We're already convinced that 2011 will be the year of co-op. After Epic's revelation that Horde mode was by far the most popular portion of Gears 2's multiplayer offering, companies are even seeing fit to abandon competitive multiplayer to focus on more chummy play.
Hunted fits neatly into this trend, with a huge emphasis on co-op. Even if you're playing solo, you'll be constantly shadowed by your AI buddy, who will actively help you out rather than just standing there like a lemon as you're smashed about by skeletons.
Playing as meathead barbarian Caddoc, we were able to pile in, all elbows and broadswords, while E'lara hovered at a distance, peppering the bads with arrows and lobbing magic buffs our way. The two are designed to complement each other perfectly, and the game will require you to maximise their combined skills.
While we didn't get the opportunity to give E'lara a spin, it's already obvious that you'll be playing very differently depending on which character you choose. Whether that's enough longevity to warrant two separate playthroughs remains to be seen, particularly as you'll have the opportunity to switch characters between chapters. Bethesda has said there will be several points where the characters can explore multiple paths and head out on their own.
When they're together, though, there'll be banter between them. We've only heard a small snippet and it's by no means cringe-inducing, so it has a cautious nod of approval from us. It's not all going to be Gears-inspired combat either - there'll be puzzles dotted throughout to exercise the muscle between your ears as well as those in your thumbs.
This doesn't mean we don't have concerns. Plot details are still sketchy, and satisfying as the combat is, we'll still need a compelling reason to bash our way through a considerable army of bad guys. We're also worried about the setting. From what we've seen it's fantasy-by-numbers, and no location has really wowed us with originality. There's plenty of competition in the sword-swinging, arrow-shooting genre in 2011, so here's hoping Hunted's more co-op-oriented approach lifts it above the rest.