Whenever I see a game with the word ‘hunt’ in the title I normally look away. You see, normally these things involve putting on a deerstalker hat and hunting down poor wild animals in a forest. I’ve even avoided hunting elements in some of the best games like Red Dead Redemption II and the Assassin’s Creed series if I can get away with it. But looking more closely at Hunt: Showdown and I can see it’s not animals that are being hunted down, but monsters – in fact, the worst monster of all… man. What can go wrong with that?
Coming straight out of a brief period of time in the Xbox Game Preview world, Hunt: Showdown is now fully released and ready to deliver all its goods. It’s developers are those behind the highly successful early Far Cry games and Crysis, so immediately it all comes with a very good pedigree.
The game itself is set in a fictionalised version of the deep south of America, with swampland and lush forests. The problem is, this place is littered with human hybrid monsters, spider-women and other dreadful insect-like creatures that will keep you awake at night with fear. You’re a hunter of these beasts, but the big twist is that there are also other hunters in the map with you, trying to do the same things as you and it is they who will not hesitate in ending you if you get in their way.
Hunt: Showdown has been created with online thoughts in mind, with up to 10 other hunters running alongside you, and there is no way to play this game offline. That is all fine and dandy, but it’s not the most populated of titles, and at this moment in time there is a bit of wait to get into a game. When you do make it in, you play through things in the first person, all after deciding on what your hunter will look like and what loadout of weapons you wish to run with. From there, you are dropped randomly into a map and the game begins.
Showdown is set in the 1890s in an alternative world where demons, zombies and horrible beasties are entering through a number of rifts, coming from a different dimension and infecting people and animals. You are part of an elite bunch of hunters who hunt these creatures for sport and research; walking, running, crouching and meleeing throughout. You also have a number of weapons on you from the offset, like a shotgun and a pistol, as well as health packs and a throwable option like a Molotov cocktail. But then in Hunt: Showdown you also have a bit of magic about you.
The objective throughout is to find three rifts to another dimension on the map, close them up and then kill a boss before the legions of hell, as well as others hunters, descend on you. You find these rifts by using a bit of psychic ability – that of Dark Sight. A quick press of the RB button will let you see the world in a different, darker way, one in which the three rifts are shown, giving an idea about where to go next.
How you play the game is up to you though. You can go in all guns blazing should you so wish, however at no point will success in Hunt unfold that way; it’s not really that type of game as a simple grunt zombie can do serious damage, seeing you bleed out. This route isn’t helped by the fact that ammo is rare and you will instead find you have to pick your battles carefully. The stealthy approach is how I’ve found myself hitting up each round, and thanks to some very clever design elements the tension is immense, not only from the big baddies but also the fellow hunters lurking around the corner.
After each round is complete – basically when you win or end up dead – you will find yourself levelling up and gaining access to better equipment and additional much needed weapons. Partnering up with someone is key here, and working as a team is the most successful tactic in the main bounty mode. There is also quick play option which seems to provide a much shorter experience; one that is all about nicking gear and waiting for an extraction point before the other players kill you.
Hunt: Showdown looks amazing on the Xbox One X, with superb lighting and brilliant creature design. It’s much less buggy now than when it was on Game Preview, but it does unfortunately stutter occasionally. The world looks amazing though, with a kind of sepia feel to it, really immersing you into the dark hunting ways. The audio is pretty damn decent too with a thumping southern inspired soundtrack. But it’s the effects that are really excellent; the cries of the creatures when they spot you, or the chink of some chains that you might knock into, revealing your position to others, are just a taste of some brilliant sound design.
In all, Hunt: Showdown on Xbox One provides a very solid multiplayer experience, one that fans of this genre will love. The actual visual design along with the audible tones is wonderful, as is the whole concept and execution. I do wish that there was some form of single player story though, one that could provide a narrative and a deep journey for my hunter. You see, at this time, the modes are limited and the servers just seem to be getting quieter and quieter, and that is obviously a worry for the future of the game. But if you like your gameplay hard and wish to mix survival horror with some good old fashioned multiplayer hunting, then I don’t think you can go too wrong with this highly original game.