Hunt: Showdown Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One and PC
Hunt: Showdown is a multiplayer survival horror from Crytek, creators of the Far Cry series (although they only actually developed the first game, not the more successful sequels) attempting to fill a hole in the market that the Left 4 Dead series once filled. The purpose of the game is to explore a monster-infested map with a squad of other players, searching for three sets of clues to unlock the location of a special monster, which you must then track down and kill to collect your bounty. Once the job is done, you must fight your way to the extraction point and fend off any coming hordes that try to stop you before the extraction countdown is complete. This end of game stretch feels most reminiscent of the incredible Left 4 Dead series, which is not a bad franchise to crib from, although the rest of the game would struggle to measure up to Valve’s game-changing masterpieces.
One other aspect that Hunt: Showdown shares with the Left 4 Dead series is the inventive, gnarly creature designs. There are basic zombies everywhere you turn, but there are also some very fun special zombies to contend with, such as a woman that has a hornet nest growing in his chest cavity. As a horror fiend with a penchant for good monsters, there was a lot to appreciate here.
Regrettably, that’s one of the few truly successful elements that Hunt: Showdown shares with that series. The maps are procedurally generated which means no two games are alike, which may keep you on your toes, but it robs the maps of any real character. A well-designed map has form and function for every square inch ahead of you but when the choices are completely random there is often a lot of dead space to trek through, everything feels rather meaningless. That being said, the assets used to create these maps are high quality. Dripping with atmosphere, the bayou inspired period setting is so well realised with its ambient sounds of buzzing flies and the sun-bleached dirt at your feet, you can almost feel the heat of the sun on your face.
On top of a lack of memorable locations to explore there are also no interesting characters to play. When hero-based shooters are so hot right now, with games like Overwatch and Apex Legends give you a definitive sense of who each avatar is simply through design choices, it feels like something is missing when your options for avatars are just variations of people in dungarees. The monsters had more thought put into them than the maps or characters and while they are excellent, it is simply not enough.
One way Hunt: Showdown differentiates itself from other squad shooters is the use of different combat styles. You are offered the choice of ‘sharpshooter’ and ‘hunter’ – sharpshooter follows a more traditional FPS approach where you can fire your gun at any time but your hand-to-hand combat suffers for those close encounters, hunger will only allow you to fire a weapon when it is being aimed but it offers more flexibility in its melee combat and allows for modifications to be made to your X and Y axis sensitivity, for those who wish to play the game with more guile. Hunter mode worked well enough but gunslinger favoured my more panic-stricken play style.
The combat was appropriately weighty and challenging, the weapons on offer are clunky in a period-appropriate way, you cannot unload a clip in a split second, each shot takes its time and reloading can be laborious, which only enhances the tension when a monster is running at you. The impact of the weapons feels nice and weighty, there is a strong kick to the recoil and it is matched by the gore effects when a shot is on target. One of the most important aspects of an FPS is making sure shooting things feels engaging and Crytek succeeded here.
Hunt: Showdown is designed to be played in teams but solo efforts are an option if you cannot find anyone to play with, or you simply do not feel like interacting with anyone that day. Obviously, solo play is more challenging and death is immediate so a more cautious playstyle is advised, but that can add to the drama of a game.
No major performance issues were noted during play on a standard PS4, everything ran relatively smoothly and the controls in-game were intuitive and responsive. The only major technical issues found were some rather lengthy load screens.
The game has a fairly standard progress system, where you grind to earn points that can be traded for new weapons or new hunters, or merely customise your current hunters look. Micro-transactions are offered but the game already has a nice selection of options for earning bonus points through daily challenges and my game started out with a sizeable amount of coins from simply playing a tutorial mission, so it is hard to say how reliant the game will be on microtransactions to progress.
The core gameplay loop of hunting clues, fending off monsters, before tracking down a bigger monster is a reliable one but it is difficult to say how much replay value there is in this particular loop when there are games like Monster Hunter World are doing it in a much more compelling, polished fashion or classics like the aforementioned Left 4 Dead doing the same idea in a far more simplified, immediately engaging way. I was engaged by the aesthetic, I found the combat system to be strong, but the lack of personality really got in the way. Without real maps to explore and master, or distinct character play styles to experiment with, the shine of the experience faded quickly.
Unfortunately, Hunt: Showdown feels like a game that will find its audience once the title is being offered on PS Plus or Xbox Games With Gold, there are simply too many better options out there for people to part ways with their money for this.