Hunt: Showdown Review – The Most Intense Multiplayer Shooter
Hunt: ShowdownFebruary 18th, 2020 (PS4)
My first experience with Hunt: Showdown was one fraught with sheer terror. I skulked through an abandoned farm crawling with the undead, and everything I interacted with made the most God-awful sound. I would walk past crows which would fly at me cawing, dead horses on the road would suddenly raise their heads and wail, and of course, undead humans themselves would come at me screaming and screeching, gurgling the rotted remains of their tongues. Every corner had a new horror, and it wasn't getting less intense.
Hunt: Showdown is a master of crafting a tense atmosphere. The sound design, and game concept as a whole, work together in tandem to put the player on edge. The undead enemies you come against are frightening, and the undead dogs, Hellhounds, can absolutely tear your health apart if you're taken unaware. But the monsters in the environment aren't even the biggest threat you'll go against while undertaking quests in this huge, Western-styled map filled with farms and threats.
You will go into each mission with a basic quest: find, kill, banish, and retrieve a bounty from one of the huge monsters lurking in the game. You have an ability called the Dark Sight, which allows you to see glowing indicators in the overworld, which you can cross-reference with the map to find clues, and eventually, the boss lair. The only problem is that there will also be other players scouring the map trying the do exactly the same thing, and if you encounter them, they will gun you down in cold blood. This adds a layer of stealth and strategy to the game that would be absent otherwise. Suddenly you'll be moving incredibly slowly through areas, for gunshots and screams from zombies will alert your enemies. The crows, horses, dogs, and litany of other environmental hazards are there not just to unnerve you and create that tense atmosphere, but also to alert your rivals to your haphazard gameplay.
The game is marketed as a unique take on the battle royale formula, and while you could argue that point, I wouldn't say that's what Hunt: Showdown is. After all, you can absolutely run through stages with reckless abandon, find the boss quickly, kill them, and extract yourself without ever encountering another player. In a few instances, I even did so solo and succeeded - though admittedly it was a scary experience. This is essentially what would be a fairly mediocre PVE singleplayer or co-op experience, given the touch of multiplayer and turned into something far more interesting. The fact is, once you have played the game a fair amount and are used to the surprises, enemies, and combat, a lot of the tension is lost. Right up until you come up against an enemy team, that is.
But things can feel like an uphill battle. Once you're out of the beginner ranks, permadeath will be enabled. If your hunter dies, they die forever, and you lose everything you were carrying. This is the key that makes PVP firefights so intense - everyone is battling not just to win the game, but to keep the hunter that they've worked hard to make progress on. The goal is to raise your hunter to level 25 - easily done after two good extractions - and then you can retire them, earning 100 experience towards your overall rank for every level you raised them. Raising your rank unlocks new guns and abilities - but of course, if you lose a hunter you were intending to rank up, your pride will be wounded, and progress delayed.
It's a simple enough task to get new hunters, but suddenly you may wish to think twice about the guns you'll equip them with, or how many items you'll give them to use in battle. Everything costs money, and while you should be able to make money quickly, your goal certainly isn't to throw it away. This is yet another aspect that ups the tension in matches, as this equipment management has stakes. This can also encourage some players to play more cowardly in the name of keeping their hunter and gear, and extract from missions before even accomplishing anything. Frustrating if you like to play to the death, and you're teamed with randoms. As with any multiplayer game, it is best played with a team of your friends.
What should hold all of this together is the gunplay, and unfortunately, it is very slow and awkward to adapt to. After coming off of fast-paced shooters like Apex Legends, Hunt: Showdown felt incredibly slow and frustrating, but after some sensitivity adjustments - and adjustments to how I play - I felt it was completely serviceable, though some small aspects still frustrate me, like having to press a button prompt to climb a ladder, instead of just walking into it. If you demand the best gunplay from your shooters or don't have the time necessary to adjust to how Hunt: Showdown plays out, this might not be for you.
But the Western-styled farmyard environment is gorgeous, even on console, despite some texture and enemy pop-in. Crytek has clearly honed their engine well, and while this doesn't look the same as it does on PC, it is very serviceable on the PS4 Pro. The dense environments do a lot to make the world feel real and lived-in, despite some buildings and areas looking familiar once you've spent several hours in the game.
I quite like Hunt: Showdown, but what I do not understand is why this game has F2P-style microtransactions. Legendary weapons are bought with Blood Stones, and Blood Stones are a premium currency. You can earn some Blood Stones in-game, but given the Blood Stones will also be necessary to refresh the Hunter Store if you've lost too many hunters in a day. These F2P mechanics don't have a place in a game which costs £35 to buy. This should've either been a F2P game in the first place, which would've given a much wider initial audience and player base, or dropped these microtransactions, especially since they are also selling DLC packs. Right now there are only a small handful of bosses and
one map two maps that you'll play repeatedly. In order for this game to have longevity, it needs active players, more bosses, and eventually, another map more maps, and selling these as DLC won't do, otherwise, this game will go the same way as Evolve.
I like Hunt: Showdown. It is not perfect, but it is intense, atmospheric, and great to play with friends. This isn't the premium-priced AAA shooter experience you might be looking for, but if you want to play a slow-paced, strategic, and high-risk high-reward FPS, then it might be the one for you. If Crytek can keep content coming and ensure an active online community on consoles, then this might be one I keep returning to over time.
Update 26/02/20: A previous version of this article claimed there was a dynamic time of day system. This is false. There are four pre-set weather conditions, which greatly change the appearance of the maps. This article also claimed there was a single map - this is incorrect, there are two maps: Lawson Delta and Stillwater Bayou. The author had assumed there was a single map since the maps are large, there is no way to choose between maps, and you have a random starting location at the beginning of each mission. We apologise for these inaccuracies.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (code provided by the publisher).
Hunt: Showdown is at first absolutely terrifying, but as you adjust it morphs into a smart, tense, and rewarding shooter that is best played with friends. It has slow moments and losing your hunter and progress can be incredibly frustrating, but those moments are all forgiven when you take down an enemy team with your sniper rifle. A fascinating shooter which isn't for everyone, but might be for you.
- Intense and atmospheric sound design
- High-risk high-reward gameplay
- Great graphics
- Poor menu interface for controllers
- Limited number of quests at launch