The Hellgate has returned to London. Templars assemble!

The sky is eternally bruised, ash floats on every breeze. The streets no longer ring to the sounds of human voices, or the laughter of children. The scents of smoke, and sulphur fill the air. In the distance you hear shuffling feet, low moans, skittering noises come at you from around every corner. Your sword feels heavy in your hand. Sweat runs down your face inside your helmet. And far ahead you see a flicker of movement as cadavers in various states of decay shuffle aimlessly.

This is the London of the future. Stripped of virtually all life by the demons which poured out of a Hellgate years before. And you are one of the last defenders of the human race, a Templar. And now it’s time to shred zombie flesh to get to the heart of the infestation. Well that or die trying.

Hellgate:London was originally released in 2007. I was lucky enough to receive the gift of a copy a year later. And it quickly became one of my favourite games of all time. It was exciting, sometimes scary, always action packed. In structure it was a little odd.

You had the 3rd party/1st person display modes available in World of Warcraft, and other similar role playing games.

The item gathering, and inventory management of the Diablo series.

The ability to be melee, ranged or a reasonably balanced mixture of the two.

So far, so normal, so how was it odd?

Well first of all, it also felt rather like a 3D environment take on an old school Hack’n’Slash game. Think Golden Axe, with zombies, demons, and demonic beasts all set in a post apocalyptic London. A rather different take on the role playing game, for that the time at least.

And secondly, the maps were largely very, very, linear. You’d have a series of tunnels, or a street level map. It would have an entrance, and sometimes an exit. Fight to the exit/target. Hand in quest.

In truth it’s very hard to describe Hellgate: London in any way that makes sense. But I can describe it in three words, for myself.

Fun.

Addictive.

Infuriating.

Fun because, well you’re wandering London’s streets, underground, and sewers hunting demons with swords, guns, and magic. And parts of the game are very recognisable places. Even some of the tube stations are recognisable, even if the scale is really, really off. It meant for me that the first time I ever went to London, I was fascinated to see the real world places I’d hunted down imps in on my PC. The fun followed me in to reality. And experience I have yet to have repeat itself with any other game.

Addictive, there’s so much to see. Yes, many maps are randomly generated, but some are always the same. The mix means you’re never totally sure what you’re going to see next. The sheer volume of items is mind boggling. You can spend hours just hunting, looking for that perfect sword, or gun, or focus to drop, to round out your equipment.

Infuriating, you can spend hours looking for that one piece of equipment, and never see it.

Well Hellgate: London has been re-released as a Free to Play, micro-transaction based online game. And after playing five hours of it so far I can share with you the follow feeling. It’s Hellgate: London. It plays, and feels almost identical to the original. The missions/quests all seem to be the same, though some are now repeatable so you can raise faction friendliness. The items are the same. It’s the same.

But it’s also a little different. As I said there are now micro-transactions in place with in the game. These vary from inventory size boosts, to the ability to unlock, locked mod slots on your equipment. New, but so far as I can see, not in any way intrusive. It certainly does not feel like you HAVE to spend money to get further.

In addition, it is now online only. That’s not to say it’s mandatory multi-player, though you do have the option to play with others if you wish to. More that the single-player campaign has to be played while logged in. Which can be a slight drag now and then if you end up on a laggy channel, or if your connection has gone down.

Also there are now daily quests, for various items. A nice, and unobtrusive addition to the game. And finally the, sometimes, terminal graphics overload when too many creatures, and special effects were going off on screen seem to have been ironed out.

Apparently this new release also includes the two expansions from the original as later stage content. As well as the Hellgate: Tokyo areas. I can’t confirm the latter as I am still crawling through Covent Garden at the moment.

It’s a pretty enough game. With reasonably good character creation options, certainly on a par with World of Warcraft prior to the Cataclysm expansion. Though the colouring of the game is rather more muted than most gamers might like. That said, I do think that the graphics may have had something of an overhaul, as I don’t remember there being quite this level of model detail on the creatures and NPC’s. Though that may just be my failing memory.

(Image via www.Islabit.com)

The sound quality is pretty average. The music is, nice. There’s not much more to say about it. But the voice acting is fairly okay, if a little annoying at times. Seriously, I wonder did the original developers actually bother listening to real Londoners, or just watch Mary Poppins a few times.

So about now you’re asking yourself is this worth my playing it?

And I have to answer, maybe.

If you were a fan of the original then I would have to say, absolutely yes. This is, again from my perspective, the Hellgate: London we all remember, with a few tweaks that actually make it better. And if you liked it back then, but if like me you missed the expansions then definitely go for it. After all, it’s free to play. And as it comes in a relatively small, 5 Gigabyte download it won’t have you waiting days to play it either.

Otherwise, well I don’t think you have anything to lose by trying it out. The storyline is good fun, and has an interesting ending for the “single-player” campaign unless it’s been changed. And as I said it is free. But this is not WoW. There’s not a lot of carefully thought out attack rotations. Though it does have 3 characters classes with 2 sub-classes each, and each class has a wildly different play style, so that combined with the many randomly generated maps does make for some replay value.

All said I truly believe this game matches up reasonably well against Star Wars: The Old Republic, Aion, and most definitely Rappelz or the other Korean grindfest games. So maybe give it a try, and let me know what you think of it yourself.

Graphics: 8/10

Sound: 7/10

Gameplay: 8/10

Overall: 8/10

It may only compare as okay to more modern titles, but I feel it wipes the floor with most other free to play games, with the possible exception of Star Trek Online.

(But personally 10/10 because I am a Hellgate addict. I even read the comic, and the novels after all.)

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