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Hellgate: London demo impressions

Tateru Nino

I spent a little time today to download and look at the Hellgate: London demo. Now, bearing in mind that I don't have what anyone might reasonably describe as 'reflexes' and my hardware can only aspire to being as good as lousy compared to the rigs around these days (that Radeon 9200SE has got to go).

If you don't want to flip below the fold, and just want the short form, it rocked. Download the demo, run through it, get your credit-card out and preorder. Longer impressions after the jump.

Gallery: Hellgate: London demo impressions | 35 Photos

How to compare this with other games? Think Diablo II meets Half Life 2. Half Life 2? Sure. Take a look around at the haunting, post-apocalyptic environment. Ruined buildings, peeling paint. Everywhere things break, or can be broken - and physics is smoothly and sensibly everywhere. The Explosive Barrels and Gas Canisters Shipping Company PLC has also been hard at work. Things that go bang are all over the place.

Add Zombies and Ravagers (they're sort of humpy, fleshy things that jump at you), huddled refugees/resistance members, weird things that look like organic spacecraft floating through the skies and the occasional corpse, and you've got a familiar experience.

And there's nothing at all wrong with that! Nothing!

Even on my system at 1024x768, everything renders smoothly. Nothing jerks or stutters, sound is clean and clear, doesn't glitch and is satisfying, and I encountered no bugs. Yum! The maps in the demo are a mix of ruined streets lined by ruined buildings, tunnels and basements, and are never long or large enough to be tedious. It feels both sensible and poignant. You can enter some shattered basements or climb to ruined upper levels and toss grenades. Enjoy. Keep your eyes out for crates, bust them open. Many of them contain goodies that you will want.

Combat is straightforward, and easy. I needed no keyed-up reflexes (which is good, I have none). As a Marksman, I was able to point and shoot with just about zero trouble. My supernatural foes fell before me (except for the odd Ravager that fell on my head instead) with no particular problems. It's easy to get complacent, however. Two or three bosses in the demo will force you to re-evaluate your combat strategies very quickly, but in the end are unlikely to cause you major grief.

Like the Diablo games, inventory management becomes an issue quickly - though each of the Templar stations you visit has a stash you can make use of, along with shops, healers, people who have quests for you and a scattering of other things.

Conversations won't excite you, but you're not here to be excited by conversations.

Overall the user-interface feels good, operates very cleanly and incorporates my favorite features from other MMOs. A skill/powers bar for keeping track of those pesky abilities that you want to have ready to hand; an optional onscreen quest tracker; an automatic comparison between equipment you're mousing over and the corresponding item(s) that you have equipped. Another nice feature is the ability to just tap F and suck the loot back towards you, as long as you're within five or ten metres or so. The right click radial menus - I like, but will take some getting used to.

The demo won't occupy you for very long, but it's a darn tasty teaser. Expect more of the same, only harder, and with friends once this goes live online. Forget all the hype. Grab the demo, play it and see if this is for you. I honestly didn't think I'd enjoy the game. I'm happy to have been wrong.

Gallery: Hellgate: London demo impressions | 35 Photos

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