Keith's Crappy Videogame Blog


The Hunt (PC, 2008, Russia): Worth Tracking Down, Heh Heh
July 27, 2011, 5:14 am
Filed under: The Hunt (PC, 2008, Russia)

While developing the first-person survival-horror brawler “Condemned: Criminal Origins” (2005), it seems highly likely that some of the dudes at Monolith got their hands on the Russian game “Chernaja Metka” (also known as “The Hunt,” “Black Label,” and released in French-speaking territories as “Traque”) and exclaimed: “Oh shit! We have to make a game like this!”

Yeah, that would be neat. Except, since we’re talking about an eastern European game, it’s the other way around. What I mean is, as usual, the developers at Orion Games in Russia must’ve obtained some beat-up, used copies of “Condemned,” which then led to a bunch of brainstorming and chin-stroking. Yup, “Condemned” (2005) predates “The Hunt” (2008) by three years, so this is yet another case of an earnest Russian developer attempting to emulate a triple-A title…and sort of succeeding. (Oh, and throw some “Manhunt” into the mix for good measure.) Mimicry is the best form of flattery, as they say.

No surprise, there are so many similarities among these titles—beyond the mechanics and extending into the atmospherics—that a lawsuit, rather than a coincidence, seems more likely. Since it is actually a highly competent, relatively high-quality title, I imagine copyright issues are probably why the game was never released domestically in the west. Of course when we’re talking about bottom-shelf games, none of that is a black mark.

For those players who have walloped their way through “Condemned,” here’s a quick list of stuff that will sound familiar: Regular hobo-type folks (though crazed) instead of monsters as enemies? Check. Dirty urban locales, burned out warehouses, underground tunnels, an abandoned church, and a dump? Checkeedoo. Emphasis on up-close brawling and melee weapons, like fire axes, pipes, wrenches, machetes, wooden clubs? Checkeriffic. Guns that are scarce and cannot be reloaded—you chuck the firearm, and snag a melee weapon, as soon as the firearm is empty? Checkeroni. You can only hold one weapon at a time, which means constant thieving of weapons from downed enemies. Checker-yupper. Generally dark, gritty, forboding fighting environments, leading to a lot of creeping around waiting for the next arsehole to jump out from behind a door and slam you in the face? Checker checker. Minimal sound design emphasizing the creaking of girders, the hissing of steam pipes, and the skin-crawling buzz of flickering fluorescent lights? Chicky check. A deliberately slow pace designed to induce dread? I’ve run out of stupid ways to say “check.”

I’d say that “The Hunt” is indeed so close to “Condemned” (either one in the series), that if you played the latter title, but then got seriously cracked on the head by a real-life hobo and forgot, someone could slide the former under your nose and you might not notice.

Of course, “The Hunt” isn’t a carbon copy. The two games do diverge. One unique element is the narrative, and in this regard, honestly, I think “The Hunt” actually comes out on top. (I don’t know about you, but the story in either “Condemned” game made my head spin). The (probably way too complex) near-future dystopian backstory in “The Hunt” goes like this: In 2025, after the 5th Reform, Moscow is in better financial and technological shape than ever. So why is everyone so depressed? Outbreaks of violence pepper the streets, all out of boredom. Citizens line up for mood-altering prescription drugs. Psychologists call it the “Mass Depression.” Then, an internet gaming sensation called “Black Mark” comes to the rescue. Nothing more than a child’s game of cops and robbers, people begin buying small kits of radio beacons and radar detectors. After planting the beacon on some unsuspecting victim, “Hunters” find the victim who carries the beacon and is accosted with water pistols. If the victim is smart and fast enough, he or she may be able to pass the marker on to some other unsuspecting player before being discovered. The game takes the country by storm, and the depression seems to lift.

But then everything changes. A powerful television station, in partnership with the totalitarian government, creates a new show with the same name “Black Mark.” Only in this version, called an “important social experiment” by influential politicians, a new twist is added: Death. At random, innocent citizens are implanted with a viral tag that, if removed, will kill the recipient. Then sanctioned groups of brutal Hunters track the victim, who can remain alive only by evasion or by standing toe-to-toe with the psycho hunters–all of it televised, not only for the public to see, but to also place bets and win money. Ultimately, the idea behind the televised event is to quench people’s bloodlust so that they stop randomly terrorizing each other on the street—and also to show the populace that violence (specifically, violence not sanctioned by the government) will be dealt with swiftly, even to the unsuspecting.

