Hello and welcome to “Reasons to Love”, a new series dedicated to shining a light on the interesting, the unusual, and the overlooked. Today we’ll be talking about Crytek’s bounty hunting, battle royale, Hunt Showdown. If you’re into monsters, cowboy hats, and swamps, this could be the game for you. Alternatively, if you like unique and atmospheric new twists on strong gameplay fundamentals, you’ll probably find a lot to like too.
A Bold New Direction
If I were a genealogist (or maybe a biologist, I don’t know who decides these things), I’d place Hunt a fair few branches higher on the evolutionary tree than almost any other battle royale game currently available. The reason for this is the shift away from the basic, last man standing set up, to the wonderfully unique bounty hunting gameplay model.
Rather than focusing exclusively on eliminating other players, each team is encouraged to search the map for clues, three of which will reveal the location of one of the game’s terrifying bosses. After defeating the boss, a banishing ritual must be performed before the team can extract with a bounty.
As well as ratcheting up the tension a notch or two, this approach adds a whole range of interesting tactical options. Do you try and kill the boss and get out as quickly as possible? Do you work out where the boss is hiding, let someone else fight it for you, then swoop in and steal the bounty at the last moment? Or do you simply hunt down every other player on the map? There’s just so much strategy, much more than in similar games I’ve played. You have to plan ahead and be ready to switch things up in an instant. It takes a lot more than fancy shooting to ensure victory.
A Desolate Soundscape
I’d never properly considered just how much sound design can affect gameplay until I played Hunt. It’s a pretty big oversight on my part really, I’d just never realised how much information can be conveyed through audio alone.
In Hunt, every single thing you do has a distinct sound associated with it. Another player (who’s paying enough attention), might overhear you reloading, or switching weapons and gain the upper hand as a result. Not only can you work out where your opponent is, but you can also work out what they are doing. A grunt of exertion as they climb a fence, a window shattering, the wet squelch of a knife cutting through zombified flesh. All crucial pieces of information for a switched on player.
Crytek‘s level design incorporates auditory elements beautifully. There are all kinds of clever little “sound traps” on the map that can give you away if you aren’t paying attention. A startled flock of birds, the barking of rabid dogs, or the crunch of glass under your feet can all spell disaster for you and your team. The level of detail also gives the combat a unique sense of flow that I haven’t experienced in any other game.
Picture the scene. There’s a flurry of gunshots, your team runs for cover, bullets whizzing past you. An eerie silence follows. You take a nervous look around but see nothing. Then, footsteps somewhere to your left, you see one of the enemy players attempting to flank you, and take him out with one well-aimed shot. Then somebody throws a bomb and it’s chaos again. I absolutely loved moments like this.
The Horror, Oh the Horror
The late 19th century Louisiana bayou was probably a pretty scary place. Even more so when it’s full of monsters. In another deviation from the standard battle royale formula, Hunt Showdown could easily be classified as a horror game. Twisted, half-human horrors, roam the swamps, every single one of them intent on your imminent demise. From the enormous, lumbering “Meathead” to the repulsive, insect spewing “Hive”, everything is out to get you. Each of the monsters in the game is intimidating in its own right, but the three main bosses are undoubtedly the stars of the show.
“The Butcher”, “The Spider”, and “The Assasin”. You’ll have to face them all at some point in your career as a hunter. A series of clues lead you to the lair of one of the three, and once you arrive, it’s up to you to take them down. The Butcher is probably the most straightforward encounter, pursuing you relentlessly the entire time. The Spider and The Assasin, are more devious, striking from the shadows and using all manner of trickery to bring you down. Whoever you go up against, things can quickly get out of hand if you aren’t careful.
It’s all the little details that really bring the bosses to life. It’s the way The Butcher squeals as he pursues you, madly flailing his hook, or how The Spider has a mangled human face and limbs hanging from its underside. You’ll get used to them eventually once you’ve seen them enough times (as with all scary stuff), but especially early on, these Crytek creations are the stuff of nightmares and wouldn’t be out of place in something like Resident Evil. The horror elements really give the game a unique identity and round off the wider experience beautifully.
I was totally hooked by Hunt Showdown, which, honestly, surprised me. I’m not normally a fan of games like Fortnite and PUBG. Hunt just does so much to shake things up. It’s a really special game that I recommend wholeheartedly, the gameplay is great and the atmosphere rock solid. If you’re like me and don’t think you like battle royales, this could be the game that proves you wrong.