Review – Predator Hunting Grounds
Let’s just start with the spoilers and end any pretense that Predator Hunting Grounds anything more than a seven-out-of-ten type of game. But for me, it’s the best type of seven game. There was a time when a seven meant that a game was good fun instead of, what it seems to now mean, “unplayable”. These games had their flaws, they didn’t push the envelope on graphics or budget, but were still extremely fun to play and come back to.
Predator Hunting Grounds is the latest asymmetric, 4v1, multiplayer game by the somewhat snake bitten studio, Illfonic. If you recall; Illfonic was the team responsible for bringing us the cult hit, Friday the 13th: The Game. Having also lent their talents and support for 2K’s Evolve, it is safe to say that Illfonic has a passion for this genre and truly believe in it, just as you get the sense that they truly have a passion for the IP’s they develop.
PREDATOR VS. FIRETEAM:
With Predator Hunting Grounds being asymmetrical, one side will be playing the game very differently than the other side. Members of the four-person fireteam will have the more immediate advantage of having traditional FPS controls. Health and endurance bars are located in the lower left of the screen along with a mini map. The bottom right shows your ammo and gear. Holding the touchpad brings up the overall map. Left trigger is for aiming, right trigger is for shooting, R1 for gear item, reloading, crouching, and jumping. All the common everyday FPS controls are alive and well.
Square acts as your action button. You will use this when you want to interact with any mission objects, item caches, in-game credits, or reviving downed teammates. But the most important use of Square will be to cover yourself up with mud early and often. This all but blinds the Predator to you when using his infra-red.
Once your team lands at the drop zone, you will then make your way through the jungle to your first of three missions. You can try to avoid detection from the locals by keeping your distance and disabling alarms. This also helps in keeping the Predator unaware of your whereabouts. Likewise, you can also just blast your way through and collect that XP. AI will rarely be a threat, and they aren’t meant to be. They are meant to be an obstacle and/or a distraction. Albeit, one you do need to remain cognizant of. If you complete all three missions, you are then given the evacuation point to call in for an extraction. Or you can simply kill the Predator and be done with it.
As the Predator, you are dropped in blind. You don’t get your choice of where you land and you have no idea where the fireteam lands. Using your speed, agility, the high ground of the trees, and your vision and detection, you track your prey through the thick jungle.
Your mechanics are slightly different from that of the fireteam. You can still aim and fire, but instead of hip firing when you don’t aim, you use your melee attack. You also use “predkour” (Predator parkour.. Get it??) to quickly climb trees and run along from branch to branch. Instead of endurance, you have an energy meter that slowly drains as you use your invisibility, energy weapons, and infra-red to track heat signatures. You can over charge the energy to deliver a more devastating attack, but then need to wait longer for the recharge.
What makes the Predator so much fun is the different styles that you can use with him. You can stay back and scatter your attacks from a distance, using your plasma cannon, smart disc, or combostick. You can leap right in, stunning them with a slam and taking one or two out before running for safety. Starting off with a simple shoulder cannon and claws is more than enough to make you feel like the Predator, but the fun starts as you unlock the full arsenal available. Strategies and tactics change once you start practicing with the net gun and bear traps.
As the Predator, you win by using these strategies to eliminate the fireteam. Simple as that. Wipe them all out, collecting their skulls as trophies. The longer the game goes, the more XP you get, but the closer they get to extraction. If desperate times call for desperate measures, you can activate your self-destruct bomb and kill every fireteam member in the blast radius.
READY PREDATOR ONE:
Predator Hunting Grounds gives you three modes of play: Quick Match, Private Match, and Tutorial. Since the fireteam feels very familiar, the tutorial focuses on the Predator. This allows you to get comfortable with how the Predator stalks and moves, his weapons and gear, and the over differences in play style. Quick Match is your primary mode of play. This will dump you into a single game match where you can choose to be a member of a fireteam, the Predator, or either. Private Match allows you to set up a private game for any number of invited players between two and five.
The main hook of the game is leveling up. Playing a match rewards you with XP and in-game currency, Veritanium. XP levels your character. Leveling your character unlocks new character types, weapon and gear choices, and gifts you loot boxes (field lockers). Using a weapon gives you XP in that specific weapon which unlocks better attachments and even a better weapon of that type (AR, Shotgun, SMG, etc). Veritanium is the in-game currency. This allows you to buy cosmetic items for your characters: different outfits, different colors, and different weapon skins.