In the midst of all this, you play an unassuming, 30-year-old web designer, Nicolai Kamalov (I’ve also seen it as Nicholas Comolo) who lives in a small apartment. A phone call wakes you up one average evening, and the stranger on the other end of the phone explains, simply, that you’ve been given the black mark as you left a bar the night before. You are now the not-so-proud owner of the viral tag that makes you the unwitting enemy for all the hunters and the star of the TV show. You turn on your TV to confirm, and indeed, according to the female host of the “Black Label” television show, you are the new “Running Man” (I didn’t say that out loud, did I?), and the hunters are on their way to your place. Shit.

Unfortunately, there’s one hiccup. While the marker can be passed surreptitiously from one victim to another to escape a violent end (you can basically let someone else die in your place if you’re sneaky enough), there is, eventually, an “end of the line,” where the marker can no longer be handed off. You, as it turns out, are the last recipient of this particular marker, and you’ll have to see it through to the end. The voice on the phone says he might be able to help you eliminate the marker—through the efforts of an underground social movement who are radically opposed to this brutality, called the “Anti-Label” or “White Label” group. So, off you go into the dark streets, empty subways, sewer tunnels, (and a freaking bizarre amusement park, more on that in a minute) to try and find the promised help. And who knows? Maybe you’ll take a side trip to the damn television station that is airing this awful program to give the management a piece of your mind.

Things go sour pretty quickly. Almost as soon as you open your apartment door and step out into the stairwell, you are accosted by freako hunters with drooling lips, hideous masks, and big, bladed whatzits—all of them looking to rip you apart. Better get running!

As you run, and attempt to defend yourself, you learn bits and pieces of the current state of affairs (the backstory)—through laptops strewn about filthy basements and industrial sites. Also, interestingly, you’ll come across televisions that you can turn on, and the same live host of the “Black Label” TV show will discuss your latest victory clobbering some hunter, while urging viewers to call in their bets. Sound like the movie “Running Man?” (Wait a minute! I didn’t mention that again, did I? This is a videogame blog, not a movie blog.)

One thing never really discussed in a sensible way is the mark itself. What exactly is this “black mark?” Well, wanting a precise definition is simply asking way too much. In some cases, it seems like it is something that can be foisted upon you, like a piece of lint from the bottom of your coat pocket, or someone else’s $80 parking ticket. But then in other instances, it is called “viral” (and it sends out a signal that actually allows the hunters to locate you), and it can only be removed by an injection of something or other, although removing it may cause death. While this might make sense, then a new question arises: If it is biologically implanted, how can you obtain the marker without being aware of it (which is exactly what happened to the character you play)? Also, how precisely can it be passed from person to person? Literally, the game says if you want to get rid of it, you can secretly pass it onto someone else, who then has the bullseye on their forehead. Either way, it’s never clear exactly what the marker is…but hey, it’s the near-future, and you wouldn’t understand it anyway. And stop asking questions before I hit you upside the head with this lead pipe…

A few other interesting mechanics diverge from “Condemned” as well, and most of them work. While in “Condemned” (the first one anyway), Agent Ethan Thomas conducts investigations of crime scenes to further the plot, in the “Hunt,” you have a PDA which serves as a similar “something to do other than brawling” gameplay device. All around the dirty urban landscapes, there are “wifi” connection points which your PDA can access (you have to run around with your PDA in your hand—instead of a weapon and hence vulnerable—tracking signal strength…sort of like an investigation, I guess). Once you get close enough to a wifi point (there are actual wifi junction boxes stuck to the walls that are hard to see, but they are always there where a signal has been detected), you can connect and open locked doors, scan for lurking enemies through cameras, etc. Also, at some of these wifi points, you may place your own bets on your own performance on the show that you are unwillingly starring in, just like all viewers can. Want to place a bet that you’ll be able to stealth your next enemy and take him down with a special finishing move? Then go for it! (By the way, there are some timed-sensitive neckbreaking moves that are nothing special, but stealth kills get you out of having to take damage if you can successfully sneak up behind a hunter.) But beware: If you end up not using a finishing move but instead alert him to your presence and have to chop him into pieces, you lose your money. If your bets are accurate, it is one way to quickly increase your cash reserves, which can used at vending machines throughout the game (placed here and there) to buy medkits, mines (which are damn fun to use on the violent hobos and mask-wearing freakos), nightvision goggles, degradable armor, etc. Why can’t the vending machines outside Walmart sell cool stuff like that?

