If you're anything like us, you'll also amuse yourselves with unofficial pastimes like "deathstone lottery" - the game of guessing whether the next ghost whose collectible voice recording you uncover will be Scouse, Irish, Brummie or whatever. (Winner gets first refusal at the next character-swap gemstone.)

In these days of launch patches it's hard to say whether connection problems will be an issue by the time you play Hunted, but we fared reasonably well pre-release over Xbox Live.

My first party of two averaged one and a half chapters - around 90 minutes of content - before one of us dropped out. The lobby system isn't very transparent but seems to work OK and in-game lag isn't an issue. (The game's also fully playable in split-screen.)

We do recommend you find someone to play with, too, although perhaps not for the gameplay reasons you imagine. While the computer AI does a decent job of filling in for another human if you do have to play the game on your own, it's much less fun to play when nobody else is around to frown moralistically at E'lara's ridiculous outfit, or comment that it's nice to hear the soundtrack from Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time getting another run-out.

You tend to need that because, left to their own devices, Caddoc and E'lara aren't exactly the most compelling people to keep you company. Their relationship is business rather than pleasure, but for people who seem to have voluntarily spent years together there's a surprising lack of chemistry and humour in their banter.

E'lara's snooty refrains and double-entendres clash uneasily with Caddoc's awkward pseudo-paternal everyman patter, and most of the dialogue is just flat. "We sent that demon back to hell," says E'lara. "Right where he came from," says Caddoc.

3
Boss fights at the end of each chapter are uninspired. Then again, when are boss fights anything but?

The greater shame though is that the relationship also has to be somewhat forced on the battlefield. On paper, E'lara's skills should complement Caddoc's brute force and create interesting opportunities - but while you can get more out of the game by co-operating, it is far from required.

On anything but the hardest difficulty setting either character can charge into battle from chapter two onward without too much concern for planning or coordination, and for most of the game the lightning spell and occasional button-mashing sees you through, whether the latter is Caddoc's hacking and slashing or E'lara's aim-and-explode archery.

There are times when co-op is mandatory - E'lara has to fire flaming arrows to activate puzzle-specific items, for example - but the majority of prompts to bring both characters together seem to have little to do with gameplay.

"Why are all these doors so damn heavy?" Caddoc moans at one point as you are both obligated to stand next to one another to progress to the next area. The answer is more that the programming requires you to cross that threshold together rather than anything to do with the core co-op conceit.

4
The fearsome wargar have been rounding up human slaves, but to what end?

A solid eight hours of action takes you through to the end of the story, after which you can extend the life of the game through Adventure+ mode (toggling various tweaks) or by creating your own arena-mode extensions with the Crucible Map Creator.

Crucible is like Horde mode in Gears of War 2, except you can choose the manner of your destruction, specifying the sequence of rooms you face and the make-up of the enemies to be spammed upon you. After the story mode's six chapters, I feel I've had my fill, but if you want more of the core combat then this is a flexible and welcome extension.

Hunted isn't exactly Left 4 Dead for the fantasy genre, then. It's seemingly, and in the end rightly, insecure about its co-op credentials so it never fully embraces them, and the result is a fairly standard fantasy third-person action-adventure that can happily be played with a friend but for which you needn't rely on one.

Given the excellent concept that gave life to it in the first place, that's a rather disappointing conclusion. But those who can overlook Hunted's design shortfalls and occasionally tepid fantasy backdrop will extract a good few hours of fun slashing and exploring before something better comes along.

7 /10

About the author

Tom Bramwell

Tom Bramwell

Contributor

Tom worked at Eurogamer from early 2000 to late 2014, including seven years as Editor-in-Chief.

More articles by Tom Bramwell

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