This is what Illfonic does so right by their players; it doesn’t have to be a chore to have fun in a game. Leveling is often and rewarding. Best of all, leveling isn’t restricted to only the people able to invest five hours a day. XP is not overly stingy to the losing team so even after a loss, you feel like you are moving forward. Early on, there is rarely a match that goes by that doesn’t result in obtaining some unlockable.
The best use of this “fun over chore” mentality is that XP is not restricted to just quick matches. Setting up a private match allows you the same rewards as random quick matches. While other titles worry that you will abuse private matches for leveling or unlocking trophies, Illfonic allows you to be an adult and to play the way that is most fun for you.. Jumping in a game, only my son and I, was a great way to learn the game and get more real world practice as the Predator, without being punished or limited for doing so.
ALL THAT GLITTER AIN’T VERITANIUM:
Now to come back to why Predator Hunting Grounds is a 7-of-10 game: it’s flawed. It’s incredibly flawed. There are a lot of Quality of Life improvements needed and hopefully Illfonic takes the time to address things.
My biggest gripe with the game is the Quick Matches. It is nice that they show you the approximate wait times, but if you want to play as the Predator, that wait time is consistently over five minutes. Once you do make it into a match, it is frustrating when you finally meet a solid group of players, only to be disbanded as soon as the match is over and forced back to the Main Menu where you repeat the cycle. Going to the PS4’s friend list in hopes to add someone through Player’s Met didn’t work either.
Gun continuing to make a shooting noise long after I have stopped shooting? Sure, that has happened. Character being polygonal and even invisible in the select screen? Yup, that has happened too. Guns completely disappearing from teammates hands? I’ve seen it. The glitches are as plentiful as they are various. I haven’t come across anything more than cosmetic, but my guess is it is a matter of time.
I believe that you have about three maps, but it may as well be one. Each map is obviously a jungle setting with three or so points of interest. One may have a warehouse, another may have a trainyard, but they all bleed together after a while. Hundreds of trees surrounding a couple open areas where you run in and out of buildings completing equally repetitive missions.
Predator Hunting Grounds does support cross-play with PC. However, as fantastic as that is, you can’t party up with players from a different system. This basically makes cross-play pointless, other than to maintain the player base.
Visually, the game is limited. If you were to say these were PS3 level graphics, I wouldn’t be able to disagree. That isn’t to say bad graphics. At no point was I ever taken out of a game because of it looking that bad, but the same could be said for it looking that good. Sound is purposely minimal. You get the occasional mission instruction to help guide you. Every so often a player or NPC will shout something out. But it is this way for a reason. Hearing birds fly off from the canopy of tree’s gets you searching up above. Hearing the purr of the Predator makes you anxious. It’s these sounds that not only set the tone, but also are extremely important for gameplay.
Not the prettiest game on the market: Check. Absolutely needs Quality of Life improvements: Check. Comes complete with a plethora of wonky glitches: Check. However, it finds that sweet spot where the hook just plain works. The reward of leveling and loot, the stress of scanning the treetops when you hear that Preda-purr, and the satisfaction of systematically wiping out an entire fireteam; it all just works.
So yes, Predator Hunting Grounds is a seven-out-of-ten game. And yes, sevens lately seem to point out the problems with a title; why block buster A isn’t as good as block buster B. Occasionally, however, it can also serve to remind us that no matter the budget, no matter the pedigree, a small studio with passion can step up with them and be a good, fun option.
Late gen PS3 graphics wouldn’t be an incorrect statement. That isn’t to say bad, though.
Balanced 4v1 asymmetrical shooter. At no point did I feel one group was at too great an advantage beyond player ability.
Minimal with a reason. Hearing birds fly off and a “purr” from behind you causes hairs to stand on end.
These games are about the hook, the effort vs the reward: be it gameplay or loot cycle. Consider it nailed.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Predator Hunting Grounds is available now on PS4 and PC.
Reviewed on PS4 and PS4 Pro.
A copy of Predator Hunting Grounds was provided by the publisher.