theHunter: Call of the Wild Review
Avalanche Studios / Expansive Worlds
Single player, multiplayer
Xbox One (Review), PS4, PC
Avalanche Studios and THQ Nordic
Grab your weapon, track an animal, wait, deep breath, one shot. theHunter: Call of the Wild is a simulator unlike any other I have played. It takes patience, understanding and cunning to take down your prey, but is it worth the wait?
After choosing your hunter, Call of the Wild gives you the choice of two reserves and with over 50 square miles to explore, both vary drastically in both their aesthetics and the wildlife in which you can hunt. Layton Lake District is located in the Pacific Northwest and is covered in dense forest, rocky mountain slopes and marshland. Here you can hunt down deer, coyotes, elk, bears and the sought-after moose. Hirschfelden hunting reserve, on the other hand, is a more open farmland with rolling hills and lush farmland. This is a more challenging reserve with thick forests where you can hunt deer, boar, fox and bison.
At first, seeing that I only had the choice of two reserves was a tad disappointing – at least that was until I started playing them. Both reserves were much larger than I first anticipated and it was an extremely welcome surprise as they were both huge! The sheer size these reserves covers is staggering and definitely kept me entertained for every minute of play time with varying surroundings that kept going on and on.
To help you in your hunt you have multiple tools at your disposal. Binoculars allow you to see way into the distance, much further than your rifle scope, and a selection of lures and beacons draw in unsuspecting wild animals. These proved particularly useful when the animal was downwind and my lure could be heard from further away. You also have your camera so you can take photos of wildlife, or even just the beautiful surrounding scenery if you so wish.
To progress in the game you will need to participate in story missions, and these include searching for lookout towers and outposts as well as hunting specific types of animal. Completing these will give you both skill points and experience points so you can level up. Upon levelling up and earning these points you can then purchase items for you inventory; better rifles, scopes and other weapons are available as is the chance to upgrade your skills and perks. The skills come in two categories – stalker and ambusher – and these allow you to become better hidden from animals so you can sneak up more efficiently, decipher tracks more accurately and utilise many, many more to help you know your hunt even further. Perks, though, are purely for your weapons – for example, you can hold your breath for longer to get a steadier aim or even strengthen your bow draw and length. Each of these perks and skills can really aid you on your hunt so it pays very much in your favour to find and kill as many varieties of animal as possible to make your next hunt a more efficient and easy one.
As you get settled into each environment you will quickly realise how important both sound and the wind is. Each footstep you take is heard exceptionally clearly, whether that’s the crunching of autumn leaves under your feet, the brittleness of a gravel path or the rustle of dry grass; one wrong step can be the difference between a successful trophy or watching the rear end of a deer scuttle away. Wind is also a huge factor in your hunt, because if you are downwind you will either be smelled out by the animal or they will hear you coming. Each hunt is drastically different from the last so you’ll have to stalk carefully, know the animal and plan accordingly.
If theHunter: Call of the Wild had to be summed up in one word, that word would be patience. This game demands every fibre of it from you at all times. You won’t just happen across an animal, you need to move silently through the thickets as you use your skills to track down various animals, listening out for their mating or warning calls and slowly homing in on them. One wrong footstep and it’s game over – 20 minutes of hunting down a huge buck all for nothing. I thought this would be something I would grow tired of, but as I played more and more I found myself completely and utterly engrossed. I found myself not moving when I played and even holding my own breath when I made my hunter do it. This does, however, make the pace of the game particularly slow and it definitely won’t be to everyone’s taste. It isn’t a run and gun Call of Duty game, but something that demands persistence and endurance.
It pays to explore the broad regions too, because eventually you will find outposts which will quickly become very important to you. Each of these little shacks, once discovered, can be fast travelled to, used for rest once it gets dark, storing of your arsenal and also purchasing new equipment. As you explore you can also find shacks that can be built from supplies that have been placed in a pile for you. These, once built, can be used to hunt animals in. They are usually placed in populated places; the animals won’t just come to you mind, you once again have to play the waiting game and bide your time for the ultimate trophy.
One elememt of the game that did frustrate me was the inconstancy of how the animal died. On one hunt I managed to sneak up on a deer and shoot it square in the face from a good 60 yards away, only to watch it run away and leave me to track its blood for over half a mile. This didn’t happen every time mind, but once is enough to get you annoyed, especially if you have taken extra care to get close to the animal only to watch it scamper away, and even more so as one of the main aspects of the Call of the Wild is to get a clean kill and extra experience for a quick death.
As well as the single player story mode, Call of the Wild also features an online multiplayer option. Sadly, this wasn’t as good as I anticipated. I hoped I would cruise around with strangers, go on long hunts and help each other out by tracking down wild animals, but sadly there was either nobody playing or inconsiderate gamers who just made a hell of a racket and scared everything off. As it is sometimes with the online community, people like to troll and this seems to be all that happens. You spend so much time being as silent as possible and concentrate on everything that adding another person to the mix seems to be a bit of a burden.
theHunter:Call of the Wild is a simulator I enjoyed far more than I anticipated. I don’t agree with the principal of hunting, but this game definitely made me second guess it. Is that ok? I just don’t know anymore! But then I don’t play Grand Theft Auto and agree with stealing cars or shooting innocent pedestrians, so why should this be any different? It was extremely refreshing to play a game that played at the pace I wanted it to and not have to worry about convoluted story lines. Yes, it may get a tad repetitive after a while, but it looks stunning, plays beautifully and I look forward to heading back to the hunt some more.
+ Aesthetically gorgeous
+ Huge reserves to explore
+ Great variety of animals to hunt
+ Plenty of skills, perks and weapons to collect
- Slightly inconsistent deaths
- May get slightly repetitive