Hunt: Showdown Blurs Line Between Hunter, Hunted

After a host of internal struggles and corporate restructuring, Crytek is finally back to crafting their unique brand of FPS experiences. It’s been awhile since anything of note has come out of Crytek, but their upcoming multiplayer FPS might just change that. Hunt: Showdown is still a ways out from its release date, but Crytek is allowing a few players to get hands-on experience via a closed alpha test. Hardcore Gamer was able to dive into these sessions and what’s been shown so far is looking quite promising.

As the title suggests, Hunt: Showdown is a game about hunting. Players are tasked with tracking-down and then killing dangerous boss monsters as they navigate a 1km² sandbox filled with all manner of hazards and hostile creatures. It’s not quite that simple, though, as Hunt: Showdown isn’t solely a PvE experience. It’s actually a competitive PvP game in a PvE wrapper. Each hunt is its own match wherein ten hunters do their best to discover the monster’s lair, kill it and escape with the bounty before the other hunters can catch up to them. If any hunters happen to cross paths at any point, then a deadly confrontation immediately erupts. In Hunt: Showdown, it’s either kill and be handsomely rewarded or be killed and lose more than just the match.

Before diving into a hunt, players must first hire a hunter. Hunters are differentiated by the equipment they’re carrying, the weapons they come equipped with and a consumable item. Some hunters will also come with a unique trait that’ll give them a minor advantage in the field. Players can further customize their hunters with additional equipment, consumables and weapons. This is best done after deciding which boss monster to hunt and what time of day to perform said hunt. Different guns and equipment do different types of damage, so bringing the correct tools is important. Once ready, players can choose their hunt and whether or not they want to play solo or in pairs. In this alpha, the matchmaking lobby features a text chat window so players matched with random partners can have a chance to break the ice before the match starts. It’s too bad voice-chat isn’t available yet, but perhaps text-chat is better for these situations anyway.

The hunts themselves are intense, nail-biting affairs throughout. In order to track down the boss monsters, hunters must use an ability called “Dark Sight” to locate clues as to their whereabouts. Clues are always located near plenty of minor enemies and serve as natural skirmish points since all hunters can see them. Successfully collecting a clue narrows down a monster’s location by blacking-out a portion of the map. Collecting two clues homes the hunters in on a creatures general location and collecting a third clue will pinpoint its lair. Players must be take care not to be overzealous in their pursuit, however; the danger surrounding these clues is real and must not be taken lightly. Average creatures can be quickly dispatched but they all also hit hard. Whether or not to engage them is a decision hunters will have to contend with throughout the entirety of a match, because while eliminating them might be helpful, it’ll also create unwanted noise that could easily draw in more creatures or even other hunters. In Hunt: Showdown, to give away one’s position carelessly is to invite a quick and unceremonious end.

Once a hunter team makes to the boss monster’s lair, the game shifts from a slow and stealthy affair into an exciting and frantic struggle for survival. These monsters are powerful, smart, and ready to defend themselves with every tooth, nail and hairy appendage at their disposal. Only the best hunters will be able to take them on solo. Once the creature is dead, its killers must defend their prize for two minutes as its soul is banished. These two minutes are a heart-pounding to the combination of knowingly being a sitting duck and being being a hair’s breadth away from a victory that could be spoiled at any second. If a hunter team manages to defend their prize, they must pick up their bounties and make a beeline for the nearest escape point as they cut down any remaining hunters and creatures in their path. The other players can see them on their map at this point, so there’s great risk of being ambushed right up until the very end. Altogether, these hunts make for some exceptionally satisfying white-knuckle gaming.

Only one team of hunters can be successful, though, and those that don’t win often wind up dead. “Dead” absolutely does mean dead too. If a hunter dies in a match, that hunter, along with all his gear and experience, is gone forever. If one wants to play another match, they’ll have to hire another hunter first. It my sound harsh, but it’s not as bad a penalty as it initially appears to be. Players get to keep their money and they still get to progress in the game by way of their “Bloodline.” Bloodline represents a player’s overall progression in Hunt: Showdown. After either finishing or getting knocked out of a match, players are rewarded with experience and money based on what they managed to accomplish. Finding clues, killing a boss monster and escaping with bounties all award experience and money. Killing other creatures and players only yields experience. If a hunter survives, then experience is applied to both the hunter and the player’s Bloodline. If they die, then only the Bloodline receives experience. As hunters gain experience and rank up, they unlock new traits and additional equipment slots. As the bloodline advances, it awards money and unlocks new weapons or equipment in the store. It’s difficult to tell right now, but hopefully this will keep the skill gap between top-level and lower-level hunters from growing too wide.

Once again, the version that’s currently available to play is a closed alpha so much of this could change between now and its eventual release. Right now, success in the game relies heavily on a combination of calculated decision-making, stealth and, most of all, teamwork. These are all strengths in its favor, but there are some things that could use some tweaking, the timing and duration of some aspects of the hunts in particular. Two minutes, as tense and fun as they are, is a long time to have to hold a point when time to kill is so short. Having one’s location marked on the map while carrying the bounties also feels like it will lead to problems. The most simple and effective strategies are always the ones the rise to dominance in any multiplayer game. In a game like Hunt: Showdown, where the location of those holding the big prize is right there on the map, what better strategy would there be than to lie in wait at the nearest exit and ambush the bounty-carriers as they wait to extract? It bypasses all the difficulty of playing the rest of the match while still yielding the biggest reward. It might not be as much fun, but securing the win is what matters most to many players out there.

These concerns and the technical difficulties inherent to an alpha aside, Crytek has managed to build a unique and pulse-pounding PvP experience in Hunt: Showdown. For those who are looking for a new kind of FPS or who were disappointed by the hunting experience offered by Evolve, Hunt: Showdown is worth keeping an eye on.