As seems to be happening more often as we become more accustomed to the new generation of gaming, many existing titles are now receiving upgrades to the new hardware. And many developers are appreciating the loyalty of customers by giving these next-gen upgrades away for no extra fee. Not Nacon though: as we have already seen from the French publisher with Monster Truck Championship, owning the Xbox One version counts for nothing here. If you want the next-gen upgrade of Hunting Simulator 2, you’re going to have to pay for it.
The main menu looks to offer a glimpse at what is included in the new version. A new option underneath the main game called Ranger’s Life has appeared that promises a new story mode where you can nurture the same animals you were once hunting. Considering the main portion of the game lacks any form of story mode, this is a most welcome inclusion.
However, selecting this option brings up another window stating that this is a piece of DLC that is only available from 23rd March, less than two weeks after the next-gen version launches. I’m not and will never be a games publisher, but it feels like a real cash grab making players pay for the next-gen version, and then offering up some much-needed DLC less than two weeks later.
This is in Europe at least. US players are getting the Rangers Life DLC the same day that the next-gen version launches, only if they are willing to part with even more cash though.
There is also no cross save functionality present here, so if you do decide to re-purchase Hunting Simulator 2 for Xbox Series X|S, you will have to start your hunting journey again from scratch.
Thankfully there is a useful tutorial to ease you into proceedings, that gives you tips on how to track animals. It also introduces you to your canine companion; a dog that will have you find tracks, vegetation and droppings to analyse whilst also offering some company.
After this, you are free to your own devices in this open-ended hunting experience. You have a choice of two locales in each of the three major locations: Colorado, Texas and Europe. Each area is large and will house unique animals for you to hunt. To hunt a specific animal though, you need to purchase a license for that, which will grant you the ability to kill a certain number of that animal before you need to purchase another license. Whether this is how it is in real-life or just a mechanic to ‘gamify’ Hunting Simulator 2 a little bit more I don’t know. It is however frustrating when you encounter an animal you don’t have a license for and cannot claim the spoils. Instead you are greeted with a warning in big red letters whenever you have a non-killable animal in your crosshairs.
The hunt itself is a very patient affair. Pick up a trail and you could be following it for over 30 minutes before you even get a sniff at the animal in question. This is exacerbated by the painfully slow walking speed; it really does feel like you are trudging through treacle in Hunting Simulator 2. You can sprint between tracks but then you run the risk of scaring your target off before even getting a shot away.
Take too many shots at your target – as in, miss all the vital organs – and you will be fined for an ‘unethical hunt’. Because a regular hunt is so much more ethical.
The areas you explore aren’t exactly full of places of interest, but they have been significantly improved on Xbox Series X|S. The overall sound of footsteps and animal cries still sound like they were recorded on a potato, but the areas look a lot better than on the Xbox One. The draw distance – a major gripe in the initial release – has been improved in general and especially whilst using a scope to zoom in on an animal. Previously there was major texture pop in and out when using a scope; thankfully this has all gone.
It isn’t all for the better now though. As you approach your hunt when it has been downed, there have been attempts here to also improve the look of the animal. However, even animals like moose or elk look a little bit too ‘fluffy’ with the Xbox Series X|S enhancements.
If you manage to bag a target you can sell it for money or keep it as a trophy. Money is used to purchase additional licenses, guns or outfits, but trophies can adorn your personal lodge.
Away from hunting you have access to your lodge where you can unwind and relax. There is the option to sort your loadouts ready for your next hunt, view your various trophies mounted on the walls, or even visit the shooting range to practice with any of the guns you have purchased.
The lodge itself looks utterly beautiful now on Xbox Series X|S. It’s the kind of place you wish to stumble upon on Airbnb, just maybe without the wall-mounted deer heads or walk-in gun wardrobe.
And as we have come to expect now for the new consoles, load times are almost instantaneous now for Hunting Simulator 2. And that is a big plus over the original version.
Despite some new post-release content for Hunting Simulator 2 that has come since the initial release back in June 2020, some of the more crucial elements from the first game are still missing. There is still no form of progression save for filling your coffers, and any form of multiplayer is still lacking. Considering the original title had both these, the sequel feels a very bare bones experience by comparison.
The next-gen release of Hunting Simulator 2 on Xbox brings with it some very notable graphical improvements to the environments, but that is the only real difference. A lack of a next-gen upgrade, save migration or new features in general – aside from having to pay even more money – prevent this from being a worthwhile investment for existing players. New players may find something interesting, but they should probably look at the first Hunting Simulator game or the infinitely better theHunter: Call of the Wild for a more rounded experience.