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In The Hunt (PS1) Review
~by tankMage (August 2017)
In The Hunt is frequently compared to Metal Slug and for good reason: it was supposedly created by the same team. At any rate, I spent much of my middle and high school career browsing the shelves of video game retailers looking for my next favorite PlayStation game and can’t recall ever encountering this title, which is a shame, because it’s one of the most creative shmups I’ve played. In The Hunt puts the player in control of a submarine instead of the usual spaceship or airplane. Some of the stages are very entertaining, which makes this game stand out from the crowd. Too bad it’s also rather short and tends to put the player in nearly untenable situations at times, but this is probably due to the fact that In The Hunt was originally an arcade game and had to cheap shot players from time to time in order to keep those quarters flowing.
Fans of a certain run and gun shooter I mentioned earlier will immediately recognize this game’s art style. Simply put, this game looks beautiful even decades after its release thanks to its detailed yet cartoonish graphics. There’s explosions galore, a variety of enemies, gigantic bosses, and six different settings that are all beautifully designed. Even the enemy sprites are highly detailed and well drawn. The only bad thing I can really say about this title’s graphics is that the player’s sub was not very impressive and could have used a visual overhaul.
Music and Sound
This game has both an arcade and PS1 soundtrack and the player can choose which one plays throughout the game. I didn’t really care for the arcade BGM very much, which is fine, because the PS1 tracks are quite good. The sound effects are another story, unfortunately. In The Hunt is a shooter, so you’ll be launching a lot of torpedoes which is fine, but they make a whoooooooom sound that gets old really quick, especially when accompanied with all the other explosion effects. In fact there were so many explosions going on that the music was often drowned out. You’d think someone at Irem would have noticed this and mixed the SFX volume a bit lower to make it less intrusive.
This game game is shooter and as such, there’s not much of a story, which is fine since shmups are generally oriented entirely towards action. So the gist of the plot is that a group called the Dark Anarchy Society (or D.A.S.) has flooded the planet by melting the polar icecaps and taken over the world. A rebel group manages to build a super sub and sends it out to defeat D.A.S., which is where the game begins. Personally I spent more time than I’d like to admit pondering how such a scheme was supposed to work, but hey, it’s a pretense to make a game about submarines and submarines are cool. Anyway, the story pretty much starts and ends there, so don’t expect a narrative. The ending is especially disappointing, which is about right for the genre, but at least what happens between the ten second intro and the final credits is entertaining.
In The Hunt’s controls are not quite up to par with the great games of its genre and there were times when they felt unresponsive. The subs tend to be slow which makes the game drag at points, though it makes sense that they don’t handle like F-22s, being submarines and all. However, there were several times when the slow movement of the sub really makes the game hard to bear, especially when you have to do something like weave your way in and out of a missile barrage. Aside from that, the controls are fine and the devs were kind enough to put an auto fire feature in the game, which is something that everyone’s thumbs will appreciate. Players can also scroll the screen up or down a bit by hitting the bumpers, which had a few limited applications, but wasn’t all that useful for the most part.
Despite its creative trappings, In The Hunt is rather standard as shooters go and is actually kind of weak compared to games like Gradius, from which it borrowed a few ideas. First of all, the sub can submerge and surface as well as move around freely underwater. You have a secondary launcher weapon that can be used to deal with enemies above you, though you’ll have to surface to kill aerial foes. This launcher can fire either a flak gun or missiles and it changes behavior depending on whether you are above or below water. The sub is also able to launch the different types of torpedoes including a standard torpedo, a torpedo that creates a devastating vacuum wave behind it, and a shrapnel torpedo. While these weapons are generally cool, the actual lineup is pretty sparse and you can only upgrade them a couple of times, which pales in comparison to the variety of armaments offered by many other shmups. There’s also a clear winner out of the weapon choices that you will almost always want to use, which isn’t unusual, but it would have been nice to see more viable options for weapons.
Secondly, poorly balanced difficulty plagues this title. Many of the bosses are quite easy, sometimes laughably so, and yet you’ll find yourself dying to obstacles like volcanic explosions that are nearly impossible to negotiate without a fair amount of practice. As a result, the game oscillates between being ridiculously easy at times and cheap at others. The upshot is that the stages and bosses are very entertaining and filled with all sorts of interesting scenarios, from bomb dropping trains to a sunken city inhabited by a giant that pursues you throughout the stage. There’s also points where you will have to strategize a bit to move forward, which helps In The Hunt stage stand out from other shooters a bit.
In The Hunt also feels a bit short, even for a shooter, with a mere six stages that fly by. Many players will probably be able to beat this game in a day or two, maybe even in a single sitting. Irem did include a two player function and as well as two modes to beef the game up a bit. I can’t comment on the multiplayer mode, since I have yet to try it. There’s little difference between the two modes (known as Arcade and PlayStation modes), which sadly doesn’t lend this game any replay value. I should also point out that this title has no save feature and limited continues, so be ready to start from scratch if you stop playing for a while.
As shooters go, In The Hunt, is a step above mediocre and could have used some work. The devs had a few cool ideas, but didn’t really flesh the actual gameplay out enough to make it truly entertaining. With that said, this title is an interesting precursor to the popular Metal Slug series and at least managed to hold my attention for a while. Despite its decent gameplay, I would have felt a bit cheated had I dropped forty or fifty bucks on this game years ago, only to find that is was brief, even when compared to titles that predated it by nearly a decade.
Most shmup fans will find this game to be a touch slow and maybe too easy in some regards, but amusing. In the end, In The Hunt is more or less an interesting relic that those who wish to explore the PlayStation library a bit more deeply may enjoy.
Thanks for using my In the Hunt review!