Crytek’s latest game is a strange kind of formula added into usual shooting games. At first, it looks like any other survival or battle royale shooter, but as soon as you get acquainted with its gameplay mechanics, it will show you how different and wild a shooting game can be. If you dive into this game expecting another Playerunknown’s Battleground or, God forbid, another Fortnite, you’re in for a rough ride. But let’s not talk about what this game is not and focus on its exciting features.
Hunt: Showdown could be described as a mixture of two other, relatively obscure, games. The first is Evolve, a team-based monster hunting game released in 2015, and the other one is a newer, hardcore tactical shooter called Escape from Tarkov. There’s also a little bit of the player-versus-player mode from The Division added for good measure.
When you start the game, the first thing you do is hire a hunter. Hunters are characters you’ll play as, and each one has their own unique set of various skills and equipment. Loadouts include weapons, like pistols, rifles, and close combat weapons, but also survival gear and consumables. After you’ve chosen and equipped your hunter, you’re to choose your mission. Each mission requires you to hunt down a different monster on a different map during a different time of the day. The only thing these hunts have in common is that none of them is a walk in the park.
Ideally, you should have a friend you’ll play this game with. Venturing alone into the wilderness is not a good idea, and communication between cooperating players often makes a difference between surviving and dying. If you can’t find any friends, the game will match you with a random player. Together, you’ll have to find the monster, kill it, take the loot it dropped and escape the area while other hunter teams try to kill you and take over the loot.
Wait, I didn’t mention there are other teams with the same task as you? Well, now you know. It wouldn’t be interesting otherwise, would it? Sometimes, you don’t even have to kill the monster to be declared prey by other hunters and get caught in the middle of the crossfire. This game apparently doesn’t cherish the spirit of communion hunters are famous for, but the survival of the fittest. You’ll be switching between the hunter and the prey too often for comfort.
This game uses the environment to great detail, which creates the vibrant and vivid effect of the true hunting ground. And I don’t mean only visual effects, which are also impressive, but the wildlife. If you disturb birds or rodents, you’ll give away your position and both beasts and fellow hunters will know where to direct their aggression. All over the map, the clues are scattered, and finding them will help you locate the position of the boss monster. Once you track down the main feind and hunt it down, a timer starts to tick down and the loot appears. The moment you pick the loot, every other player in that mission can see you on the map. All you can do is to escape the map before the timer ticks down to zero, with the giant target painted on your back.
There are several strategic ways to achive victory. You can go around the map, hunting and killing your adversaries before turning on the monster, but given you have very limited ammo, that might not be an optimal modus operandi. You could follow the players who are closest to the monsters and plunder them once they defeat it. The downside of this plan is that two players are often harder to kill than a single monster. It’s entirely up to you and your partner to decide what kind of approach you will take in order to succeed.
After finishing a mission, players will gain so-called bloodline experience, which is the fancy name for their online account. Higher bloodline points mean more perks being unlocked, which expands the capabilities and stats of your characters. But, once you die, all your progress goes down the drain and you’re back to the drawing board. That element of play raises the stakes and the feeling of urgency. And even more than urgency, panic.
Indeed, panic is the key word here, and you’ll feel it a lot. You’ll get panicked once you realize the echoes of your gunshots attract monsters and fellow hunters. You’ll feel panic when you try to escape the map with the loot while bullets buzz around you like a swarm of angry bees. Ultimately, you’ll feel panic mixed with frustration when you lose all your gear because your character was careless for a second. But this type of panic is addictive, and if every other element matches the feeling, the atmosphere it creates is exhilarating in a way a few games can achieve.
I mentioned already the similarity of this game with Escape from Tarkov, which revolved around survival and escape from a danger zone. The thing that players criticized about that game was that the goals Tarkov gave to the players were very vague and unclear. It’s like the team behind Tarkov wanted players to wander free and achieve whatever they want. It did give players the unprecedented level of freedom, but also turned the game into the walking simulator, with a lot of empty space between action. Hunt sets that right, giving every player on the map the same, specific goal and composing them closer together as the mission goes further. Something PUBG does with the circle, but without the need for an actual divider.
Hunt: Showdown is a brave experiment in the shooting genre, which combines elements of hunting games, team-based strategy shooters, and survival games. The success of this game depends mostly on one thing: the good matchmaking that offers each and every player a level playing field. That means players with similar levels of abilities will team up against each other, which will create a formidable player community. For now, critiques for this game are mixed, but there’s still time to improve and make this game realize its tremendous potential.