One last mentionable that strays from the “Condemned” recipe: “The Hunt” makes some attempts at dark humor and half-succeeds. There is one chapter of the game that takes place in a garishly bright, neon-colored, sunlit amusement park that has been inhabited by bloodthirsty clowns, all of whom are hunters out to kill you with their yellow and red clown axes and their bright blue, ridiculously-oversized clown hammers. Pretty fun, and it reminded me, at least in flashes, of running around the amusement park in “Left for Dead 2.” There is a forced minigame in this section (a shooting gallery), and you also get a paintball gun to splatter the killers (which is pretty much ineffective, except as a gag.) Orion got this dead-on right.

In fact, there’s a host of gameplay elements that Orion Games got right. First, you’ve got pretty much a full screen to play in, with a dissolving HUD.  Love it. While the guns feel weak (they aren’t really the focus of the game anyway), the sledgehammer , fire axe, and crowbar—indeed all the melee weapons—feel appropriately weighty, and they swing like they are heavy weapons. They look realistic too. The enemies gradually get tougher as the game progresses (and ultimately you defend yourself against “The Censors,” who are basically paramilitary troops with automatic guns who work for the television station that you infiltrate), and the game doles out suitable weapons to do the job, but you never feel overstocked or cocky. So Orion nailed the resource management part of the game. The gameplay never lagged—the path was usually relatively clear, though some sections took some thinking, and I never really felt stuck. I did, however, get wonderfully lost in the game’s tension, just like when I played the “Condemned” titles, and that says a lot. Overall, this really is a gem—utterly and completely an unapologetic “Condemned/Manuhunt” ripoff—but it is exceedingly well done, really from beginning to end. (Though warning, the end falls off the map entirely…why do these Russian games always melt under their own weight at the end? But ah, that’s part of their…uhhh…charm.)

ENGLISH TRANSLATION STUFF: If you want to play the English-spoken version of the game, the voiceovers aren’t that bad. To get the English-spoken version, you should look for the game as “Traque,” which is the French version—yes, the French version is English-spoken. Otherwise, you’ll have Russian voices. The problem is that all the text in “Traque” (menus, notes, etc.) is all in French. So, you should also pick up the translation materials created by yours truly (they are not perfect but serviceable) that will put most of the text in the game into English too. So, if you play the French version “Traque” with the English translation materials inserted, you get the game in all English, yay. Following is a link to 3D Shooter Legends. Just use the search bar and type in “Hunt” then look for the translation materials link: http://legendsworld.net/shooter/news.

Tiny postscript: Orion Games also developed the mindbendingly wtf “kitchen sink” title “Hellforces” (see discussion here on this blog). Unbelievably, in one room in “The Hunt” right before a mini-boss battle, I came across a wooden crate stamped with the words “Hacksley: The New Dawn,” just sitting by itself in the corner. I immediately stopped. Why the hell did that sound familiar? What does it mean? It took my brain 5 minutes to engage properly, but then it dawned on me:  Hacksley is a character (and The New Dawn is his religious group) that plays a prominent role in the absolutely bizarre, confusing plot in “Hellforces.” Talk about an inside joke. But lo and behold I got that inside joke.

And that most assuredly makes me a mega loser.

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10 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hi,

For some reason, I was absolutely sure that you had wrote a review of Patriot/They’re Alive!. I know you don’t write walkthrough but I expected some tips about what seems to be the end. Too bad!

Good job on your reviews.

