Developer Illfonic proved they’ve got clout when it comes to adapting iconic 80s movies into video games, with their Friday the 13th release proving to be popular with gamers thanks to its faithful use of the source material. Now, with the help of Sony, they’ve brought another iconic movie baddie to the PlayStation 4: this time, players will get to play as and battle against the vicious Predator.
Predator: Hunting Grounds is similar to Friday the 13th in a few ways, with the multiplayer-orientated four-versus-one gameplay seeing players work together in order to complete their objectives whilst the ominous presence of a terrifying enemy is always lurking in the background. However, whilst Friday the 13th had its team made up of helpless college students, Predator: Hunting Grounds puts players in the role of soldiers that are more than capable of holding their own against the Predator.
Playing as a part of the four-man Fireteam makes for a fun experience in Predator: Hunting Grounds, with the game taking a first-person approach and arming you with varying weapons and tools to help you hold your own. The thing is, despite the game being based around the titular Predator, he isn’t actually involved in your objectives – instead, you’re given a set of tasks that revolve around killing guerrilla soldiers, destroying objects in the environment, collecting items, and then leaving the map by… uh-hum… ‘getting to da’ choppa’.
Of course, you’ll still have to be wary of the Predator who’ll be lurking around the map and attracted to any gunfire, so as soon as you encounter enemies you can typically expect him to make a swift arrival. He’s also armed to the teeth (more on that later) and much more deadly and unpredictable than the standard AI foes given that he’s player-controlled, so you can expect a rough time if he gets you in his sights.
In honesty, the missions you’re given and AI enemies you face off against whilst playing as part of the Fireteam feel like more of a formality, with them all proving easy to deal with… it feels as though they’re literally there to simply attract the attention of the Predator. It’s a good job too, because the enemy AI isn’t really up to much – I saw them randomly running into trees on more than a few occasions, whilst there were times when they didn’t even notice my presence when I was out in plain sight. They’re hardly worthwhile opponents.
Everything comes together nicely as soon as the Predator is involved though. This was made evident to me in my very first game, where I held back from my team a little as they ran into the objective. As they entered a gunfight with the AI enemies, I saw the Predator leap down to a nearby rooftop and start picking off my allies with ease – it was like sheep to the slaughter thanks to the AI distractions that made them completely oblivious of his presence. Fortunately, I saw all this unfold and, thanks to some of the damage he took from my unfortunate teammates, I was able to finish him off with a bit of gunfire from the back. It shows how vital a bit of strategy can actually be in the game, with player communication and some forward planning vital to your success. Of course, it also emphasises that the Predator is always watching, which adds a foreboding sense of tension and excitement to every match.
Whilst four players take on the role of the Fireteam, one lucky player will instead play as the Predator and act as the hunter. There are no objectives or mission goals in place for the Predator outside of simply killing the Fireteam. Simple.
You’re well equipped for the job though, with the Predator armed with all of the weapons and gear you’ll know from the movies. This includes his invisibility cloak, his heat-vision, and his powerful plasmacaster which can obliterate most enemies with one clean shot – you’ll unlock more varieties of weapons and gadgets as you progress through the game and level up though, so there’s plenty to tinker with. The Predator is also able to use the trees around him and move between branches fluidly and quickly, which is ideal for stalking prey or even making a quick getaway if you find yourself in a spot of bother.
There are multiple approaches to take as the Predator, with the player able to go all-guns blazing and risk it all, or alternatively stalk their foes carefully and pick the perfect moment to strike. I found that it was the latter option that proved most satisfying, with a good mixture of using your invisibility cloak, trawling through the trees, and then slicing up some oblivious player without being seen making for the perfect and most authentic Predator experience. It is worth noting that all of your abilities require energy though, so you can’t just run around killing players with your invisibility cloak activated permanently… damn.
Of course, the Fireteam are more than capable of holding their own against the Predator and if you catch yourself in the middle of a gunfight, you can find yourself outnumbered and outgunned if you’re not careful. The Fireteam can revive downed allies and even bring them back from the dead if they call for backup, so you’ve got to be wary of that too. It shows that the Predator is not invincible and you can find yourself slain if you take too many risks, though at least you can self-detonate and leave a little surprise for your foes if you are caught out…
Whilst playing as the Predator is the highlight of Predator: Hunting Grounds, it does have its flaws. For one, the tutorial doesn’t go a long way in teaching you the ins and outs of the role, with it keeping things pretty simple. You can read up on some of the game’s mechanics in more detail, but when you’re thrust into a showdown, it’s better to know every trick you’ve got up your sleeve.
