You know what I love? When I review a game that I didn’t even know existed, but end up absolutely loving it. That was the case with Hunt: Showdown, the brilliant multiplayer monster-killing shooter from Crytek that blends together tense hunting with chaotic shootouts as you battle with other players to hunt and kill one of three vicious creatures. It also just so happens to look stunning, but what else would you expect from the team at Crytek?
Hunt: Showdown’s premise is fairly straight-forward, with the player taking on the role of a hunter that has to track down and kill a monster. Simple, right? Well, the fact that you’ve got to track down three clues in order to find the monster on a large and sprawling map makes things trickier, as do all of the nasty ‘smaller’ monsters that are lurking across said map that want your blood. When you finally do find the monster, you’ve also got to deal with actually killing it which isn’t an easy task. If you do succeed though, you’ve then got to perform a two-minute ritual which will present you with two tokens, with only one required to mark your success. Then, you try to get the hell out of there alive.
Yeah, maybe things aren’t so simple after all. Want to know what makes things all the more complicated? The fact that Hunt: Showdown is an online-only title (outside of the tutorial) and there are other players out there who are after the same target (and tokens) as you. This leads you on a treacherous escapade where working with others can be essential to killing your target, but ultimately it’s battle of the fittest as you look to get out alive with some spoils.
That’s Hunt: Showdown in a nutshell, and believe me, playing it is as thrilling as it sounds. The gunplay throughout each match is very satisfying, which is something that’s owed to the old-style weaponry you use (the game is set in 1899 after all), whilst using your mysterious ‘Dark Sight’ to find clues and track the monster adds an additional sense of intrigue to the experience. Knowing that other players are also out there looking for the same clues as you makes the whole experience all the more intense, especially when you accidentally run into them and are left wondering if you’re going to have a shootout or leave each other alone for now. Of course, you could also just run into the monster by chance from just wandering the map, with the locations of spawn points, clues, and the monster completely randomised each match.
It makes for a gripping experience where you’re always on high alert, whether that’s from real-life players or the monsters that the game throws your way. Whilst there are three big baddies that you’re tasked with hunting, the smaller foes are just as dangerous and a battle with them can quickly turn sour if you aren’t prepared. Thankfully, there are team-work aspects in place in Hunt: Showdown, with players able to team up with friends or random players if they don’t want to tackle everything alone. The rewards aren’t quite as sweet as playing solo, but knowing you’ve got someone to watch your back can be quite the relief…
When you finally reach the target you’re hunting and kill it, the real fun begins. A two-minute ritual takes place before you’re able to get access to the tokens and during that time every player in the game is made aware of your location. This means there’s a fight for survival to simply earn your reward for defeating the monster, with fellow hunters coming at you from all angles. Real-life players are a lot more unpredictable than the monsters, so believe me, you’ve got to be sharp and keep a close eye on everything around you if you’re going to survive through those one-hundred-and-twenty seconds.
The fact that there are two tokens can make life easier though, especially if you’re playing solo and are happy to leave a token behind for others to scuffle over. You’ll never feel safe in Hunt: Showdown though, both before and after your showdown with the monster, and the threat of other players is ever-present. It’ll certainly make you all the more wary when exploring the map, with objects and creatures in the environment making noises that can alert others to your position as well as your gunfire when you’re in combat. It works both ways though and you’re able to hunt down other players yourself – the thrill of seeing someone ahead of you, stalking them, and taking advantage when they’re at their weakest is absolutely brilliant. I actually found that I didn’t even bother hunting the monster at times and just exploited other player’s work; you’d be surprised how effective this can actually be in-game, but it shows just how dynamic of an experience Hunt: Showdown really is. I love it.
Admittedly, I’ve over simplified the process a little, but that’s all there really is to Hunt: Showdown. It offers an intense mixture of PVE and PVP combat, with thrilling moments aplenty in each match that are spread between being sneaky and getting caught up in a huge shootout as you look to survive. It’s bloody brilliant and I’ve been totally addicted to the game from the moment I started playing. It’s certainly unforgiving though, with both the monsters and other players offering plenty of ways for you to die – some matches will last a good hour, and honestly, it’ll take a fair bit of learning and plenty of losses before you’re able to wrap up a victory yourself. Believe me when I say it’s all worth it though, especially when you get that FIRST victory.
No matter if you win or lose, you’re always rewarded experience points which can be used to level up, unlock new abilities, and earn new gear to make your life a little easier for your next match. Having those extra buffs or a more powerful weapon can really go a long way in ensuring your survival, especially given how tough the game can be to play – with rewards aplenty as you level up though, the learning curve remains fair and ensures that you constantly feel yourself getting better at the game.
I should warn you though: if you die in the game, your hunter loses all of their gear. There’s a permadeath-like aspect in Hunt: Showdown, and believe me, it can be frustrating to see some of your progress drain away when you die. Fortunately, your experience points do carry over between hunters, so you do salvage some of your previous efforts. When combined with the tough difficulty though, having some of your progress wiped away with every death may well push some players over the edge a little – I know it caused a fair few unsavoury words to come from my mouth the first time it happened (and the second and third… you get the picture).
Fortunately, it doesn’t stop Hunt: Showdown from being a whole lot of fun to play, though it is a little slim on content right now. There are only three main monsters to hunt and two maps to battle across, so you will start to get a little used to things after a few hours of playing. Fortunately, each monster feels completely different to hunt and they all offers a real sense of unpredictability when you track them down, so each match you play will feel different. The random placements of the map offer a sense of variety too, whilst each has a different aesthetic depending on what time of day it is in-game. Still, more content wouldn’t go amiss, so I’m looking forward to seeing what Crytek bring to the experience in the future.
Hunt: Showdown offers an intense multiplayer experience unlike anything else on the PlayStation 4, with the blend of hunting down monsters and surviving showdowns with other players making for a thrilling yet wholly satisfying escapade. I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun playing and have no plan of stopping anytime soon – even if the game is a little slim on content right now.
If you enjoy multiplayer experiences that do things a little differently, you really ought to give Hunt: Showdown a try. It’s brutal and certainly isn’t for the fainthearted, but it’s also a very rewarding experience that’s a hell of a lot of fun to play.
Publisher: Koch Media
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC