Typically, waking up on a Sunday is a slow process and involves a lot of groaning about getting out of bed. A few days ago was an exception. See, after blinking for several minutes, I reached out to check the time on my phone – and I happened to see the email that had the invitation. I was in. My call to action had been heard, and I am another hopeful joining The Hunt. My fiance later told me she never saw me get out of bed faster in her life.
For the uninitiated, Hunt: Showdown is a competitive, first person action shooter from Crytek that tasks the player – either solo or with a partner – with hunting down boss monsters and escaping with the bounty. A quick glance at their roadmap (https://www.huntshowdown.com/roadmap) hints at further development with more weapons, mode variations, and even a crafting system in the future, all of which is additional icing on a cake made of glory. I am currently unaware of any release date.
This preview can also be seen as a sort of quick and dirty newbie guide, if you happen to end up answering the call, yourself. And to start, let’s discuss your characters.
When you hunt the damned, you risk your very soul in the process. This game drives that point home – when you die, you die. You have your account rank, which increases as you play depending on your accomplishments, and works to unlock perks, weapons and items to buy at the shop between matches. Then you have your individual Hunters’ levels, and you can have five Hunters at a time, max. They level up individually and can be equipped with whatever you purchase from the store. The max level of a Hunter is 50, and at the current rate, escaping with the bounty at level 1 (and depending on what else you kill), you can expect to hit level 9-11. A second win might put you at 20.
Whenever your hunter levels up, they earn a skill point. These points can be spent on health segments (either 25 or 50) and perks. Perks are, so far, typical perks one might find in online shooters – less stamina drain when sprinting, increased stamina gain, and that sort of thing. Health segments are a unique and interesting mechanic. A hunter cannot go past 150 health max – and it can be a mix of 25’s and 50’s. The larger health pool gives you a greater chance of being able to regenerate health back to the limit of its particular bar – the smaller segments can help mitigate burn damage and, when revived, you risk losing less health. Each time you’re down, assuming you have a teammate, you lose one bar of health – either a 25, or a 50, whichever is at the end. Equipping your hunter seems unaffected by their rank, although I have yet to unlock any of the deadlier firepower.
When your Hunter dies, he dies for good. All his gear, his levels, his character are gone. You can replenish them by purchasing new Hunters for some in-game money. Starting off in the testing environment, we seem to start with a small sum that is more than enough to purchase whatever we need, when we need it, without allowing complete recklessness. Each Hunter prospect comes with their own set of amatuer gear, a possible perk, and a random pool of health made of the two segments. Fine tune them as you like, and they’re ready to collect bounties.
Currently, there is one map and four hunts to choose from – daytime missions hunting either the Spider or the Butcher, or nighttime variations. You can choose to play solo or find a random teammate. Playing solo is not recommended – there is no solo only mode. You are at a distinct disadvantage, and I would hate to fight either of the bosses alone, especially the Spider. However, one can always simply wait for someone to do their dirty work, then simply take the bounty with a little.. convincing, if you catch my drift. On top of that, one can extract at any time, their character living to fight another day. There have been several occasions where I lost my teammate during a match and weighed my options. I figured I could live another day.
Once in a match, one can be immediately hit with one of two things: framerate problems or a gorgeous painting of swamps and carnage. Graphic options are resolution, fullscreen/windowed, motion blur on/off, and v-sync. I have yet to see if I can adjust anything else. Running on 16GB of RAM, a GeForce 970, and an AMD 8350 CPU, I could play comfortably with the motion blur on, but for more stable frames in combat, I opted to turn it off. Using a surround sound headset is recommended, not only for strategic advantage, but so one can truly appreciate the incredible work that went into the sound design. Hands down, incredible, based on the experience with a pair of Astro A50s.
Players will spawn at the edge of the map, as will a few random extract points. Some matches find the extraction points clustered near a corner of the map, some matches they are spread out along the edge. The first task, find a clue, which will guide you in the direction of your prey – darkening parts of the map where the boss is not. Three clues and you’ll get its exact location marked. To find clues, one can tap into their Dark Sight, which will cause clues to give off blue, firefly looking particles.
As you and your partner track the clues, you’ll encounter the environment. The trees and brush will snap and groan. Water and muck gurgle under your boots. Broken glass litters some of the locations and cracks and snaps under your weight. Murders of crows will take flight when you disturb them, alerting nearby hunters of your movements. Inside buildings, the wind causes their old wood to creak and groan. Horseshoes are frequently tied to awnings, as are glass bottles, chains. Getting too close to cages will spark barking from the starving dogs. Monsters lurk everywhere, from the slow, dumb grunts to armored husks and headless abominations that rely on leeches for detection, and most are drawn to noise. To move fast is risky, yet move too slow and someone else will be off with your bounty.
Scattered throughout the map are supply stations that house ammo and stationary med stations, some marked on the map from the start, some hidden. Along with those, ammo can be found in most locations in the world, as can lanterns, axes and sledge hammers. Lanterns can be thrown to cause fires and burn whatever is in its way. A particularly gruesome way to prevent an enemy hunter from being revived by a teammate is to throw a damn lantern on him and light him on fire. Axes are great in a scrap, putting down grunts with ease. And sledgehammers? Sometimes a door might be barred on the other side. Sledgehammers can fix that.
The gunplay seems polished. Grunts, when singled out, pose little threat, and to keep quiet one can either bash them with the end of their gun a few times, or carry a knife or dusters with them to enable quicker kills. Guns seem to be your typical wild west era of firearms, from six shooters and break barrel shotguns to carbines and sticks of dynamite. Not every bullet goes straight, but most find their mark, and it is rewarding. Gun fights between players is frantic and shots of adrenaline. Once again, the audio is a phenomenal experience as bullets zip past, plunging into nearby wood or richotting off into the unknown. Players are not bullet sponges, and being caught unaware or out in the open can be a death sentence.
Once you narrow down where the boss monster is, the time has come to collect your bounty. The Spider is fast and agile, able to climb walls and ceilings with ease. A chaotic fight that rewards true aim. The Butcher is a giant of meat and hatred, slow but strong. Bring shotguns to make the fight easier. The most iconic boss fight yet was fighting the Butcher in the dark celler of the Pitching Crematorium. Trapped in confined, close quarters in the dark with my partner and the Butcher, we pulled through in the end, even managed to reach our extraction point and carry our spoils home.
At the end of the round, one learns of their deeds and their weight in the terms of Hunter experience and cash. Leveling up your Hunter levels up your account. The cash is used to buy gear. Gear is used to Hunt. There are always more monsters to put down. There are always more opportunities for glory. More opportunities to take what is rightfully yours, from anything and anyone.