Hunted: The Demon's Forge

Third-person looter.

Campaign co-operative play was once the preserve of the dedicated PC gamer, but these days it's become a standard gameplay feature and it's not hard to see why.

My experience playing Gears of War, for example, was infinitely superior once I had someone there to witness me punting a Locust corpse around a room while shouting that we do not negotiate with terrorists, and I know that Left 4 Dead was more memorable whenever someone had to fight their way across a level to save my life than it would have been if I'd just used a health pack.

The presence of a friend means that co-op is fun by default, and it would be nice to see more games embracing the concept from the outset rather than tacking it on.

Cue Hunted: The Demon's Forge. Developed by a team of RPG veterans at inXile Entertainment - the sort of RPG veterans whose reliance on pencils and paper for Dungeons & Dragons sessions was a quiet but competitive form of deforestation - it's the modern cover-based third-person shooter retrofitted as an eighties dungeon-crawler.

Two players take on the complementary roles of human powerhouse Caddoc and elven archer E'lara, and must work together to loot exciting swords and slay exotic demons as they explore the dark recesses of a traditional fantasy world.

Caddoc, whose accent wants to be English but whose dialogue sometimes isn't sure whether to be Scottish or Californian, and his haughty companion are mercenaries who begin the game wandering around swamps aimlessly. But they quickly find themselves drawn into a dark conspiracy - involving the orc-like wargar, minotaurs and demons - by a seductive spirit called Seraphine.

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E'lara's bow is the solution to many of the game's puzzles.

Their quest takes them through the war-torn streets of corrupted and impoverished Dyfed, into the depths of the dungeons that run far beneath it, across wild plains and port towns and far beyond.

Caddoc is a brawler with a shield at his back and a sword, axe or cudgel in his right hand. In combat he is a tank, working his way into the midst of the pesky wargar, where a flurry of light and heavy attacks decimate their health bars.

E'lara specialises in ranged bow attacks, the idea being that she can assist Caddoc from afar with covering fire and also degrade the influence of the enemy's ranged forces, in order that Caddoc can operate outside cover without becoming a sitting duck.

As you progress you gather crystals that both characters can spend on magical abilities, and these follow form - so E'lara gets things like explosive and freezing arrows while Caddoc can greatly enhance his strength and perform area-of-effect attacks that lift enemies up and dump them to the ground.

On top of that, either player can temporarily become more or less invincible if they happen upon 'sleg' - a combat drug that also underpins a lot of the story.

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She's mainly good for ranged combat, but E'lara's no fool with a blade.

Initially combat can be hard going, but within a few chapters you're both pretty badass, and if you like blowing up demons cheaply and bathing in their gory entrails then Hunted is very much the game for you.

The setup's reasonable enough, then, and there are some nice ideas along the way. These mostly occur when the game is confident enough to divert its attention from the story and let you follow a path away from the otherwise linear, corridor-based progression.

The riddles and puzzles you encounter here wouldn't exactly floor Dr Kawashima (or even Dr Nick), but the developers know how to arrange recessed switches, haunted crypts, false walls, eternal flames and giant spiders so that the 756-attack-point War Scepter at the end of the fight feels like an epic relic recovered rather than just another percentage point on the invisible completion meter.

And of course co-op means that when the going gets tough, the tough can get organised. Providing you aren't plagued by connection issues, you will be able to work together in combat to conserve health and mana, prioritise tougher enemies and make use of the environment.

Hunted: The Demon Forge's first 15 minutes.

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