November 15, 2007

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Hellgate: London (PC)
Electronic Arts, Oct. 30
By Glenn "Gov'nur" Given production@hippopress.com

Some of the people who brought you Diablo bring you Diablo, but like with guns and set in a poorly lit subway system.

Cribbing heavily from their former work, Flagship Studios 3-D-ifies and Britishes up the dungeon-slogging formula of Diablo and hopes that nobody sees the difference. Sure, guy, many of us have fond memories of Diablo and Diablo 2; as action RPGs went they were top notch. But the polish that Blizzard brought to their development seems to have stayed behind when some of its design team left to brew this mess up.

Players choose from a half dozen character classes, like Guardian, Summoner and the genuinely innovative Marksman (whose play style brings first-person shooter mechanics to the Diablo format), and blaze a swath through demonic legions who have swarmed over the city. You click click click the icons of various abilities (chosen permanently when you grind up levels) to blast your hellish idiot adversaries. Enemy AI is pretty basic as foes have little tactical finesse and just hammer away until you or they die. What alleviates this monotony a tad is the randomly generated layouts of the various instances that players enter. And by players I mean you alone, because since launch Hellgate: London has suffered under a barrage of bugs, crashes and insufferable lag.

On the upside, the inexcusably buggy online play carries no monthly fee, unless of course you choose to pay one. Doing such a foolish thing theoretically opens new content, ranking systems and guild creation. Of course almost none of these features are currently implemented. And, in all honesty, Hellgate: London just doesnít present the same sprawling buffet of content as World of Warcraft, nor is it as smartly designed as its more appropriate rival Guild Wars (which also goes the no-fee route).

Put all the online shenanigans aside; the laughable plot, poorly differentiated class roles (everybody is specced to do a ton of damage with mainly graphical differences) and unimaginative stylization still brand Hellgate as a lackluster offline title. Iíll bump Hellgate up from a D for the Marksman playstyle but thatís about all the fun youíll find herein. C- ó Glenn Given