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Sunday | December 11, 2016
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Helldorado (PC)

Helldorado (PC)

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Helldorado is the sequel to Desperados, an action strategy game set to appeal to diehard fans of the franchise… for the rest of us however the game has one or two shortcomings which might be a deal breaker.

Helldorado takes place after the events of Desperados 2, when John Cooper and his friends helped to cause the downfall of a railroad tyrant who was causing serious problems for the community. Unfortunately for Cooper killing such a prominent figurehead led to ramifications and his friend Doc McCoy was poisoned and kidnapped. Following a trail to his location he discovers that the widow of the killed tyrant is out to get revenge on Cooper  and his band of misfits by forcing them to become criminals if they are to earn the elusive antidote and save Doc’s life. The blackmail aspect of the game is a different way to approach the missions and developer Spellbound deserve a mention for trying something a little different to previous outings.

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The overriding mechanic is the same as before as you take Cooper and his team through the various missions and utilize their formidable skill sets to complete the objectives. Cooper is armed with guns and a throwing knife and is a good all round fighter, while for example Sam is a demolitions expert. Correctly using all your team members in specific situations is the key to success. Kate, for instance is an attractive woman with the ability to attract (and distract) men, which is ideal if a guard needs taken away from a location for a sneak attack. Sanchez can set down bottles of booze which means that bad guys nearby will pick them up and drink themselves into oblivion. Using all the abilities of the specialists mean that proceeding through various levels is a cat and mouse game between the various characters.

Gamers can also use ‘quick actions’ and by using these you can queue up various ways of attacking simultaneously against nearby targets. This is useful if there is a group of nearby enemies that you want to take out quickly or if you need to use various different moves at the same time to get past a location. Unfortunately in practice, this system is flawed because I found controlling more than one character at a time to be unnecessary. There is not often that you get access to more than 2 or 3 characters at a time, and placing a few of them in a safe location while storming through with one is often the easiest way to proceed. Additionally, the AI of your colleagues is shockingly bad, so if they get spotted and attacked they will simply stand there and get killed, rather than try to run away or into cover. It is one of those games when ignoring the rule book is often the way to get further, faster.

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While it is possible to attack enemies I found the best strategy was to employ a Splinter Cell approach of hiding and moving to the next location. Stealth will often be the easiest route, especially as simply being spotted will set off alarms all over the environment and ensure that every enemy will run to kill you. This is when the deal breaker happens because you can’t just shoot everyone you run into. You are not allowed to shoot the law enforcement guys, such as the sheriffs and the marshals and as they look just like every other bandit in the game you end up with a frustrating situation of having to incapacitate everyone then drag their bodies out of view.

The game is extremely difficult because you are often facing up to 100 enemy with a handful of characters and it is more than a little challenging, especially when the characters you aren’t controlling act like cardboard cutouts, all too willing to be shot on sight.

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My biggest issue with the game design is down to the level design, there are many maps where the only way to work out how to proceed further is through trial and error which means you are often forced to replay the same map section several times, get killed and work out the best method for moving onto the next checkpoint position. Other inconsistencies involve the enemy AI as they are often unable to hear a colleague get killed from an arrow to the head in close proximity, but will hear you silently sticking a knife into their neck for a stealth kill.

The interface is a little lacking and the problems continue with the response time of the action on screen in relation to your commands. Quite often when double clicking to run, the guy will walk to the location while getting shot in the back of the head. It is frustrating when the situation requires for quick reactions and the game translates it poorly. In stark contrast, the multitude of enemy units have no problem running quickly around the screen and making your life extremely difficult. Other glitches include drunk enemy being able to sober up immediately and shoot you in the face from considerable distance when alerted. Bleh.

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Graphically, the game is reasonably impressive with a lot of fine detail on the surroundings and there are various viewpoints on offer to follow the action. Turning up all the details to maximum at 1920×1200 requires a capable graphics card but it should run well on any modern day gaming hardware with no issues with either Nvidia or ATI.

The audio is strong and the music is effective and suits the genre very well, in the style of a Western film. The voice work is average at best with some poorly scripted lines which sound almost robotic, there is also little variation for the array of characters so many of the enemy guys will all speak with the same voice. The ethnic stereotypes are so over the top that it is almost embarrassing to hear some of the dialogue.

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Helldorado is a game that I did not enjoy playing at all, there are too many annoying issues to take any pleasure. I fail to see how anyone would get value for money from this title however I know fans of the previous titles might find redeeming qualities. As a mass market game however I would recommend that most people avoid this because it is simply frustratingly designed.

Gameplay
50/100
You will die and often. Frustrating design decisions.
Graphics
70/100
Nice attention to detail especially in the overview mode.
Audio
60/100
Shoddy voice overs and bland effects only marginally saved by the music.
Value
40/100
Masochists need only apply.
Overall
(Not an Average)
45/100
Painful gameplay and for a very small portion of the audience.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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