Hunt: Showdown Preview - E3 2017
We check out the horror focused multiplayer shooter where the stakes are raised at every turn
Hunt was in development a while back, previously as a free-to-play game, but after Crytek USA went bankrupt, the game was then revived by the team behind the original Crysis. The reanimated game took what was Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age in a different direction under a new development team. Now we have an FPS, PvP, openworld 2-player co-op game divided into several stages, which still retains the late wild-west era aesthetics mixed with dark horror. And it is called Hunt: Showdown.
At E3 2017, I sat down to check out a playthrough of typical round in the murky, swampy marshland environment. We were dropped knee-deep into fetid water in the dead of night, surrounded by thin trees spanning out into the distance. A quick look at our map showed us that we have a 1km by 1km area of operate in, with various points of interest marked.
At the beginning of each round, you are dropped into the world with the most basic of equipment—a standard gun and armour. Our current mission was to track a demonic beast by collecting three clues, which then triangulates the bounty’s position on the map. To help with tracking, you have “hunter vision”, which is similar to Batman’s detective vision or Geralt’s Witcher senses. They basically highlight things in your environment, but enemies can also see you when you utilise it.
As you progress through the round, you can stumble upon resupplying stations, killing enemies, and, of course, encounter other hunters to take them out and upgrade your gear. However, when we encountered a couple of other hunters, we were weak, so, upon creeping along the marshland, we decided that it was best to avoid them for now. In total, there are 10 players (split into teams of two and including yourself) on the map. Enemy locations and the mark itself are procedurally generated, so each round should provide a unique experience. Once you find your bounty, you must defeat and banish it, turning the game into a sort of defensive stage.
Continuing onwards, the terrain changed from swap to a road, with a faint glimmer of light in the distance and the telltale groan of something… otherworldly. We encountered several zombie enemies on a road, so unleashed our firepower on them. The FPS shooting seemed pretty standard and compatible to what most gamers are used to. However, you must be aware that every firefight you engage in has the potential to attract others—sound travels.
The idea of what the dev called “player awareness” is a cornerstone of how you will play Hunt. Your movement through reeds makes noise, not to mention your shooting, and the fact you may use light sources to guide your path. If you engage in battle and are killed, then it’s permadeath. However, there is a “bloodline” system, which like many roguelike games, gives you a base pool of skills you can rank up, but no permanent equipment loadout.
Continuing onwards, we happened upon a shack where our final clue was waiting for us. Luring the zombies into the centre of the room, we tossed in a Molotov cocktail to deal with them swiftly. Then, with our hunter abilities, we could delve into the mind of our mark to divine its location on the map.
With all the information in hand, we ploughed on through the grassland towards an abandoned farmhouse. Here, zombie dogs loped along the path to engage us, while other zombies shambled in our direction and a larger, fatter zombie made a beeline for us. Different tactics are needed for each opponent, whether it’s unloading firepower on the big zombie or swiftly moving to avoid the dogs.
Pushing forwards, we entered the barn where the spider beastie had made its home. The creature scuttled around the rafters and around the outside of the barn, so we continually had to keep on our toes and crack off shots when it entered our sights.
The bounty finally went down, which led to the next stage of the game: banish the beast and survive until it gets sent back to hell… or wherever. This banishment stage effectively sets off a beacon, alerting everyone to your location. The incentive for them is that they can get your stuff and claim your bounty, making all your work for nought.
As hunters under siege, you have to contend with zombies and other real players trying to kill you. This sharp change in pace, from the hunter to the hunted, creates an interesting change in gameplay. And, eventually, after a few close calls, our two hunters came out victorious—but not before one died. Upon a hunter’s demise, the other player has a chance to revive them, albeit with a lower health pool, adding another layer of tension to battle.
With the beastie finally banished, an extraction point materializes. You have to make it to the location in one piece to escape with your bounty money and other goodies. While this was shortened for brevity in the playthrough, we were assured that these locations would be farther afield upon release, creating a mad dash to the finish line.
After a successful escape, the currency you earn for completing bounties can then be used to upgrade weapons or to buy cosmetic items, as well as clothes and objects, like wire cutters, which can be used to bypass environmental traps to help you in your next bounty hunt.
Hunt: Showdown provides an interesting twist on PvP, bounty-hunting gameplay, with its three distinct stages of play creating interesting, engaging pacing. The risk/reward balance of each round, which typically can last for around 20-40mins, has the potential to foster some really tense and rewarding moments. However, it’s evident that teamwork is key and fully immersing yourself in the role of a hunter is integral to survival. And with the devs stressing that community involvement and feedback is a key component moving forwards, Hunt: Showdown seems like it can offer a breath of rank air to the PvP genre for PC gamers.
Hunt: Showdown is expected to release on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.