Huntsman

In the black and sugar-coated spirit of Halloween*, a game idea:

What I’m proposing is a kind of occult Swat 4. Let’s call it Huntsman. Each level is you arriving on the scene of a monster sighting- vampires at the hospital, werewolves at a wedding, banshees in a bank, etc. By the time you get there the locale has been sealed off by the authorities with a mass of civilians still inside, and you (and your team?) are sent in to hunt down the disguised creatures and kill them.

Same as Swat 4, finishing the mission in Huntsman is only half the fight. The real game is in choking down all that foggy tension and the immersive, restricting first-person perspective and carrying out your mission with minimum of bloodshed.

But in Swat 4 you’re always struggling to fit shoes that’d be better occupied by some unblinking automaton. The ideal Swat agent would be a robot programmed by the book, a machine capable of carrying out the specific tactical procedure for any situation with laser-guided accuracy and animal reflexes. I’m envisioning something more emotion-driven.

First of all, the monsters are disguised as the regular people. While Swat 4’s core was in breaching and subduing of individual rooms in a haze of tear gas, Huntsman would be about walking into a room that could explode into violence at any moment and calmly sniffing it out. That could be as simple as approaching each civilian, one by one, and spraying them with essence of garlic, or it could be as difficult as watching their body language and asking them questions.

Maybe the room’s clean, and you tell everybody to stay right where they are before moving deeper into the building. Or maybe as you’re working the crowd the monster panics, drops its disguise and lunges at you while your back is turned. Or maybe you decide the four people in the room are civilians, leave, then go running back at the sound of screaming and find the room empty but for three bloodied corpses.

The second feature of Huntsman for players to consider and master is that of panic. As long as the situation remains calm the civilians will cooperate and your steely hunter can go about his business methodically. But the moment civilians start panicking a level will get exponentially harder. In a mad crowd the monsters can move about at will, the screams of victims will mingle with screams of terror and you’ll have to keep ice cool when civilians start running at you (maybe they want to ask you something, maybe they want to wrestle your weapon off you). The movement of any civilian towards you will naturally reduce your whole investigation of their character into a single second spent measuring their speed and gait to determine whether they’re really a monster, whether you’re about to receive a mauling and whether you shoot.

Keeping the crowd calm in the first place might be a matter of walking instead of running, tagging civilians with brightly coloured bracelets once you’ve decided they’re ‘clean’, or dragging your suspects off to basements or other secluded places before you shoot them. Dragging the mood of a room back down once panic has set in is harder. Maybe you’ll have to give away a weapon, slap some sense into someone or tell someone in a gravelly voice to shut the fuck up if they want to get out alive (though if they’re close enough to losing their shit any of these might push them over the edge).

Give the game multiplayer and give it a final level set in some rich kid’s Halloween party and you’ve got something I’d give a toe to play.

* I am NOT writing this late. For your information, if I still have makeup left on my face it’s still Halloween.

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Comments

  1. I went to a birthday party like that once. It was brilliant.

    • I remember playing a vampire hunting game at this stage school I used to go to. Big crowd of people walking around, the ‘vampire’ kills people by baring his or her teeth at them, the hunter has to spot the vampire. It was awesome. The game always ended in a half dozen people trying to pick their way through 20 or 30 bodies.

  2. I’d say this would be better as a L4D mod than SWAT 4. Obviously it would need some major movement/engine changes, but the way the engine monitors things such as implicit line of sight and intelligent AI control could, in theory, work well for the game.

    That said, SWATs dark atmosphere would fit nicely with the concept of a government-sanctioned super-natural hit squad.

  3. There was this show years ago, I think it was called “Ultraviolet”. It was about a British cop whose partner vanished during his own stag party. The partner starts investigating the disappearance and learns two things: first, his pal was a crooked copper. Second, he disappeared because he knew he was about to be arrested, so he decided to become a vampire instead.

    He learns this last part when he’s attacked by vampires and rescued by an MI-5 type of organization that has roving tactical units killing and arresting vampires throughout Britain. Naturally, they recruit him and the series has its proper beginning.

    But the really cool part was the tactical unit. They operated like a SWAT team, but they were forced to use wood-tipped ammunition and side-mounted camcorders on all their weapons. They would be clearing a building with one eye on their surroundings and one eye glued to the camera, because if you saw a dude standing there and he wasn’t showing up on the screen, you had to take him.

    Anyway, your scenario reminded me of this excellent show. I really think this is a game that should be made. The possibilities are fascinating.

    Imagine a scenario where your team has received a last minute tip about the lair of a group of vampires, and your team is racing to the location as the sun is setting. If you rush the job, you might make mistakes and get squaddies killed. If you take too much time, you’re going to have vampires coming out of the woodwork in the darkness.

    Damn. Wish I had the slightest interest and talent for modding.

  4. Dr. Nerfball says:

    See this sounds interesting, but does anyone remember The Thing game on the PS2? You had something like 4 squaddies and any 2 of them could be infected and then all of a sudden at random moments BOOM! Face tentacles everywhere! But yeah, the thing was, there was a squad trust mechanic, which you could raise by giving people medkits and breaching rooms for them, but if you helped someone who was infected then it was all for nothing. And if the trust got to low, they could think you were infected and would kill you dead, which was a fantastic game mechanic. I can’t remember if it’s been used anywhere else, but it could be used here.

    I mean, if you split up your squad, one of them could get infected whilst he’s out scouting, and you’d need to figure it out or get jumped later. It could create a mechanic where you’re trying to cover area quickly to prevent civilian casualties, but you need to make checks on your own people as well, which could have a negative effect on morale.

    And then there could be crowd actions, they could try fighting back, they could panic, they could try and bargain with the creatures… but yeah. I’ll shaddaup, my ideas aren’t half as coherent as I would like them to be in this cold addled state.

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