Aside from the blatant negative connotations regarding hunting as a pastime – it is inherently wrong, and I will die on this soapbox – there are several videogames related to the ‘hobby’. Hunting Simulator 2 is the latest on the market and yet, despite being a sequel to the appropriately named Hunting Simulator, feels like a massive step backwards.
It should be immediately apparent from the name that Hunting Simulator 2 is a hunting simulator, where you get to hunt animals in a simulated environment. There is no plot or story to accompany the game; you simply choose a location and a weapon and head out.
Across three locations – Colorado, Texas and Europe – and six environments altogether, you must find and hunt 33 different species of animals. It isn’t a case of rocking up with a rifle in tow and shooting anything that moves though: you need licenses to hunt specific animals. Each license grants you a certain number of hunts for each animal; max it out and you need to purchase another one.
The hunting itself is very laid-back, and without trivialising real-life hunting, it’s a good game to relax and unwind with after a long day. Pick your location and head out. Sometimes you can fall lucky and find an animal within minutes, other times it can take a while. In that sense it feels familiar to fishing, though with much more bloodshed.
The areas that you are found exploring don’t really offer much else other than a small area of wilderness to stalk your prey. There are the occasional towers you can get a vantage point from, as well as tents to enable fast travel. Unfortunately, the draw distance does play tricks on your eyes; just when you think you’ve seen something out in the open not surrounded by tall grass, a quick zoom in with your scope will suddenly show the grass all around whatever it was you saw, and it is invariably not what you were hoping for anyways. This isn’t a unique experience – the disappointing draw distance will do this every time.
In terms of progression, purchasing licenses is about as deep as Hunting Simulator 2 gets. Every environment is open to you from the beginning, along with every single piece of clothing and weapon mod, providing you have the coin for them.
Your money can also be used to purchase additional weapons, scopes and items. These include binoculars, various scent killers and lures, and callers to entice animals towards you. These are all optional buys; not required for the hunt but can make things a little easier.
Along with these helpful items is the sequel’s best new addition, a canine companion. Hunting Simulator 2 introduces dogs to proceedings that will sniff out animals and highlight any markings that you should be made aware of. And for the most part, they do an excellent job; sometimes they will point out markings for an animal you don’t currently have a license for but considering they’re such a good boy the rest of the time we won’t hold that against them.
As for other new features, the dog is pretty much it. Hunting Simulator 2 has stripped back most of what was in the first game for reasons unknown. Gone is the co-operative multiplayer, or any form of multiplayer in fact. Hunting Simulator 2 is single-player only, and if it wasn’t for your four-legged friend it would be a pretty lonely experience.
Also, more crucially gone, is any form of progression. The previous game included a mission structure to keep players on track and focussed towards an objective. The sequel, however, has nothing like that. On one hand this is good – as previously mentioned you have access to the entire game from the off – but a lack of progression and structure doesn’t really work when a game is so limited in its gameplay. Hunt, kill, repeat: That’s all there really is to it.
When not on a hunt, players can return to their lodge for some rest and relaxation. This lodge gives me major house envy, as it is a gorgeous place. High ceilings, wooden beams, open plan, it would be a great place for a weekend getaway. Sadly though, whilst you can display your kills here as ‘trophies’, the house is missing a bathroom of any sort.
There is also the shooting range where you can practice your firing from a variety of distances and engage in a quick competition on a local leaderboard.
Hunting Simulator has 37 achievements in total and is a very straightforward list. Kill animals, find all points of interest and analyse animal tracks. The achievement list is very plain and uninspiring.
I came into Hunting Simulator 2 on the Xbox One with an open mind regarding its source material, and hoping this digital translation could one day be the only hunting people could lawfully do. But even after a short time I had experienced everything the game had to offer, and that’s down mainly to the open-ended nature and lack of progression system in place.
Hunting Simulator 2 is a bare bones version of its predecessor, and not even man’s best friend can save this from being an inferior sequel.