STAFF REVIEW of Hunting Simulator 2 (Xbox Series X)

Tuesday, March 30, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Hunting Simulator 2 Box art Being a city born friendly Canadian, I’m not much of a hunter at all. Truth be told, I’ve only ever fired a handgun once in my life, so I know basically nothing when it comes to actual hunting wild game in the woods. After having played Hunting Simulator 2 for Xbox Series X I may not be a master huntsman, but I surely did learn a lot about the sport/hobby. Regardless about your feelings towards hunting, there’s a game for nearly every niche out there, and it’s no different here with Hunting Simulator 2 from Nacon. So grab over 160 licensed and official weapons, clothing and accessories and learn how to hunt 33 different species of animals across Texas, Colorado and Europe.

Normally this is where I would jump right into describing the campaign or story mode, as usually this is where you spend the majority of your time in single player games, but there is none included in the base game at all. You’re simply thrown into a quick tutorial that teaches the basics and can be skipped if you like, but then you’re simply let loose into the world, choosing where and what you want to hunt without any other direction or tutelage. Basically it’s open season and you’re able to hunt whatever animals you wish, provided you purchase the corresponding license and correct weaponry. Now, there is a more narrative experience that is offered through DLC, but it’s not included in the base game in which this review entails.

So you’ve previously played Hunting Simulator 2 already on Xbox One and wondering what is new? Well, like most upgraded versions on Xbox Series X you can expect a sweet 4K resolution along with smooth 60 frames per second and virtually no loading times. While I’ve not played the original release on Xbox One at its initial launch, I was quite impressed with the visuals on the Xbox Series X version, especially in the vast environments and vistas since you’re always on foot and don’t run all that fast, so you can take in the scenery as you’re trailing game.

The other thing of note is that like other Nacon games, these Xbox Series X versions are NOT playable on Xbox One. That means if you want these upgraded versions you’re going to have to pay for it, even if you previously bought Hunting Simulator 2 on Xbox One originally. Most publishers allow for a Smart Delivery upgrade if playing on Xbox Series X, but Nacon is still charging extra for those that want the better version if you happen to have an Xbox Series S or X. If there were some major differences I could see the argument, but with their other Xbox Series X offerings, you simply get a better performing and prettier version without any other drastic improvements. If the new story DLC or even weapon packs were included in the Xbox Series X version it would be a little more forgivable, but sadly it’s not, so if you’re debating a repurchase it’ll simply come down to if you want a slightly better looking version with no real load times.

The opening tutorial shows you the basics of how to track down your prey and what to do with it after you successfully manage to kill your target. Outside of that, you’re simply thrown into the game and expected to know the best way to progress, something I struggled with for the first few hours before having to delete a few game saves once I figured everything out for myself.

You begin in your lodge, your homebase where you can purchase new weapons, clothing, gear, licenses, practice in the shooting range and admire your trophies. To start out you need to buy a license for the animals you want to hunt. Going down the list you’ll see all the 33 different animal species along with the type of ammunition required to legally hunt them down. For example, to hunt fowl and other flying animals you’ll need to use your shotguns, bigger game will require your rifle and different calibers of ammunition. This is important, as you’ll accrue massive fines for killing animals you don’t have a license for or kill them with the wrong ammo type. This is briefly touched on in the tutorial, but doesn’t sink in until you make a grave mistake and lose all your money from fines.

To start hunting you must first choose your first license of what you want to hunt. Now, you’re able to choose anything from ducks to bears or even moose, and the first animal you choose gives you an unlimited amount of them you’re able to hunt. This is something very important to note, as I found out the hard way of choosing a much more difficult animal to hunt means you’ll struggle for much longer. After choosing big game as my ‘free’ animal with an unlimited amount I could kill them, I must have wasted the first two or three hours not successfully killing anything, getting frustrated and killed any animal I could find, only to get fined and lose all my money. This prompted me to delete my save and start again.

