By the time I crumpled my 100th foe into a wounded heap in Hunted: The Demon's Forge, I had a solid inkling that the game required a different kind of effort beyond a Gears of War clone with elf ears. True, the essence of Hunted lies within its mixture of hack-n-slash and cover-based elements, but the actual magic sits with the synergy between protagonists Caddoc and E'lara, the mercenary duo of cautious muscleman and bloodthirsty elf huntress, respectively.
In fact, that synergy often works too well against Hunted's menagerie of monsters. Playing with a buddy offers the best experience, but that isn't saying much when the game's polish falters beyond the excellent co-op mode. For the clearest example of this, look no further than the blunder-happy enemy A.I.'s penchant for glitchy behavior such as running into walls and conveniently forgetting their weapons at home.
Forget about strategy. Tactics disappear before the first level completes. If anything, Hunted provides an entertainingly fun opportunity for refining the skills of fledgling co-op partners.
My fellow adventurer hadn't much exposure to co-op gameplay, but that didn't stop him from discovering the plethora of possible spell and ability combinations between the two characters. For example, Caddoc can lift nearby baddies with a swirling cyclone that renders them helplessly dangling in the air. As E'lara, my friend had all the time in the world for picking off the entrapped victims with carefully aimed bow shots. We both relied on this effective form of target practice rather frequently.
Remember that horrible A.I. I mentioned? Because of their simplistic "run at you in a straight line" plan, enemies wound up easy fodder for my partner's stinging arrows. Indeed, he later reported that because of his reduced stress during combat, he could focus on improving his aim and position on the battlefield.
And that's where Hunted shines. Caddoc and E'lara brings the appeal with a strong alliance of mutual protection and witty banter, but the far better takeaway is the game's legions of dimwitted adversaries enabling a fresh co-op player to learn the ropes without blowing a gasket.