Whether you’re a fan of the hunting scene or not, one thing is for sure, to be a true great, you need to have a firm knowledge of just what it is you’re hunting down and the environment for which it resides in. 2017’s theHunter: Call of the Wild was a game that truly showcased just how much skill and knowledge was required when hunting down animals, but now that very experience returns, in an expanded fashion with theHunter: Call of the Wild 2019 Edition.
I’ve never been one to side with hunting being acceptable. Yes, I’ve had the arguments about eating meat, and the effect an overpopulated species can have on the natural environment and the habitats in which they spend their days, but simply the idea of taking the life of another creature without good cause has always felt unfair. For that reason, I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy theHunter: Call of the Wild or not. After spending many hours traversing some of the finest environments possible, hunting by day, waiting by night and taking aim at all hours after hearing a rustling amongst the bushes, I have to say theHunter: Call of the Wild does showcase a whole new side to something I’ve always questioned. Having harmed no animals in real-life to experience it, it’s been one of the best gaming experiences I’ve played in a long time.
When starting things off, players begin by stepping into the vast lands of the Layton Lake District, one of four available maps found within. Layton Lake District is a beautiful and exceptionally large map containing wooded areas, lakes, ponds, fields, rocky mountains and grasslands; the idea is to follow the various story arcs given and learn how to hunt different animals with a variety of techniques. It really does let you understand what it feels like to be a true ranger. It’s not a massively exciting story adventure, despite being surprisingly lengthy, but it doesn’t need to be as it only functions to add a little more depth to what is already an incredibly deep simulation style experience. That’s a good thing as it allows you to focus on the task at hand, hunting.
Hunting isn’t as simple as picking up your rifle, scouring the land and shooting the first animal you come across however. You need to work for your kills, and it all starts by tracking your first animal. As you travel through each of the environments, you’ll come across various animal tracks. In the Layton Lake District this could be anything from a Whitetail Jackrabbit to a Blacktail Deer, or even a Black Bear, amongst many other possible animals. And while finding the tracks of these animals is one thing, finding the actual animal is much harder. Each track can be examined and dependent on the perks you’ve unlocked along the way by levelling up, will depend on just how much information you are given with each examination.
Tracks can vary in quality too with footprints often showing the direction an animal was headed whilst droppings will indicate roughly how long ago the animal was there. Of course if you’ve already seen the animal, have taken a shot and find yourself in pursuit, you may well also find blood trails to indicate the route the animal is now taking. Later on, things such as fur type, the animals weight and other things can be found out too, but before you get into that stuff you’ll need to spend many hours mastering the basics.
Once you feel you’ve managed to get the hang of utilising the various lures, have mastered how to walk silently amongst the brushes, figured out which set of tracks you should be following when hunting that elusive target, and have finally bagged yourself some respectable trophies, it’s time to venture out into the more challenging environments that make up the rest of the game.
Besides Layton Lake District, players can also jump in with Hirschfelden Hunting Reserve, Medved-Taiga National Park and Vurhonga Savanna. If you’ve mastered all there is to offer in Layton Lake District, the best place to go to further push yourself are the latter two on that list.
If you choose to step into the wilds of the National Park, then you’ll need to bring your A-game as not only do you have snow covering the land and crunching beneath your feet at every step, but you’re also stepping into a land that houses many far more dangerous animals than that of the either the Layton Lake District or Hirschfelden Hunting Reserve. This frozen Siberian landscape is home to some of nature’s most hardy and dangerous animals, including the majestic Moose, the Musk Deer, Reindeer, Wild Boar, Brown Bear and should you be able to track it down, even the ghost-like Lynx.
What’s more is Medved-Taiga also brings another fresh new story arc, and countless new missions to the experience. Once more whilst the story sits nicely in the background and can be followed at the players own pace, it’s the hunting that takes centre stage amongst the huge 25 square mile environment.
One thing is for sure though, in Medved-Taiga, the difficulty is seriously ramped up and should you make one wrong step, it’s easy to send everything within a five-mile radius off in every damn direction. You’ll need to take everything you’ve learnt from the Layton Lake District and Hirschfelden maps and ramp them up tenfold or you won’t be hunting a thing. As you can imagine with the snow-covered setting, Medved-Taiga is much like the base game – absolutely stunning to look at. Anyone who appreciates beautiful visuals would find the vast open escapes of theHunter: Call of the Wild an absolute dreamscape.
One thing that does become noticeable though – and this is the first real negative – is one that has occurred with the game’s visuals, seeing you become slightly disengaged with what you are doing. See, there are some unfortunate pop-ups taking place in Call of the Wild 2019 Edition, with trees, bushes and rocks dropping into view when entering a new area. It isn’t something that plagues the game non-stop but it is very noticeable on occasion, with the textures not all appearing at once, feeling like things are being painted in as I went. This takes away from the whole one-open-world experience and ruins the fully-engaging simulation effect that it should be.
It’s a shame too as should this not happen, it would be very easy to believe you are actually in the environment, with the only thing missing being a VR headset or a rather expensive plane ticket to the actual locations in person.
Back to the maps though and the final option of the available 4 within theHunter: Call of the Wild 2019 Edition is the Vurhonga Savanna, and my god, it’s absolutely huge. It’s also terrifyingly deadly and it’s unbelievably difficult, but without a doubt it’s fantastic.
The Vurhonga Savanna is full of vast scrublands, lengthy rivers, murky swamps and luscious stretches of the Savanna… as well as a whole host of deadly animals that roam the African wilderness.
Much like the previous maps, Vurhonga Savanna brings yet another 25 square miles of map for players to trek, even more missions and another new story arc to get stuck into. It is almost the perfect addition to help theHunter: Call of the Wild feel like a true hunting experience.
The Savanna isn’t like any of the other maps in the game however, and with vast open-stretches of land as far as the eye can see, you’ll be throwing the handbook out of the window as it can be hard to keep out of the sight of the numerous animals you’re trying to track down, especially when there is nothing but waist-high bushes separating you and the 1km stretch from roaming Lesser Kudu, Blue Wildebeest, Springboks and Warthogs. Even more challenging still though can be chasing down the Scrub Hare which hone vastly more acute awareness of your incoming footsteps than that of the basic Whitetail Jackrabbits found in the Layton Lake District. The biggest challenges though come from the Side-Striped Jackal, and the widely respected yet deservedly feared Cape Buffalo.
theHunter: Call of the Wild 2019 Edition is a great hunting experience, but the thing that will please most is that should you have friends willing to jump in, the whole experience can be enjoyed in multiplayer, with up to 8-players jumping into a single lobby and going about their business alone, all whilst sharing the same game-world. You can of course also track animals together to ensure a better chance at catching the biggest game. Just ignore the stupid little birds and squirrels though – they yield no rewards.
As you’ve probably figured by now, theHunter: Call of the Wild 2019 Edition is a damn fine hunting experience. It brings the reality of true hunting, it requires the patience of a saint and besides a few texture pop-ups, it’s really quite spectacular visually too.
If you’re a hunting enthusiast, someone who enjoys a challenge, or even a fan of FPS games, chances are you’re going to enjoy theHunter: Call of the Wild’s most complete version yet. With vast maps, a wide collection of weaponry and fine locations, this is one hunting game that shoots the competition out of the water with an engaging experience in which you can’t go wrong.