Back when Hunt: Showdown released in Game Preview, we got to check it out and came away with some hope that when it was released as a final product, that many additions and improvements would have been made. Well, that day has come, as Crytek’s Hunt: Showdown has now been officially released. At its core, Hunt: Showdown is a competitive PvPvE matchup set in the Louisiana swamps where you’re fighting otherworldly creatures and monsters and fending off other players. It’s an interesting premise, and while it’s definitely improved over the last few months since I’ve played last while in Game Preview, it still feels as though more works needs to go into it to really make it something special.
Seemingly set in the old Western times, you’re on the hunt for some mythical and powerful beasts, but before you can vanquish them, you’ll need to gather clues as to where their hideout may be in the massive swampland. Along the way though you’re going to come across other beasts, zombie-like creatures and even other players, all trying to kill you and your team.
Once you find a boss, and if you manage to kill it, you’ll still need to make your way to the exit on the edges of the map, but will have all of the other bounty hunter players chasing you as well. It’s very challenging to get the hang of and you’re going to die a lot, but if you persevere and put the time required to level up and learn the mechanics, it starts to become more enjoyable. That’s a big if though, as when you fail, you’re character is permanently dead after a certain level, as is their gear. The only upside is that the experience you’ve earned is then shared into your Bloodline and can be used for another new hunter, but more on that shortly.
You only begin with a simple gun and not much else. You also have a special power called Dark Sight that allows you to peer into another realm, highlighting where clues to find the boss location is currently at. As you find clues, the map will show an area of interest, narrowing you in on the boss’ lair, but you’ll need to constantly press a button and check the map, as there’s no mini-map on the HUD unfortunately. Keep in mind that all of these matches are online, so there’s no pausing, so you better find a safe spot to check your map to figure out where to navigate to.
This Dark Sight darkens the whole screen, allowing you to see some glowing blue particles in the far distance to wherever a clue is located. This feels cumbersome, though I understand the reasoning narratively, but you’re unable to fire your weapon when focusing on utilizing this power. The other main use of this Dark Sight is that it will also mark where a player carrying a bounty to the exit is currently, making it much more difficult to survive as the player(s) who defeated the boss. Generally you’re going to die well before a boss fight though, sometimes from the PvE monsters, but usually from some massively overleveled players that are also matched up with you.
Bounty Hunt matches consist of up to 12 players, either all solo, duos or trios. The problem is that you’re never allowed to see a player list of the server, or have any idea of how many remain, if any at all. There’s no messages showing that someone has died or left the server, so you always have to be weary and on your toes, keeping an eye out for other deadly players. My biggest gripe with the Game Preview version was that there seems to be some terrible matchmaking, meaning you as a level 1 will be paired up against max level or prestige players. This obviously makes for a horrible imbalance, and when you’re spending the first few hours simply trying to figure out the mechanics, it makes for a terribly frustrating experience. sadly this wasn't remedied for the full release, and you'll find the same frustrations that I had. That being said, when the shoe is on the other foot, you’ve put in your time, leveled up your Hunters, unlocked a plethora of new deadly weapons and get paired with some easy kills, it’s hard to not take advantage. Though to get to that point you’re going to have to really dedicate some time into Hunt: Showdown.
While there’s only two or so maps, they are quite large, the bosses you face are randomized, as is the time of day or night you play in. Playing in daytime is absolutely nothing like playing when it’s dark out, so the experience will vary nearly every time you queue up for a Hunt. In the Game Preview versions there were only two bosses available, though it looks like one more has been added since. Once players in a match find enough clues to locate the randomized boss’ lair, you’ll fight against the Butcher, Spider or newly added Assassin.
These bosses are huge, require a ton of damage to defeat, and once the location is known, you can bet that other players will be heading to the location as well, either to help defeat the boss, or kill players and extract the bounty for themselves. The Spider is just that, a massive arachnid that can poison you and deplete your health. The Butcher is a brute of a monster that can easily kill you in a single swing if you get caught in a bad spot. The Assassin is quick, nimble and able to ‘teleport’ out of harm’s way by turning into a swarm of insects.
Each boss is challenging in its own way and requires a specific strategy to beat; not even factoring in the other players that may try and ambush you. One thing I noted in the Game Preview version that still appears to be broken is that the bosses are unable to leave their lair. For example, if they are in a barn, you can simply stand at one of the doorway entrances, pop a few shots, back away and wait for them to come back in range since they’re unable to leave their building. I’m not sure if this is by design, but it defeats much of the challenge to the fights themselves. The flipside to this is that other players also know this strategy, so you can easily ambush other players, or be aware that they’ll be looking for you outside said doorways.
Once you reach a specific level, your Hunters are prone to permadeath. While they’ll die and you’ll lose all their gear, their experience goes towards your overall Bloodline level. This XP can then be used towards a new or other Hunter, so it's a trade-off to death in a way. It’s an interesting mechanic, though should you be able to extract and escape with the bounty, you’ll earn much more money and experience to improve your Hunters.
There is DLC available as well, as we got to try out The Legends of the Bayou add-on. This DLC first and foremost is basically a cosmetic pack and doesn’t really offer any advantages for gameplay itself. Essentially this DLC gets you two new Legendary Hunters; The Bone Doctor and The Weird Sister, two legendary weapons and 500 Blood Bonds, a form of currency to purchase said characters and items. The odd thing is that you’re still forced to ‘pay’ for the DLC characters, and not simply given to you, with the Blood Bonds you’re given, which I found an odd design choice. The new Hunters look quite unique compared to your standard randomized Hunters, but that’s one of the perks of purchasing said DLC, as you are getting a ‘cool’ skin for your character that most won't have.
Get ready for some serious loading times. From pressing Play to the start of the match, you might as well plan to go make a snack or get a drink ready. The loading time is quite lengthy, and while it runs fine once loaded, it’s excruciatingly long at times. Factor in that max level players will kill you on sight almost instantaneously, and you’ll have to get ready for the lengthy loading all over again. This forced PvP element is what really deters me from continuing to play long term. The skill and equipment gap is simply much too large, and being matched up against players like this is sure to deter new comers that are struggling to simply learn the mechanics and intricacies of the gameplay itself.
While Hunt: Showdown is nothing special to look at from an environment perspective, especially at night when you’re able to barely see anything a new feet in front of you, where it truly does shine is in its audio. Every monster has a unique sound, stepping through the swamp or forest will sound realistic, with the swashing sound of running through water, to the snapping of branches as you walk over them. If there’s a doorway with chains hanging in it, they will clang as you pass through, not only adding to the creepy vibe overall, but possibly alerting an enemy team to your whereabouts. The audio absolutely blew me away and I actually use Hunt: Showdown as one of my games to test new headphones out with; the atmosphere is that engrossing and sucks you right into the world.
While it’s come a long way since I played it in its first iteration from Game Preview, it still feels as though something is missing. Maybe I’m just not a fan of the forced PvP elements, as I’ve died to other players much more than any boss or monster in the game. Yes, that’s part of the experience, but it would have been a less frustrating experience if I was at least paired up with players of equal skill and level, not those that have done it all. There’s obviously a following, but with a PvP-less option, I know I would have stuck around longer with some friends trying to collect those bounties.
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