels, vehicles, or other objects, the player becomes immune from shots fired by enemies, and there are also openings in the background that the player can move into by pressing UP… but enemies can take cover as well. The player can pop out of cover to fire a few shots and then take cover once more, as can the enemies. By getting up close to enemies in cover, the player may force them out by kicking them.


Each of the player character’s main weapons has unlimited ammo, and their throwing weapons may be used as often as the player likes, but with a long cooldown period. Throughout the game, the player discovers numerous limited ammo weapons that may be equipped and used until they run empty, at which point the player reverts back to his original weapon. The player may swap between his default weapon and limited ammo weapons to reserve them special circumstances, such as using a rocket launcher against a heavy enemy, but weapon drops are frequent so there's not much call for restraint. If the player encounters another weapon of the same type that he has equipped, collecting it will add more ammo, and if he finds a weapon of a different type, he may opt to swap over to it instead.


Limited ammo weapons include submachine guns, shotguns, assault rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, miniguns, flamethrowers, and lasers, each with the expected firing rate and damage output, along with a few unique weapon types late in the game. There are also lots of melee weapons to discover, including a baseball bat, crowbar, and guitar, and these cause heavy damage to enemies… but you’re usually better off sticking to the guns.


Players may discover grenades, Molotov cocktails, and other explosive devices that replace their throwing weapons until their supply is depleted. Grenades cause explosive impacts to enemies and objects in the environment and are a great way to damage shielded enemies or enemies behind cover. Molotov cocktails cause heavy damage and a few seconds of burning (but they don’t work on wet surfaces), causing enemies in their range to burst into flames, and this also works if they’re standing in background cover… and the same is true if enemies toss them at you.


The player has five units of health, with most standard attacks depleting one unit and heavy attacks depleting two, although some really heavy attacks cam cause more damage. Enemies frequently drop pill bottles when killed, which may be collected to restore one unit of health, and the player occasionally encounters shiny medical bags that restore health to full. Checkpoints appear frequently, taking the form of Tony’s Surgery & Repair Service. In a nice touch, your health is restored to full at each checkpoint, and getting killed returns you to Tony’s truck where he makes some humorous quip before kicking you out. For players looking for more of a challenge, three difficulty levels are available from the start, with a "badass" difficulty level unlocked when you beat the game.


There are several optional secondary objectives in each level, including a quota of enemy kills, completing the level without being killed, and collecting three metallic suitcases. Two of these suitcases are generally tucked away in some out-of-the way spot in the level, but one of them is carried by henchman who attempts to escape when you encounter him (although moments of heavy action can sometimes obscure his presence). If you can’t kill the henchman in time, he’ll hop aboard a vehicle and escape, but pursuing him generally requires that you come out in the open and blast baddies with everything you’ve got instead of taking it slow and using cover.


Enemies come in a number of colorful varieties, generally taking the form of 80’s-style street punks, and their visual differences make it easy to assess threats and prioritize your attacks. Each mission sees you going up against a certain gang – there are four in total – and each gang has a theme, such as the hockey-themed “Misconducts” led by the Unholy Goalie. These themes play out in the visual stylings of the enemies who wear makeup and/or uniforms to fit these themes, not unlike the cartoonish street gangs featured in The Warriors. For instance, hockey-themed enemies may attack with hockey sticks instead of baseball bats, and some of them wear rollerblades.


Gameplay is fast and furious, with new elements being introduced periodically to keep things fresh, such as people movers in subway stations, and the occasional pit of death. There are also several fights against gang members riding various vehicles, such as a pair of thugs on a motorcycle, a bunch of them on a van or tanker truck, and some that fly around aboard a hovering vehicle. In these battles, you’ll wear down the life bar on the vehicle, causing it to explode, and then you often have to deal with some of the surviving thugs as well.


Each mission consists of five levels with a boss encounter at the end of each, with the final boss in each mission being the primary bounty. While most shooters feature gun-based bosses, that is not the case here. Many of the bosses focus on melee strikes, short range weapons, or heavy attacks with long telegraphs. As such, you’ll spend these fights running around quite a bit, dodging attacks and looking for opening to strike. Each boss is highly detailed and features numerous attacks, and each of these encounters stands out from the others, making each boss fight a unique experience. In a nice touch, the player’s health is restored to full upon entering a boss battle, and he is able to retain his limited ammo weapon even if he is killed and respawns.


One boss encounter has you facing off against a woman with a flamethrower in a multi-tiered arena. At first, it’s easy to avoid her attacks, but eventually she starts calling in her goons, and when you cause enough damage to her, she bursts into flames and starts running around the room without stopping. Another encounter features a lieutenant in an office who takes a call from his boss while he tests the security system. You fight through multiple waves of popup turrets before the guy notices you and hops down, and then the battle plays out amidst a hail of turret fire. Several bosses feature second phases that surprise you just when you think you’ve won, and these change up the battle in interesting ways.


Every character in the game is fully voiced, and each boss has something to say before the battle begins, and they usually spout a few lines during battle. Some of these lines are quite humorous, such as the wrestler who lets out numerous Macho Man-style quips, or the hockey-playing woman who celebrates her goal if she manages to slam your body into the net that she set up in her lair. This further helps to set the bosses apart and adds a bit of character, as do the lines from the player character - which vary based on the character you choose - and the between-level conversations with your shadowy employer named Miss Rose, who goes by the title Wolfmother. Even some of the regular baddies have humorous quips of their own, such as one guy yelling “I can’t believe they sent John Sawyer!” when you’re playing as that character. As you might expect, there are numerous direct movie references to be heard as well.


Levels are highly detailed and objects in the environment feature multiple levels of destruction, helping to add to the chaos during firefights. In a nice touch, wooden crates and metal crates can both be used as cover, but wooden crates are destroyed more quickly by enemy fire. Destroying cover is an effective way to fight some foes, especially when they decide to take cover behind fuel or oil drums, which explode spectacularly after a few hits.


The game’s visuals are incredible, offering distinct character-packed sprites, gritty yet colorful environments, a great deal of variety between locales and setpieces, and lots of flavor animations and extraneous background details. The action is basically nonstop with loads of intense shootouts, but with enough health restoratives and checkpoints to keep you from getting completely overwhelmed. The game is accompanied by heavy modern synthwave that evokes a feeling of the 80’s while keeping the player’s bloodlust brimming. Heck, they even licensed a Twisted Sister song to play over the end credits.


There are also tons of little touches that add to the overall feel of the universe. For instance, each of the three playable characters drives a different 80’s-style sports car. Running up to a crate and pressing DOWN causes your character to drop and slide up to the edge of it to take cover. There’s even a wonderful quiet moment of anticipation leading up to your encounter with the Unholy Goalie where you’re riding an elevator up to the arena while he makes a speech to a roaring crowd.



2D CRED
Huntdown was developed by Easy Trigger Games, a studio based in Trollhättan, Sweden and founded by Tommy Gustafsson and Andreas Rehnberg in 2016. The game was developed by Andreas as lead programmer, Tommy as lead designer, Marcus Jerner as designer and environment artist, Svante Almbring as programmer, and Olof Ejstes and Christopher Malmqvist as sound designers.


The game was published by Coffee Stain Publishing, which is also based in Sweden, and this is the studio behind the Goat Simulator and Sanctum series.


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