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Shoot The Rich: Hedone Preview

Smash TV, Anyone?

Caldwell has been abroad in London town to bring us the first look at MMOFPS Hedone. Here's what he made of those initial impressions.

I really wanted this to be stellar, so that I could run “Hedone Good” as part of the headline. “Hedone Maybe OK I Don’t Know” just isn’t as eye-grabbing. Hedone is an upcoming free-to-play first-person shooter from German developer Acony. It sprung up from the ashes of a cancelled game called Parabellum which apparently ran into “issues”, as games often do. It's got shooting in, as you can see from the pictures below. It's also online, which means Social stuff. Let me explain.

Hedone is set in the very near future, where a social media guru named John Lazar becomes stinking rich and decides to invest in cloning – much to the amusement of his company’s board members. The UN declares these “synth” bodies as non-human and therefore without rights. The obvious thing to do here is to pit the clones against one another in televised fights to the death, as every good social media baron knows. It’s Unreal Tournament meets The Social Network. It’s bloodsport meets reality TV. It’s Britain’s Got Innards.

But comparisons to Unreal would give you the wrong idea of how it seems to handle. Hedone is a very modern-looking shooter. Herein also lies the concern. For all its fun fifteen-minutes-into-the-future story, once you see it in action, its influences lie heavy on its shoulders. The customisation menu is Brink (but without multiple classes of character), the sliding manoeuvre is pure Bulletstorm (but without the brutal kick at the end) and the XP system is very Call of Duty (but a little more confusing).

For this last one the concept of Killstreaks is replaced with “Skills” and instead of earning these by collecting kills without dying, you have to earn something called “Heat.” This is where it gets a little convoluted.

“Heat” basically measures how many arousals you’ve given the audience of this perverse battlesport. It’s earned in a couple of ways. Firstly, vanilla murder gets you Heat (gets you hot?) Secondly, dancing over the body of your fallen victim using one of the game’s “Taunts” gets you hot. Thirdly, unusual kills get you hot. For example, murdering that punk-rock chick, taking her MP5 and then murdering her again with her own weapon? That gets you hot. Once you’ve built up enough Heat and earned that Skill, it remains available for the rest of the match but has a cooldown period to avoid getting overused. You can only choose four Skills in the loadout, so I imagine there’ll be a balancing act to perform. Two of the Skills we saw on show where Akimbo submachine guns and a minigun. There was the promise of a “berserker” Skill, which makes the player grow claws and dash around in a rage, slashing people up and ting. But apart from that it does seems a little disappointing that the word “Skill” has so far simply replaced the word “Weapon.”

The Game Director, Mario Rizzo, doesn’t seem too fazed by the similarities with Call of Duty. His enthusiasm, for the story at least, is commendable. “We think that people would genuinely sign up to this show. Right now millions of people already sign up to go on Big Brother and other reality shows. “Essentially, we think that people would sell their souls to get onto this show.” Given the continuing nightmare plunge of television nowadays, I’m inclined to agree with him. People would sign up to this show. Whether people will sign up to Hedone in such numbers, though, isn’t clear yet.

The backstory is definitely quirky but unless there are more ways of tying this into the game’s competitiveness, aside from simply taunting someone every time you get a kill, I’m afraid it looks like Hedone is travelling on very well-worn ground, on the back of a well-worn mule, called Wellworn. Wellworn the Mule. But it’s early days yet and Acony still have the closed beta to get through, in which to tweak things. Maybe by then, the mule will be able to surprise us by, I don’t know, kicking me in the stomach. Yeah. A metaphor like that.

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