As gaming continues to grow in popularity, the market becomes more and more saturated. Game mechanics and designs have started to bleed into each other, as with more games being made, there’s less room for original ideas. It’s becoming rarer to find a game that truly innovates and has its own ideas without borrowing from other games until it becomes a generic mess of blended together mechanics and quirks- see Biomutant.
We’ve seen games from developers such as Ubisoft borrow ideas from each other until the game loses all sense of identity (Ghost Recon: Breakpoint). This gaming trend has never been more apparent than in the battle royale genre. In the most popular genre in the world, it’s very hard to find much variation without losing popularity. People like battle royales for what they are, and that’s okay, but the reason Hunt: Showdown originally caught my eye was because of how different it was.
Hunt: Showdown is not a battle royale game in the traditional sense, but I suppose if it had to be a part of one specific genre, battle royale would be the one. In terms of similarities, you’re dropped on the map in random places with a number of other people. You’re in teams of two or three and you can revive each other. The map is huge, with choke points of small towns or buildings.
This is where the similarities to battle royale end, as Hunt is no traditional battle royale. Hunt isn’t a new game, it launched way back in 2018, but has had a relatively small impact, which I think is a tragedy. It has a reputation for having a more hard core playerbase, which hints at inaccessibility, as a small player base leads to matchmaking new players with hardcore veterans, even with skill based matchmaking enabled. The game has seen a resurgence of popularity recently, and I think it should keep going. Hunt is a work of art, and I think that it deserves the spotlight this year, as we see a year of releases that restore originality to gaming, starting with Elden Ring.
My experience with Hunt is different to what you might have heard about it. I’ve experienced a fair amount of success in the game, and I’m thirty hours deep. You may have heard that you need to sink hundreds and hundreds of hours into Hunt to find the fun. You also might have heard that the player base is brutal, or that Hunt is an extremely hard game to be good at. When Hunt released in 2018, and all the way up until recently, this was the case. Now however, the pool of players is large enough that it’s easy to get a well matched game every time. This is why I think now is the perfect time to recommend Hunt. Let me tell you why I’ve grown to have such a high opinion of the game, and why I think you should play it.
Hunt: Showdown is a game that borders many genres – battle royale, tactical shooter, and horror – but really it sits as a part of a genre that doesn’t really have a name yet. Escape From Tarkov is one example of this, and the Hazard Zone mode of Battlefield 2042 is another, however this one is a little more basic.
The concept is this; enter a map of twelve players, gather three clues, find the location of a boss and then proceed to kill it. There can be either one or two bosses in each round, and you can kill one or both of them. The concept is one that many games have attempted, however the uniqueness is in its execution. Hunt relies on a sound system so detailed and so complex that it totally overhauls how it feels to play the game. It’s incredible to experience – every gunshot can be heard from across the map and can be pinpointed down to an almost exact area, just from listening. Every action or movement makes a noise, and this can be used to discover the whereabouts of the most dangerous enemy in the game – other players.
Hunt: Showdown features a list of unique enemies, each with their own specific ways of attacking you. Every one of these makes a loud noise as they spot you, and this encourages a sense of stealth that relies on you taking down targets silently and quickly, before they notice your presence. The enemies are all unique in the way they attack too. The Hive, a human carcass infested with bees will send a swarm your way to poison you, whereas a Meathead will send its slugs out to detect you, and then rush you. The ear piercing shriek of an Immolator as it’s shot or stabbed, making a blunt force attack a necessity, is one of the most terrifying sounds in the game, but not because of the noise itself, but what that noise will bring.
All of these enemies are deadly, but the most deadly enemy is always the rifle in the bushes that’s just out of sight, or the knife waiting around a corner waiting to strike. This means that your main objective every match is to be as silent and speedy as possible, traversing the bayou without alerting a single enemy, collecting clues until you discover the boss. Speaking of bosses, these are impressively creative and scary to witness.
Picture this; you’re crouch walking through a silent house, partner on your side, rifle drawn. Every creak in the house makes you jump, as it could be a potential enemy. This is the suspense that the incredible sound design brings, as every little noise could be an enemy, and very well could be, as you’re in the location of a boss, and every enemy on the map is looking for the same target as you are. The only clue that you’re given as to the presence of enemies is an aggressive or calm whisper as you use your dark sight ability to try and deduce whether it’s safe to fire your rifle or not. Suddenly, a wave of cockroaches sweeps the floor and swarms your screen, a terrible scream fills the air, and a tall, thin man appears out of the mass of bugs. This is the Assassin, one of Hunt: Showdown’s four bosses, and it possesses the ability to disappear and rematerialise as cockroaches, and a spear arm that will make you bleed and consistently lose health.
As you gain more experience, you will learn how best to deal with these bosses, but you’re new, so the Assassin divides you with his bugs, and kills one of you. As you run around a corner, a hunter emerges from the dark corridor, his rifle pointing straight at you. You’re faster to the trigger, and headshot them, downing in one shot. You don’t know if their teammate is still alive, because the game doesn’t tell you at any point the number of players on the map, so you burn the body, not allowing anyone to revive them for the time being. You kill the Assassin, revive your teammate, and then the next phase begins – the Banishment.
The Banishment is the phase where Hunt transitions to become more tactical and Rainbow Six: Siege-like than battle royale. You must defend your building, and the body of the boss, for a certain amount of time. Every player on the map will know exactly where you are, as a column of light erupts from the building you’re in. You can bring traps with you as part of your loadout, or there are some to be found in the building, as you defend your spot until the banishment is complete.
The tension of these moments cannot be overstated; every movement you make could be the one that reveals your exact location, and every sound in the house could be an enemy that’s made their way inside. You grab the bounty as it’s made available after being banished, and you sprint as fast as you can to the extraction point, avoiding the main roads, with no idea how many players are hunting you.
This is the pure thrill that is a game of Hunt: Showdown. The loadout system, the permadeath of your hunters, the sound, the graphics – it all works together to create the most unique, exciting, nuanced experience you can have in gaming at the moment, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Play Hunt: Showdown, it’s extremely worth your time.
You’ll find Hunt: Showdown on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation and PC. The Xbox Store will sort you out with a download.