Title: Hunt: Showdown
Available on: PC
Genre: Shooter, Survival, Hunting
Official Site: https://www.huntshowdown.com/
Release Date: TBA to Early Access
I’ve never listened as hard in a game as I do when I play Hunt: Showdown. I probably look ridiculous, craning my neck every time I hear the slightest noise, trying to pinpoint exactly where that gunshot came from. Hunt: Showdown is a tense, high-risk, high-reward game that offers a much more deliberate shooter than I’m used to. It’s obviously still rough around the edges (being in closed alpha), and there are a few concerns with it. It certainly seems like it is trending in the right direction.
The development history of Hunt: Showdown has been interesting. It was originally announced in 2014 as Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age, and was to function as a pseudo-sequel to the Darksiders series. It eventually got completely redesigned, emerging as the gritty perma-death monster hunter that we have now. Players form teams of two (or rock it solo if you really want a challenge), and four different squads enter the same map. There, they must hunt for clues to the location of the boss monster, kill the boss, and escape with the bounty. Meanwhile, squads must avoid giving away their location and contend with AI monsters and the other player controlled squads.
There’s a lot going on, and it’s a rather harrowing experience. Death comes swiftly and, sometimes, without warning. Multiple times I found myself on the ground, completely unaware of what took me down (I think it was usually one of those zombie dogs that I didn’t notice, but I have no real clue). Death is not the end of the world, but it can be a pretty big setback. This is what brings in the main source of Hunt: Showdown‘s tension.
As you finish missions, win or lose, your “Bloodline” gains experience and money. You gain more for surviving a mission, but you still make some progress. However, you also have hunters. These characters have varying stats and equipment, and they can level up as well. They only gain experience if they make it out of the mission alive. This leads to some interesting choices and options. Especially if one of your hunters has gained a few levels (and, because of this, some stat increases), you sometimes have to change your approach. When faced with a rough start in the early game, I had to decide if I want to hoof it to an extraction point and live to fight another day. With a low level hunter, I’m not as concerned about the time and (in-game) money investment I’ve put into them.
Every decision matters, and it slows down gameplay in a mostly positive way. A few times I found myself wishing there was a PUBG style circle closing in, as the strategy of lurking in the bushes and waiting for other teams to engage the boss can make for some tedious stretches. There is no indicator of how many players are still alive; this adds to the tension, but one game stands out in my memory where I hid for several minutes before tackling the boss, defeating it, and escaping without seeing another player. I get why they’ve chosen the design options they have, but I hope there are some elegant solutions to some of the issues. I suppose that’s why Crytek is running a closed alpha before releasing Hunt: Showdown to Early Access.
The game is obviously gorgeous, and there are some other really smart design choices that add to the tension and power behind the shooting mechanics. A left click melees with any weapon; to fire, you must first hold the right mouse button and then click. You can also hold another key (Shift by default) to aim down the sights even more. Spraying and praying is extremely ineffective in Hunt: Showdown, and the typical “jump, crouch, strafe, fire” isn’t as effective as setting up a good ambush, lining up your shot, and scoring your kill. The shooting aspect feels very different from most games in the genre, and that will help it stand apart. Coupled with the deliberate move speed, it could also turn off some fans of other shooters.
There are still some issues I’d like to see addressed. There are only two boss monsters right now: the speedy, poisonous Spider and the plodding Butcher. Neither one is particularly difficult to solo, let alone defeat with a decently coordinated team. Obviously, the deadliest part of the game is designed to be other players, but it would be nice if there was a bit more strategy involved with taking down the big bad of each level.
The other big problem that worries me is lack of variety. Some games, like PUBG and Fortnite manage to avoid repetition because so many players make for an infinite variety of situations. Monster locations in Hunt: Showdown are randomized, but you are typically rewarded for avoiding big confrontations unless taking on the boss or enemy players. This can make the first ten minutes of each match a bit boring: avoid confrontation, book it to the clues, and wait outside the boss location to ambush enemy teams. This makes the “never saw it coming” deaths even more infuriating, because then you have to do it all over. It’s part of the nature of the beast with a game like this, but tilt can manifest in a hurry with a bit of bad luck.
Overall, Hunt: Showdown is shaping up to be a blast, with a possibility of cracking into a niche eSport. It is still very early in development, and it shows, but improvements just over the first couple weeks of the closed alpha indicates that Crytek is listening to their community and working hard to polish it before a wider release. As long as they continue to add more content and avoid dramatic PR mistakes that similar games have made (ahem… Evolve), this is one to definitely keep an eye on. We will return with a more critical eye as Hunt: Showdown‘s development cycle continues.