Robert Steinman
E3 2014: Gauntlet Preview
Can you teach an old dog new tricks?
06.19.14 - 6:49 PM

I spent countless hours playing Gauntlet on my friend's NES way back in my youth, and it would seem Warner Bros. is hoping to capitalize on the nostalgia of fans like me with the upcoming revival of the arcade classic. Under development by the talented gang over at Arrowhead Game Studios, who previously worked on the well-received Magicka, the latest incarnation of Gauntlet brings four player co-op action to Steam in just a few short months. I got a chance to watch the game played on the E3 show floor, and, well, it's Gauntlet. Four players run around as the fantasy archetypes fighting monsters and collecting money along the way. All of the classic audio cues are there. Hearing "Elf needs food badly" over the din of the crowd certainly brought a smile to my face, but little else electrified the experience in a meaningful way. In a way, the game comes across as a checklist of very old ideas with a few contemporary conveniences to keep it feeling somewhat fresh.

Taking a few notes from modern game design, Gauntlet controls like a twin-stick shooter with separate control over movement and targeting. Being able to run around the dungeon while targeting monsters certainly allows for a much more mobile experience. Long range attacks and monster closets are the bread and butter of this series. Enemy hordes can quickly overcome less skilled players, and there's always the chance that you'll accidentally shoot life-giving food and leave yourself the butt of party ridicule and spite. One interesting addition to the proven formula are relics which allow the player to activate a cooldown-based skill for devastating effect. There was some indication that these relics could shake things up in positive and negative ways, but I didn't get the chance to see any of that during my hands-off demo.

Still, I felt like I was watching a new paintjob on a very old concept. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but there wasn't anything truly new or exciting about Gauntlet. It's just Gauntlet. I kept waiting to see something that screamed creativity or at least held my attention above watching axes fly across the screen. There's still a chance that environmental interaction or more complicated bosses lay in wait for would-be adventurers, but for now it would appear that Gauntlet is going to be a fun nostalgic trip for some and a small download experience for others. Here's hoping there's a bit more meat on this particular chicken leg that will come to light upon release.