Practice makes perfect though, so naturally you would think just playing as the Predator would make you a better player, right? Well, it seems a lot of players are thinking the same, so you can expect to have to wait for some time before you can end up in a match as the Predator. Whilst it takes less than a minute to find a match that needs Fireteam members, the average waiting time to play as the Predator is around six-minutes – I even found myself waiting close to fifteen-minutes at one time, which is a bit of a pain when you consider that some matches can be over in less than five.
There were also times where I just struggled to find the Fireteam when playing as the Predator. Sure, that could be down to my own lacking skills and as I played maps more often, I started to learn where to expect the Fireteam to show up. However, during my first few matches as the Predator, I often found that I’d wander around aimlessly and only actually come across the Fireteam when they called their extraction helicopter in and it would mark it on the map. What doesn’t help is that the game doesn’t differentiate AI or human players either, so you might think that you’ve got an enemy in sight only to find that it’s a guerrilla solider – admittedly, I actually loved this feature as it added to the suspense, but it could be a bit frustrating early on when looking for players to kill.
It might sound like I’m hating on playing as the Predator a bit here, but I actually really enjoyed it – it just had some flaws. There’s definitely plenty of excitement to be had hunting down other players and using all of your weapons and gear, and believe me, picking off a team and giving them no chance to survive NEVER stops being satisfying. It really feels like you get to embrace the role of the Predator and all of his weaponry, so Illfonic deserve praise for that.
Whilst the gameplay formula doesn’t change too much as you play matches, there is a sense of progress with the levelling up and loot system. There are loot boxes in the game too, but there are no micro-transactions in place with everything earned naturally through in-game progression… it’s nice. With a ton of new equipment, weapons, and appearance items to unlock through loot boxes, levelling up, and spending in-game currency, there’s plenty to look forward to earning as you play through the game.
Performance-wise, Predator: Hunting Grounds is a bit of a mixed bag. The visuals themselves are decent enough and the character models have plenty of detail, especially the Predator who looks fantastic in-game. However, there were times when textures just didn’t seem to load in properly, whilst I also noticed that objects or enemies would just be randomly floating in the map or would suddenly disappear for no reason. The frame rate could be a bit inconsistent in places too, and whilst it mostly stayed at a steady 30fps, there were moments where it could drop below that a fair bit.
One thing I will say is that I didn’t encounter too many network issues, with the game proving to be pretty smooth when I got into a match. Sure, there were a handful of lobbies that bugged out on me and players with a slow connection could add a bit of lag to the experience, but for the most part the connection was solid.
Predator: Hunting Grounds offers plenty of fun with its competitive gameplay, but it is a little limited in content right now. There aren’t too many maps to play through and the objectives they feature are rarely exciting, whilst the four-versus-one formula can get a little repetitive over time too. I actually found myself playing the same map with the exact same objectives three times in a row on one occasion, which shows the lack of scope to the overall experience.
Still, with the right players and the unpredictable nature of their actions, it’s easy to find yourself totally invested in Predator: Hunting Grounds’ gameplay. I’ve put a good few hours in now and I’m still enjoying each match, whilst coming up against players of different skillsets brings with it different challenges. Whilst I am satisfied with the overall package though, I do hope Illfonic bring plenty of updates over the months to keep the community active – if not, the player-base might start dropping off pretty fast.
Predator: Hunting Grounds isn’t perfect, but it does a good job of offering a fun action-packed multiplayer romp with one of cinema’s deadliest warriors. It’s enjoyable playing as both the Fireteam and the Predator, so you’re in for a good time no matter who you play as. There’s plenty of gear to earn through progression too, so you’ll always have new weapons, perks, and equipment to customise your loadouts with.
It is a shame that there aren’t more maps to play through though, whilst some performance issues and inconsistent gameplay mechanics do hamper the experience in places. Overall though, Predator: Hunting Grounds certainly has more good than bad and it’s easy to find yourself completely engrossed into the experience. Let’s just hope that Illfonic keep supporting the game with additional content and updates over the coming months…
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PC