Keith's Crappy Videogame Blog


Hellforces (PC, 2004, Russia): The Kitchen Sink Is Overflowing
August 9, 2010, 4:30 am
Filed under: Hellforces (PC, 2004, Russia)

Videogame purgatory? Sure, why not. “Hellforces” is the epitome of a kitchen sink game. I’ll explain in a minute. But first: Your nemesis and general “bringer-of-darkness” Alex Hacksley has forged a machine to suck the souls out of people and use said souls as an energy force, you know, like to power your air conditioner. (OK, more accurately, innocent genius and biophysicist Henry Alfred Cole [who always “considered the soul to be a thing of fairytales”] created the machine—but then master-exploiter and business tycoon Hacksley imprisons Cole [who later regrets his invention] and brings the machine online.) Problem is, the process leaves soulless zombies behind. Amidst the chaos, a door gets opened to hell, Lucifer and his minions enter our world and begin inhabiting the soulless bodies (transforming t

hem physically too, of course) and generally wreaking havoc. Your crackhead girlfriend wanders into the middle of it. As protagonist Steven Geist (who resembles Keanu Reeves drawn by an untalented middle-schooler, for real), your ultimate goal is to find your girlfriend (which you do, but she’s a soulless mess who attacks you about halfway through, and you end up having to kill her), and then find Hacksley and get him (which you [with contrite biophysicist Cole’s help] do about two-thirds through, and you knock his block off), and then go find Lucifer and kick his butt too. Ambitious. Complete nonsense, sure. But ambitious. The wrap-around story (which is intercut throughout…and by the way is atrociously animated—just awful) involves an FBI agent hanging around with you in your prison cell interrogating you. The game plays out as a massive flashback as you tell your unbelievable story that spans the globe, time, and space…sort of.

Finding any serious or in-depth reviews of this game on the net is not impossible but not necessarily easy—overall it was not received too well (or received at all maybe). But what “Hellforces”  lacks in narrative coherency (and it lacks A LOT!), it makes up for in a kind of gusto, and also what I’ll term the “kitchen sink effect.” There is nary a videogame locale or cliché this game doesn’t touch on. In “Hellforces,” I have bashed zombies / third-world drug runners / futuristic soldiers / cyborgs / prostitutes / thugs / glowing tentacled aliens / four-legged somethings in an urban ghetto, a gothicky underground catacomb, a high-tech facility, a “gangster’s den” (that’s what they actually call it), an alternate reality where buildings and mountains float in a void, and in ancient Peruvian ruins. None of these are connected in any logical way, nor is any real explanation given—you just sort of very conveniently materialize in these various locales to do your dirty work. It seems as though this was clearly developed by guys who have played every FPS on the planet and swiped a chapter from each one of them and plopped it into their game, god bless ‘em. Example: In a far back room of the Peruvian temple ruins, there’s a poster of Angelina Jolie as Laura Croft hanging on the wall, and the soldiers have clearly been using her face for target practice. It might be considered funny, but really it’s not.

Graphics are 2004 eastern-bloc blocky, controls are 2004 eastern-bloc clunky. Actually, as the game progresses, it seems to improve in both areas (I’ve had similar experiences with these Russian games—as if the devs slowly figure out what is working as the game progresses and the game gets better as you push through it; “Vivisector: Beast Within” is the epitome of this evolution-in-action). But on that note I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: PC gaming has one MAJOR benefit over console gaming—and that is customization. Trust me, I’m no console hater by any means, but most folks playing “Rock Band” and little (or nothing) else, just want to pop a game in, grab their peanut-butter-smeared plastic guitar controller, and play for 25 minutes. Rock on. Sometimes the less options the better.

But there are geeks who want to fiddle with their software and hardware and see what it can do. Case in point is “Hellforces.” As soon as you boot up the game (before the game begins), you get a “graphics customization” window that allows you to tweak about 30 different items (this, I’ve come to understand, is sorta typical for these eastern European games). You can tweak how thick the vegetation is and how much it moves; you can tweak how many colors you want displayed; you can tweak how many dead bodies you want to remain on screen for a given period of time and how many simultaneous “ragdoll death animations” will occur on screen; you can tweak how far into the distance the environments will be drawn; you can turn shadows and mirror surfaces on and off and increase their resolution, you can tweak how much of the sky will be drawn and if clouds will cast shadows on the ground—and then it provides a benchmarking tool that will run a section of a map with your selected settings and count your frames-per-second. For those who care, pretty neato.

Other than the aforementioned gusto with which it presents itself, and some well-realized alien locations (for the time), the only other redeeming quality is the unintentional humor which comes from the English localization. Some of the one-liners spouted by the wisecracking main character are incomprehensible and, hence, incredibly precious:

“There were so many noodles in him that they fell over his ears. Ha ha!” (Don’t even ask me what this is supposed to mean…)

“Now, which of these cactuses stink most?” (?)

“Aren’t you willing to fill a glass for a lady, my ill-bred friend?” (Heh heh, Ill-bred—I’m going to start calling people ill-bred.)

“Hacksley! You…you…mongrel!” (Those Russians have some powerful putdowns.)

“Well, everything is not so bad after all. Only the whips are missing.” (?)

“A cave!… Ha! If I meet a bear I’ll pan his face in.” (Those bears are in total trouble.)

“This is how I got into HELL… That’s the world where demons come from.” (Say it’s not so! I told myself this exact thing when I finished the game…)

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