Comment by MasteromaN

Hi and thanks! Know what? I have “They’re Alive!” on my shelf, and I am going to play it (of course–how could I not?), and when I do, I will definitely be writing about it here. It is exactly the kind of game that belongs on this blog. Anyway, since you’ve played it, are you are confused by the ending, or are you stuck? I haven’t seen a walkthrough for this, and I doubt you ever will…What do you think of the game overall?

Comment by wkduffy

Hi and thanks for the reply. I could finally beat the game, yay! It’s just I was always low on ammunition during the whole game, so I could only shoot a few bullets on the boss. Since the place was being destroyed, I was wondering if I had to wait or something, but no, you can approach the boss without being killed then you can use your melee weapon. What’s funny is I was stuck right at the beginning of the game and at the end.

But the ending is confusing, yes…

I don’t want to spoil the game so I don’t really know what can I tell you about it, but for me it’s a huge disappointment and incomprehension. Even if I’m not a fan of Orion games, their other games had something of a game in my opinion. With “They’re Alive!”, I just don’t understand what they tried to do. Imagine a mod for “The Hunt”. Since it’s a mod, it’s more ok that it’s short. But even with new environment, ennemies, and weapons, it needs something to be interesting. I’ve found the story of “They’re Alive!” extremely bad. Not that the one of “The Hunt” is awesome, but if you decide to detail it (player drives to a place, there he talks with someone on phone about something, then he has to escape because some guys are attacking him…) – so the story and what you can do in the game – it’d be pretty long. About “They’re Alive!”, I think you can detail the story in your review and it’d be as long as your usual reviews.

For you to compare, I gave “The Hunt” 5/10 but for “They’re Alive!” I’d say 3/10 but I’m not sure yet if 2/10 would be more appropriated. As a mod I’d say it’s bad and useless so imagine for a full game!

But maybe you’ll find the game cool, haha. Play the game and write your opinion here. Did you know it’s inspired by the movie of John Carpenter, “They Live”? Well, it’s not important anyway 😉

Comment by MasteromaN

Hello, I was browsing random PCSX2 stuff on google and came across your Rule of Rose review. Great blog all around, am always looking for the good in games that are considered bad. I feel usually if something is critically bad it means that somebody is playing it wrong. I try to understand what the developer was trying to do while making the game, while they were making it they mad a decision for a reason (Alone In the Dark has many of those what were they thinking moments: See Print Screen Button). Whether fun or not, or I’m right or wrong, I find the study interesting. I’ve never heard of ‘The Hunt’, due to your blog I will check it out when my schedule clears, I thoroughly enjoyed Condemned.

But again to what brought me to here, I started dabbling back into emulation, started looking more into Gamecube/Wii emulation, to make a long diatribe short, I discovered that a team of translators translated Fatal Frame 4 into English, and you might be interested in checking it out seeing as it will never come to the States.

Fatal Frame 4 was some how made by Suda 51 of No More Heroes and Killer7 fame. With Fatal Frame being weird, Suda51 knows weird well. If you haven’t checked out Killer7 I highly recommend it on the Gamecube, Dolphin emulation makes it look amazing.

Comment by Mark

Hi Mark. So, you are also a PCSX2 user? My experience thus far has been scant (only 2 or 3 games at this point [Rule of Rose, Siren 2], and some of the games I tried, such as the little-known Echo Night Beyond, were unplayable (in that game, the reflective, metallic walls of the moonbase you explore are drawn in PCSX2 as transparent, so it is impossible to navigate where doors are, etc.). But I have been singularly impressed with that emulator so far. I have a handful of other horror games (Haunting Ground, Michigan: Report from Hell, Silent Hill Origins AND Shattered Memories, Fatal Frame 3, Kuon) I never got around to on the PS2 that I will try on PCSX2. SO, thanks so much for the info regarding Dolphin, and I never even knew Fatal Frame 4 existed! Something new to add to the shelf, since I have made my way through Fatal Frame 1 and 2, and I regard them highly. Funny too, I’ve never really played a Wii game before, until this very moment. The next post on this blog will be about the PC port of “Cursed Mountain,” which was originally a Wii game, that I am almost finished. So far, it’s not too bad, though not a scare-your-pants-off affair, especially if you’re a long-jaded horror buff like me. Last, regarding “The Hunt,” I really did like it, though if you are not used to playing low-rent eastern Euro ripoffs, you have to adjust your expectations a little bit. But it is a fine starting place for one reason: In the hierarchy of eastern European videogame junk (all which I hate to love), The Hunt is high on the crappy ladder quality-wise. Finding it, like a lot of these never westernized titles, can be tricky…but it’s out there. Cheers!

