Over the last few days I’ve been playing a demo version of Hellgate: London, taking the increased processing power and graphics capability of my new computer for a spin. It’s one of those games in which the pleasure comes not from being immersed in a fascinating and intricately constructed world, but just from the simple, visceral thrill of dashing about like an excitable toddler on Christmas morning, only instead of looking for presents under the tree, you’re splattering bad-tempered monsters in a variety of imaginative ways.
It’s 2038, and as you might have expected, the portals to Hell have opened spilling Legions of the Damned into the streets. Oddly enough London in 2038 looks a lot like London in 2008, in terms of things like vehicle design and architecture, and also in the fact that the city is a grey, dysfunctional slagheap full of crumbling buildings and gangs of slurring, stumbling creatures who will attack you as soon as look at you… only in 2038 they’re zombies instead of chavs. At least in 2038 you’re allowed to shoot the bastards.
Snarkiness aside, the graphics are beautifully detailed and convey a real sense of London-ness, with the red phone boxes, the black minicabs and even the omnipresent CCTV cameras. There are also visual suggestions everywhere of the story of the last hours of the city – burnt out police cars and ambulances, hastily erected quarantine barriers, and buildings torn apart by monstrous forces.
The game is a spiritual successor to Diablo II, especially in the fact that there’s no real storyline, and the gameplay basically consists of running about randomly-generated areas killing anything that moves and smashing apart anything that doesn’t, then gathering the resultant loot. Both the demons and the crates scattered around the metropolis are positively lousy with money, weapons, armour items and health power-ups. It seems sort of odd that I found innumerable submachine guns but not a single can of baked beans. Doesn’t future London have a Tesco’s?
However, the real fun started at the point when I realized that if you took away all of a character’s armour, weaponry and shielding, you could strip them right down to their underwear.
The way forward was so obvious I couldn’t deny it. And so, about 90 seconds later, I’d shelved my warrior dude and instead had a buxom blonde bikini model running around the streets of Covent Garden in her scanties, delivering smackdown on the Hordes of Hell with a cricket bat.
Some people think I’m a little weird. I suspect they're right.