Added to the lair: 4/4/19
Genre: Point-And-Click Adventure / 3rd person
Developer: Take-Two Interactive
Emulator: DOSBox Daum / Retroarch
Wikipedia: Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller
Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller
You're going to hell!
Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller is… not a good game. It’s certainly not the 12th worst computer game ever made, as Computer Gaming World once described it, but it’s not good either (amusingly, by contrast, PC Gamer gave it a 92%, which it certainly isn't either - the reality is somewhere between the two). The developers went on to make Ripper a couple years later (a game that I quite like overall) so I’m glad they learned from their mistakes. I think Hell is probably worth checking out if you have an existing interest in the genre and subject matter, but you should know what you’re getting yourself into.
Let’s start with the good: it’s turbo 90’s cheesy to the max cyberpunk. That, in and of itself, is enough to get me to play it. The incredibly over the top “future speak” gobbledygook is so ridiculous sounding that I have a hard time not continually chuckling during dialogue (especially since it’s mostly played straight); it’s also ubiquitous throughout the entire game, so if you find it amusing you’re in for a treat, if not, well… The game has some decent enough concepts in the story, even if they end up being half-baked or underutilized. Dennis Hopper’s voiceover is great, but unfortunately far too brief. You get to choose one of two characters to play - Gideon or Rachel… but the game does basically nothing with this, as both are present throughout the game, regardless of who you choose. The map screen is kinda neat...
And that’s… about all I’ve got as far as positive things to say.
Hell is an ugly game. I’ve given you some shader options here to help alleviate that as much as possible, but ultimately it’s a bit like polishing a turd. Early pre-rendered backdrops like those seen here often had the tendency to give the impression “We really don’t know how to use this technology well yet,” and that is certainly true here. Environments are often outright garish. Cutscenes can, at times, drop to a handful of frames per second - this is not an emulation issue, it’s the actual internal play speed, which isn’t improved by increased processing power (you can actually speed them up by holding down left mouse button, and you can see they can play much faster than they do normally) - which is pretty mind-boggling considering how terrible they often look.
The voice acting is, generally speaking, pretty flat. Gideon is mostly tolerable, albeit extremely hammy (which doesn’t really bother me because it’d be next to impossible to not be hammy with the dialogue they have to work with), but Rachel is pretty insufferable. She just comes across as extremely flat and disinterested. The dialogue scenes play out with close up shots of characters repeating brief hand/head gestures while they’re speaking, which looks pretty cheap. There is a single exception to this with one character being captured FMV which, as you can imagine, looks very out of place when every other character is a (bad) pre-rendered model. The game has a serious issue of tonal inconsistency too - it seems to have a really hard time deciding whether it wants to be dark and serious or tongue-in-cheek silly. It has a habit of showing you something gruesome followed by some attempt at a joke.
The game has a lot of half-baked ideas that often go nowhere or end up resolving in really unsatisfying ways; from the puzzles to the “combat” to extra party members that you acquire… there’s just a lot of stuff that really doesn’t go anywhere or just gets haphazardly dropped when the developers didn’t seem to know what to do with it. Oh, and there’s also a time limit; we all love those right?!
There are some interesting ideas here, but far too many of them are undercooked. I don’t hate the game - I did get some enjoyment out of it and I think the developers probably tried their best but, as they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.