Next attempt I decided that I’ll simply buy all the licenses I could and hunt anything I come across. I bought nearly every license I could across all three maps and thought I’d found a way to cheat the system. I was wrong. After buying all these licenses I had no money left for different guns, meaning I only had my starter weapon, unable to kill the big game without a rifle. Of course once I did come across a bobcat and shot it, I was massively fined for using the wrong caliber and was broke again. This was the second time I deleted my save, as you can purchase a duck license, but you need to do so for each of the three maps if you want to jump from one map to the next and hunt the same game.

So I had finally figured it out. I chose a map I liked with a watering hole right beside my starting point, so I decided to buy licenses for duck and geese on this map only and focus on building up my trophies and rewards slowly but surely. This started to work, as I would hunt my unlimited amount of geese whenever I saw them and also bag any ducks nearby as well. Then I ran into another problem; my starter companion dog wouldn’t go fetch the fowl I shot down that was lying in the water, as if he didn’t know how to swim. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, so I had to resort to Google to solve my problem. Turns out the starter dog isn’t able to pickup and carry game you’ve successfully killed in the water, something that wasn’t explained anywhere in game that I was unable to find. So this meant I had to go back to my lodge, buy the other dog type and finally could send him to fetch my kills. Problem solved, kind of.

There was one more issue that I ran into before figuring out how to play much more proficiently. While my first license was set to Geese, this meant I could hunt them in an unlimited amount, no big deal. I chose ducks as well though, and each license gave me up to ten that I could capture and sell. Now this is where it got a little frustrating. You’re able to kill as many as you want, but you can only sell up to the 10 at a time. You’re not allowed to capture or sell any more than your limit until you return to your lodge and purchase a new license, but where the problem came in is that I had actually shot down more than a dozen, and any unclaimed game left on the map when deciding to head back to the lodge results in a fine. So yup, you guessed it, because I shot down more than my allotted amount, I was unable to sell them or repurchase another license without going back to my house and getting a nasty fine. This meant having to keep track of what exactly I’ve shot down and not going over so that I could return to the lodge and repurchase a new license without any fines.

The lands of Colorado, Texas and Europe are quite varied, each offering their own distinct look and feel, from dense forest to muddy swamplands that are quite vast, just keep in mind you need to purchase licenses for each area, even if it’s the same animal species. Some game is easier to hunt than others, as I chose fowl because they are easy to find where you’d expect in watered areas, whereas bigger game like deer, elk, cougars, etc need to be tracked by following their tracks and droppings. This is where your trusty sidekick dog comes in, as they can find a trail or even lead you to them. It’s not always that easy though, as I’ve spent well over an hour tracking an animal only to lose its trail and nothing to show for it other than wasted time. The animals themselves all have their own AI and react to the situations, so you’ll have to learn how to be out of sight and to cover your scent with items as well.

While I’m not a hunter in any respect, over 160 of the included items, clothing and weapons are officially licensed from their real world counterparts from brands like Winchester, Bushnell, Kryptek, Browning and more. While I can’t verify how realistic they perform compared to their actual counterparts, they certainly look the part and appear to be authentic. Clothing has different visibility stats but I couldn’t really tell much of a difference of how it actually affected gameplay all that much. You can also purchase binoculars, callers, scents to attract or cover your smell also.

Visually, Hunting Simulator 2 is quite impressive when it comes to its lush environments in the wild, and the audio made it sound like I was actually lost somewhere deep in nature. More than a few times I found myself stopping to simply take in the landscapes and nab a screenshot or two. While the graphic jump from Xbox One to Series X is decent, it totally doesn’t warrant a repurchase if you’ve already bought it for last gen. If you’re playing for the first time and have an Xbox Series X, then obviously it’s a given that this will be the best version you can get.

While not the most exciting game, you’ll spend the majority of your time simply trying to find your prey, tracking it in a number of ways with a trusty canine companion by your side. When those moments of discovery finally come and you only have a few moments to take your shot, this is where Hunting Simulator 2 becomes quite exciting. Be ready to take long lonely strolls through the woods though, as that will be the majority of your experience without any campaign to guide you.

**Hunting Simulator 2 Xbox Series X|S was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 6.8 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 6.5 / 10


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