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Hands-On With Crytek’s Latest in Hunt: Showdown

by William Schwartz

hunt-showdown

Coming out of E3 2017 it was clear that Crytek had an interesting idea on their hands with Hunt: Showdown.  Back then we called it a mix of Evolve, DayZ, and PUBG, but that was just from what we saw in a presentation.  With it now in a closed Alpha testing phase, we’ve gotten a chance to put the game through its paces in this developer build.  After a solid day with Hunt: Showdown, I’m kind of excited about this new, strange thing.

Hunt: Showdown is a competitive multiplayer shooter wrapped in a survival horror aesthetic.  The game features multiple teams of Hunters who set out to destroy an AI controlled monster by following clues that are strewn across the map.  As you find these clues, your team will be able to dial in on the exact location of the monster.  Your goal is to kill this monster, take it’s bounty, and then make it out of the map alive.  This is all easier said than done.

Hunt: Showdown Live Stream Archive

Finding clues on the map uses a simple gameplay mechanic called “Dark Sight.”  This allows the all hunters in the game to see clue locations or the general direction they should be heading.  Along your path to these clues are a wide variety of AI controlled enemies, and of course, the other Hunters out in this hostile environment that are searching for the same clues.  During this hunting process, players are engaging in PvP, PvE, or even PvPvE fights navigating the traps and pitfalls of the map, all while trying to narrow down the location of the monster.

Audio plays a large role in this first stage of the game and it’s clear that Crytek is taking great care here.  Audio clues are just as important as the visual ones.  You’ll hear gun shots ring out in the distance that signal other teams close by.  You’ll hear the groaning sounds of different types of monsters as they encounter other players or start to advance on you.  Flocks of birds will shoot into the air as you pass them, another signal to look out for or listen for to signal that other teams are close by. The sandbox is littered with hazards that’ll quickly give away your position or potentially kill you outright.  Equally impressive are the visuals in Hunt: Showdown.  Crytek has always been a developer that pushes visual fidelity to new heights, and while Hunt: Showdown isn’t quite Crysis at this point, it’s a sharp looking game even in alpha.  It should only get better as development continues.

The alpha version of the game features one map with day and night settings and two different monsters, a massive yet agile spider and a powerful, grotesque butcher.  Making it to the monster is just the first step on your journey though.  These are tough opponents and you’ll need all of your ammunition and weapons to take them out, but killing them, banishing them, and then making it out of the match alive is your primary objective.  What makes Hunt: Showdown intriguing is that this linear path that I described is only one of the paths to victory in the game.  There are many different ways to play the game.  Being first to find the monster and kill it is not a win condition in this game.  In fact, being first to the monster is almost a disadvantage in some ways as 1) The amount of noise you’re causing in fighting the monster will likely send other teams hurtling your way.  2) There’s a second stage to killing the monster called “Banishing” that reveals your position on the map.

This banishing process is where Hunt: Showdown switches gears.  Sure, you’ve defeated a tough monster, but now you’ve got to hold out at the spot of the monster’s death for short time to collect your reward.  Since the map is now highlighted with the position of the banishment process, other players are surely coming your way looking to steal your prize.  What happens next is usually the best part of a Hunt: Showdown match.  The ultimate goal of the game is making it out alive, with the monster bounty in tow.  If you can do it with your partner, together, you’ll collect twice the rewards.  At this point, the team that is in the lead is at a complete disadvantage.  Your human enemies know your position, you’re likely low on ammunition and/or health and just got done with a big fight against a tough opponent.  It’s time to ready your guns, heal up and fight again because an ambush is certainly waiting for you as you head towards the exits on the map.

If you’ve managed to track and kill the monster, banish it, and then take its bounty you’re needing to high-tail it to the nearest exit for victory.  Again, however, you are at a disadvantage against other players because that same vision mechanic that you were using to track clues to find the monster is now being used against you to find your location.  The hunters become the hunted in Hunt: Showdown.  The mechanics come together in a way that doesn’t quite resemble any multiplayer experience that we’ve seen before.  Turtle Rock’s Evolve might be close to what we’re seeing here, but the FPS and Survival Horror elements really set Hunt: Showdown apart.   Our initial comparisons do seem to hold up.  This game clearly draws inspiration from some of the more popular survival games in the genre as well as Evolve and others.

There are also some little things in Hunt: Showdown that really make the whole thing coalesce.  In a game which has a strong focus on sound, the proximity voice feature functions in an interesting way.  You can speak with your teammate, but you can also hear other players that are in the area.  In one of our matches (the second match in the live stream above) we heard one player asking for help and wanting to team-up with us, swearing they wouldn’t kill us, only to be waiting outside with his teammate to ambush us on the way to the exit.  Another interesting thing about Hunt: Showdown is the scarcity of resources in the game.  Ammunition, health, and other consumables are extremely limited so there’s a survival aspect to the game which is fitting.  You have to carefully traverse the dangerous map, choosing wisely when to use your ammunition or other items as there’s no guarantee that you’ll find additional ammunition.  Lastly, the progression system for the game that’s in the Alpha Build features perma-death.  You can use upgrade points and in-game currency to outfit your Hunter pre-match, but if you die in the game that character is gone forever and any in-game currency or upgrade points are lost with it.

There are actually a lot of great ideas in Hunt: Showdown that Crytek has learned from other shooters, but the combination of everything makes it feel incredibly distinctive.  While it’s still early days and we’ll likely see changes as the game heads towards Early Access and release, there’s a solid base of a fun, unique multiplayer experience here.

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