Comment by wkduffy

I forgot about Michigan: Report from Hell (never released in America) it is also made by Grasshopper/Suda51 (the studio behind Fatal Frame 4/Killer7/No More Heroes) and sounds fascinating, I will hunt that down to to put it on the backlog. I’ve never heard of ‘Echo Night Beyond’ hopefully PCSX2 can figure that out I like and appreciate what From Software does, the gameplay sounds a little like Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

A game I really want to play on PCSX2 just for the HD improvements is ‘Robot Alchemic Drive’ its a crazy mech game were you are boy who controls a mech with a PS2 controller, kind of simulating a remote controlled car but with mechs. The game is always from the kids/players perspective so its up to you to get the best vantage point.

My goal was to jump into Fatal Frame 4, but your blog sidetracked me to Precursors (which I’m currently enjoying, I’ll post thoughts when I get farther in, I just got my ship running), then I’ll be sidetracked to Neuro, who knows when I’ll finally get to FF4. Currently juggling Person 3 (PSP), Precursors, and just got NBA 2k12 not because I was dieing to play it, but more so in an attempt to join my social circle. Not to mention the co-op games I’m playing with the wife…

Sorry relapsing into complaining about being busy, I have had little time to make any progress on the games I’m currently undertaking. Its been 13 days since I bought Precursors and am only a few hours in.

Comment by Mark

Do you have any idea where I can find this game? I’ve been searching for it, for a loooooong time. I eventually “obtained” a Russian copy of it but the Starforce crack doesn’t work on 64 bit operating systems. I’d obviously buy it if it was sold in the US (I own 500 games on Steam, 100 on Gamersgate, etc). I’m not a pirate unless it’s the only way to play the game.

And now after coming across your post I find out there was a French version that I never heard of. Any idea where I can get it?

Comment by Peter

Hi Peter. I am right there with you. I’m willing to blow money on whatever. But if the only way to play some nonwestern titles is by “acquiring” them in other ways, then so be it. I played the Russian version of “The Hunt” on my XP drive probably with the same crack that you have, so I don’t have a version of the game that will magically work for you–in other words, it isn’t the game or crack you’ve got, but the install is not playing nice with your OS, probably. It is for this reason precisely why I’ve got dual boots/dual drives on all my rigs–one with XP SP3 (a 32-bit vrsion), and one with Win7 (a 64-bit version). Even though Win7 is supposed to be a champ when it comes to compatibility mode (which, did you try that? and try compatibility on everything, the game’s exe and also even the install.exe when you install it, and also possibly the crack.exe and the starforce.exe–just make sure you are hitting compatibility on all). <<Usually that doesn't work anyway, and so I VERY OFTEN have to rely on my actual XP in order to run some of these games. In fact, I sometimes find that a game will run fine for a while on Win7, but then it gets funky or it will refuse to boot suddenly, and then I am transferring my saves and I am right back to the XP again. My most immediate solution is: Can you get your hands on XP and maybe partition your hard drive (if you only have one) and install XP on it? It may seem like too much work, but I'd say at least half of the titles I've played in the last year actually required XP, and if your plan is to play many of these older games, then it might be worth your while. Regarding "The Hunt," it is one of the more "high performing" games on this list of crappy titles (meaning, it is still bottom-barrel, but it is WAY near the top of the barrel, regarding actual story, gameplay, and visuals…I am very forgiving when it comes to games, obviously, but I actually REALLY recommend "The Hunt" if you know what you are getting into–there's a very interesting dystopia here on display, and the game's got some pretty well done atmosphere in that "Condemed: Criminal Origins" kinda way). One more suggestion: If you are not familiar with 3D Shooter Legends (3DSL…it is basically an encyclopedic site of every shooter game from the beginning of time run mostly by one guy, Scaryfun and supported by the rest of us), you should Google it and go to the forums and place an inquiry under "Games Support"–there are some very knowledgeable folks there who do nothing but wallow in the technical issues of trying to play these older titles on newer rigs. Let me know if you get it running; your post can help others here. Good luck.
PS: Sorry this got so long. But you are actually right (I forgot): There is a French version of the game. It is called “Traque.” I found one link to it here, but I don’t think you can get it mailed to you if you are in the US: http://www.jeuxvideopc.com/jeux/32275-the-hunt.php

