Hellgate: London
Platform: PC (DX10 Compatible)
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games/Electronic Arts
Developer: Flagship Studios
Genre: Action-RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Release: US Summer '07
Japan TBD

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A Female Templar Knight.
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Two pistols, John Woo style.
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The name of this monster is Grotesque. (No, really, it is.)
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Noxious Fumes.
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Neal Chandran
First Look Preview
Neal Chandran

Hellgate: London is a highly anticipated PC RPG that has been on the lips of players and press alike for the past couple of years. Its showing at E3 2005 whetted many an appetite and the playable demo at E3 2006 only made everyone more excited. Many of our own RPGFan staff who attended E3 2006 listed Hellgate: London as a game to watch. Hellgate: London is a very ambitious project not only in terms of production value, but in what it can offer the player. The game's main thrust is in its offline, single-player component, but it also promises to include both free and pay-to-play online components.

Hellgate: London developer Flagship Studios was formed in 2003 by former members of developer Blizzard North, many of whom worked on the popular Diablo games. In short, Flagship Studios comprises of a talented team of industry veterans who have worked on hit games and who have the ambition to create even better ones with Hellgate: London being their debut.

The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic London in the year 2038. Humanity is an endangered species in a world where hellspawned demons are now the dominant creatures. Despite fighting valiantly during the apocalypse, even humanity's best weapons were no match for the demons' might. The only hope humanity has against the onslaught of demons lies in the ancient secrets of human history that have long been forgotten by most of humanity, but have been kept alive by scholars and secret societies. For example, the holy Knights Templar foresaw this dark time in an ancient prophecy; it is their devotion to the holy arts that has kept humanity safe. Back in the late 1800s, when the London Underground was built by the Freemasons, the Knights Templar oversaw the building of many of the stations and even imbued the cement with a special mixture that continues to keep demons at bay. In the game, these underground stations are the only safe places for humans to gather, for they are still protected by Templar magic. Once you leave the stations and venture forth into the city above, all manner of nefarious, nightmarish, hideous, grotesque nasties await you. Demons are littered everywhere on the city streets, so you had better be prepared to fight.

According to the game's official site, you can battle the forces of darkness either as a male or female Templar Knight or as a male or female Cabalist. According to IGN, there will be a third playable class as well called Hunter. IGN also reports via their hands-on preview that players can create their avatars to their liking by selecting various facial features, determining hair color, height, and other dimensions. The heavily armored Templar Knights are the new generation of a traditional ancient order of warriors whose sole purpose is to oppose the darkness. The magic oriented Cabalists have a more progressive view in that they fancy demonology and arcane dark arts not as something to be feared but as something that can open new pathways of knowledge. Cabalists are likely to harness the power of demons and use it against them. The hunters are said to be specialists with long range weapons. In short, it's your basic three classes: warrior, ranger, mage.

There is a large variety of weapons to be harnessed in the game, both melee and distance. The melee weapons consist mostly of swords, but the guns in the game are classified under pistol, rifle, or heavy. According to video footage of the weapons in action, pistols are normally held John Woo style: one in each hand. They fire pretty rapidly too. The rifles and heavy guns are two-handed weapons. Swords are typically one-handed weapons and footage often shows characters holding one sword in each hand. Many weapons even have slots on them that can accept various modifications (called mods). Examples of mods can be different kinds of ammunition that can alter the accuracy or type of damage a weapon can do. Another example could be a slot in a sword that can accept a relic of some kind to enhance or alter its power. There is also a variety of skill sets players can learn. However, some specialization is necessary as one cannot necessarily be a jack of all trades.

Combat is realtime, action-oriented combat and can be done in either a first-person or third-person perspective. Gameplay footage on the official site indicates that switching between the two perspectives should be quick, easy, and seamless. Play is said to take a cue from Diablo in that the stations (the safe areas) are static while the demon filled areas will be randomly generated. Not only will the maps and distribution of monsters be randomly generated, but so will treasure. There is still much speculation as to how both the free and pay-to-play online components will be handled. Nevertheless, like Diablo, the meat of the game is in its offline single-player mode with the online modes being secondary.

Graphics and sound promise to be excellent. Still screens and small trailers of footage likely will not do justice to the visuals of the final product, but from what I saw and heard, the demons look horrifying and make horrifying noises. The environments give the look and feel of desolation in a post-apocalyptic world. The weapons used in the game have a unique look and some great sounds as well. As can be expected, the level of visual detailing in the demons and environments is often greater in the first-person perspective than in the third-person perspective, especially when the camera is panned far from the character, though the graphics look stunning no matter what. In addition, the music and voice acting heard in the game's introductory movie are quite appealing. The music has a cinematic orchestral quality to it and the voice actors delivered their lines convincingly. The CG in the introductory movie is of high quality as well.

Flagship Studios promises a summer 2007 worldwide release. If Hellgate: London does well, perhaps the rumors/talk of subsequent Hellgate games that take place in other major cities (think Hellgate: New York or Hellgate: Tokyo) may come to fruition.


© 2007 Flagship Studios, Namco Bandai Games, Electronic Arts. All Rights Reserved.

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