It's gory and grown-up but it wouldn't work played straight (goblins, after all, lack pathos), so instead it's dry and world-weary. There are execution moves and the first time Elara does one with her bow it prompts Caddoc to complain, in his Stath-like cockney, "Did you need to put it in his eye?"
"Ehh," sighs Elara. "It got the job done. I was just being creative." Elara seems to get the best lines. See also, "If I didn't know better, I'd say that giant eye is giving away our position."
A lot of the humour stems from the imprisoned townspeople you encounter. One comes running out of a door and yells, "Take cover! They're coming!" before catching a flaming arrow in the back. He spends the rest of the scene running around screaming and burning while you mull over which shield to pick up.
Prisoners are a bit like loot in some cases - you can save them if you're observant and apparently this will have implications later in the game. At one stage in the demo Elara saves a man hanging by his wrists. He thanks her and complains that it's all so horrible, etc., at which point a giant spider smashes through the wall and drags him away again. Kaufman says that the fun thing about prisoners is that they often run off ahead and trigger traps. Silly prisoners!
There are other secrets and puzzles to discover, some of which will be quite tricky to solve. We've only seen easy ones so far but they're framed nicely. A giant stone head with a fiery eye stands to one side in a room and addresses you: "Stand before me and fill me with the fire of your courage - to light the path ahead." So you shoot it in the other eye and it crumbles apart to let you through.
More on Hunted: The Demon's Forge
Review: Hunted: The Demon's Forge
Hands On: Hunted: The Demon's Forge
Devils may cry.
inXile's game director on forging all those demons.
E'lara lorra laughs.
Elsewhere a skull on a fireplace drawls something about becoming whole again so you go off and find his bones, then light an adjacent fireplace with a flaming arrow to open another door.
Hunted also looks great, with inXile well in command of Unreal Engine 3. id Software-owning Bethesda will probably feel a little weird signing those royalty cheques for Epic, but it's in service to a good cause. Characters are beefy and convincing and the world is detailed and polished already. It's very comfortable with long sight lines and spectacular views, the camera shifting to stare down past Elara into a ravine as she sidles along a ledge, and framing a massive ogre as it prowls in the distance.
Findley and Kaufman won't say if you get to square off against the ogre but we do see one boss fight against a demonic, harpy-like creature with Doc Ock tentacles and fireballs. It takes a battle charge from Elara to bring Caddoc in close, where he mashes buttons to wrestle the thing's head long enough for Elara to line up an arrow to the exposed neck. The head comes off, fire erupts from the stump and its corpse explodes and vanishes.
Hunted: The Demon's Forge is looking violent, deceptively thoughtful and witty. The world may not need another cover shooter, and may not realise it wants more dungeon crawlers, but it's hard to argue with what we're seeing.
"I read somewhere recently that co-op is a fad," says Matt Findley with a look of puzzlement. "We haven't even begun to make co-op games." Well, this looks like decent preparation.
Hunted: The Demon's Forge is due out for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 in early 2011.