(I Googled the keywords Traque and Anuman…Anuman is the publisher for the French version, I think.). Anyway, I still think you will have trouble with the game, since it is the same crack you’d need. I think running it in XP is your best bet.

Comment by wkduffy

Hey Keith,

Thanks for taking the time to respond! And no need to apologize for the length, brevity isn’t one of my strong suits either 😉

I have some great news!

I FINALLY GOT THE GAME TO WORK!!!

Oh man, finally after having this copy for about 2 years. I thought all hope was lost.

I looked through the forum of the site you sent me and ran across other people trying to get StarForce games to work under 64 bit systems. I’m Ukrainian and I speak Russian so I googled around and found various Russian language sites responsible for the cracking and to this day a 64 bit crack still has not been released.

Thankfully, the post I came across the user got his game to work by simply mounting the image in Daemon Tools and turning on all the emulation options in Preferences —-> Advanced.

No crack needed, no nothing. Just keep the image mounted when playing. I can’t believe it worked.

I think it’s weird this game never came out in English speaking territories considering the fact the developers’ previous games all came out and are available on GamersGate.

I was starting to worry that dual-booting would be the only solution as I have some other games with the same copy protection (The Swarm for example which you also reviewed).

I have the same mindset as you. I generally enjoy most modern games (well I’m starting to enjoy less and less of them) but I also really love playing some of these obscure low-budget games, whether the obscurity is for better or for worse.

But when I do come across these games, I try to get the original Russian version and then look for an English subtitle patch. Cryostasis (which I’m surprised you haven’t reviewed!) had absolutely dreadful English voice acting while the Russian one was amazing. Precursors (which you have reviewed) is completely butchered. They didn’t bother hiring voice actors and cut out all the Russian voices. It was also a lazy job because they ended up removing a lot of sound and music as well. Even if my understanding of Russian can be limited in some ways, I’d still rather hear it than bad English voice acting or none at all. It’s like watching an Asian film and have it ruined by the English dubbing (I can’t stand it).

Either way, I’m glad I came across your blog! It was the only English site with information on The Hunt that I came across, haha. Great stuff here!

I’m surprised you haven’t reviewed NecroVisioN from Poland. I absolutely loved it, one of my favorite FPS ever (the prequel not so much). It’s a weird mix between an old school arcadey shooter while also having a ludicrous story that is really well fleshed out (made by ex-Painkiller devs).

Comment by Peter

Peter: Success!! Glad 3DSL was a good resource. I’ve gotten lots of help from there too. RE: Cryostasis, I have played it, loved it easily, but I played it about a year before starting the blog. I’d wouldn’t feel right not playing it again before writing about it, so it’s on my “replay” list…with tons of new things to play, it keeps getting pushed back. I also completely agree with you (and several of my comments in some of the posts reiterate this): I’d MUCH rather listen to so-so Russian/German/what-have-you voicework than English voicework that I can much more readily idenitfy as crappy (and read English subs instead). But of course, sometimes the (cruddy) localized versions are more easy to find. Lucky, the English voicework (and the missing voices problem) with Precursors is well covered on the net and I was able to find the best mix of all the patches to get everything right. Finally, NecroVisioN I know about, but I’ve not added it to my playlist mostly because I’m not too fond of straight-up military shooters (historical ones even less so). But I’ve always wavered on that title because of its weird setup, alternate history/zombie/monster angle. So, maybe I’ll add it to the shelf, esp. since you say the story is so well rendered. Thanks for reading and suggesting!

Comment by wkduffy




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