EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Sean Martin
previewed on PC
When I first saw the trailer for Hunt: Showdown, I struggled to describe what I was seeing. It kind of looked like Cowboy Bloodborne, or Cowboy Alien: Isolation with a multiplayer element. But however you choose to describe Crytekís new shooter, its concept is invariably strong. You begin by buying a hunter, using your money-pool to kit him out with a series of shotguns, rifles, pistols and melee weapons. Then you choose a contract (there are only two at the moment) and a time of day. You can also choose whether to run the mission in a pair or by yourself. The main focus of each mission is navigating the huge, detailed map and finding clues that eventually lead you to a big monster. Then you must kill the aforementioned big monster, banish it (which involves defending the kill as every player is alerted to your location), then escape with the bounty. And if that doesnít sound easy, youíve also got to consider that the map is a sprawling maze of swamps, slaughter yards and every other piece of horror-western iconography you can think of. Itís also jam-packed full of zombies, old ladies who summon swarms of insects, giant meat-creatures and dogs. In short... itís a beautiful nightmare.
The action of the Hunt: Showdown is incredibly refreshing. Itís not like many other shooters where youíll have a gunfight every 30 seconds; the game is permadeath after all and your hunter is your most valuable resource. The game favors the idea of the hunt: stalking other players, lying in ambush or tracking them using sound. Sound is a huge element of the game: there are hazards that create noise, such as crows that will fly off squawking, broken glass or even your choice to kill an enemy using your gun. All these things can alert other players to your presence. I played some rounds where I never even saw another player, but I knew they were nearby from the gunshots and their voice-chat. This adds a good deal of tension to the experience. The game occasionally has that well-known battlefield feeling, of running across a map for five minutes before getting shot by someone you didnít see. But thatís not me saying the game is unfair. I think the choice of only allowing you to shoot when youíre aiming levels the playing field greatly. I also appreciate the lack of scoped rifles, as I feel like their inclusion could ruin many aspects of the game.
But who cares about the humans? Weíre here for the monsters. There are two currently: Butcher, a giant lumbering, pigheaded slaughter-machine and The Spider, a large, super-speedy creepy-crawly. In terms of monster design I definitely appreciated The Spider more, as it comes at you in bouts and is then scared off by you successfully shooting at it. Also the fact itís super fast and runs along the walls and ceiling makes for such a fantastic battle. Butcher, on the other hand, is basically a lumbering large enemy that just keeps coming, which meant that often the only way I saw him killed (or killed him) was by hiding in a place he couldnít reach, which feels somewhat cheap.
You fight each boss monster in an arena, whether thatís an old warehouse or an underground crematorium, and these arenas are all well-designed for boss fighting, with nooks, crannies and hazards. But I started to feel tired of the arena layout, especially when I was fighting a boss and other players outside (unreachable by that boss) would be shooting in at me. I really hope that later on the game introduces a mode more like Alien: Isolation, in a smallish arena with other players, and a super-aggressive monster, attracted by sound, that can attack anyone. Because while tracking the clues and killing the smaller monsters is fairly fun, they are nothing compared to the boss monsters. A whole spiderís lair arena map, for example, would be incredible. But hopefully a number of modes will be added as the game moves through further development.
Early Access and Already Good!
For an early access game I would say itís incredibly good; slightly janky in some aspects, but the only real thing lacking is the content. More monsters and modes would obviously be great and further hunter customization would be a cool addition, but the range of weapons available is currently quite broad. If youíre a fan of shooters, westerns or undead-nightmares, I would fervently recommend you keep an eye on this game.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.