Deus Ex was a masterpiece. Its revolutionary style of gameplay has been an influence to numerous subsequent titles. However, it was technically defined as an RPG, even though that could be slightly misleading for a title that utilized the essential components of both an FPS and an RPG. Neuro Hunter attempts the same formula, so I am going to boldly assign it a more accurate genre acronym - FPRPG (First-Person Role-Playing Game).
Set in a Cyberpunk fictional future, Neuro Hunter places you in control of Hunter, a renowned computer expert and hacker. Hired by the 'Corporation' to make use of his skills, things suddenly take an unexpected turn when an explosion sees him ending up in an underground cave realm, virtually unknown to the rest of the world. The existence of this strange subterranean network is hidden from public knowledge and its occupants are forced to stay there, denied access above ground for the rest of their lives. Hunter must ensure his own survival amidst the dangers of this underworld and eventually make his way back to the surface, battling many evils throughout his journey.
Full points for an original, and indeed, deeply interesting game concept, despite the clichéd all-powerful corporation and cyberpunk future. Starting out with little more than the clothes you are wearing and a dead mobile phone, you need to build up your skills, complete quests and learn to fight in order to accomplish your eventual goal of escaping.
Citing its inspiration as Deus Ex and System Shock 2 amongst others, Neuro Hunter certainly aims at an interesting target. Just like Deus Ex, it throws you into a world that is full of all sorts of weird and wonderful items filling every room and cavern. You can pick up virtually every single one of the multitude of objects lying around and all of them can be used in some way or other, no matter how obscure. A plate of scraps can be picked up from a table, or the meat from a freshly slaughtered corpse, or even a bottle of delectable mushroom liquor from a colony bar.
You gain experience points for each mission completed and with each baddie or monster you dispatch, points that are converted into useful skills, such as lock picking or melee fighting. Once you reach certain levels of such skills, you gain the ability to progress to new areas and take on tougher enemies. There is even a nifty little ability to manufacture useful goods from the stuff you have picked up on your journeys, from advanced weapons and armor right up to mission-critical items.
The graphics are quite reasonable, despite being rather system-hungry and they generate a pleasant atmosphere with which to venture around on your underworld quests. All NPCs and monsters are nicely modeled and animated, while the environments are well made, if slightly bland overall. For a change, the voice acting is not too bad, with adequately spoken dialogue for all NPCs. However, the accompanying musical score is extremely limited and makes you listen to the same hackneyed melodies over and over again. I recommend turning the music off and putting on your own tunes in the background. Moving on to sound effects, some of them are absolutely ridiculous. What noise does a knife make when swiping the air? A swishing sound, yes? Well why your knife makes a sound like a toilet backfiring is a mystery far beyond me. It seems that the developers picked random sounds to accompany each in-game action and a lot of them are really quite dire.
Despite some shoddy sound effects, everything else seems to lay the basis for a good FPRPG, but sadly that is not actually the case, as Neuro Hunter fails to satisfactorily implement its separate parts. Control, first of all, is not of as great importance in this kind of game as in a FPS, but still, a good control system can lead to a lot more enjoyment, whereas making Hunter toddle round the underworld is far more painful than it should be. Movement is way too twitchy and the running speed is far too slow, making traveling a real chore.
Plenty of quests are in place, but they are so blandly unimaginative that there is little incentive to complete anything except the mission-critical ones, while quest descriptions are so vague as to be seethingly frustrating. An early example of this is when someone asks you to find the purified water somewhere near the compressor. In a world with all sorts of random mechanical paraphernalia around every corner, even finding out what a compressor is can be tediously annoying, and then determining its location is another matter altogether.
AI stupidity is another sad failing of the game. Every single walking monster can be killed by simply strafe circling around them, whilst hitting them with your weapon. They will never hit you, so long as you keep circling. Dumb indeed! NPCs mostly either stand like lemons in their assigned areas, or just wander round aimlessly within a certain area. They also have their failsafe phrase, which is, "Don't you ever do that again!" I got so annoyed with one of them once that I tried mashing them to death with a club. Ridiculously, they never die, but just keep saying "Don't you ever do that again!" over and over, every time you clobber them, ironically thus provoking yet another clobbering.
I approached a store one time and tried stealing something from the shelf without paying for it. The angered shopkeeper gave me a firm, "Don't you ever do that again!" I took his entire stock while he kept repeating his little phrase each time I took an item. To add insult to injury, I then sold his entire stock back to him for a handsome price. Such heights of stupidity have never before been scaled...
Whilst Neuro Hunter can be moderately pleasing to play overall, it is not a game you will be telling your friends about, or will ever consider playing through a second time. However it may be worth considering if you enjoy traipsing underground caverns and drinking mushroom liquor while swiping with rusty knives at mutated beasts with more eyes than your average housefly conference. Oh yes, and watch out for the mutated spiders...
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