Review – Hunting Simulator 2
There are a few ways that make real hunting a fun time and perhaps offer some thrills, even when there isn’t any. Being in the real outdoors, hunting, heightens all of your senses. Your ears twitch at the slightest noise and your sight narrows in like an eagle at the smallest movements. Even when you’re stationary, you at least get to appreciate the nature around you. The various wildlife that skitters by or the sun rising or setting. Heck, you even have the option to bring someone with you to enjoy all of this with. My point being, even when nothing is happening in real hunting, there are things to enjoy.
Now, I’m no hunting expert. I’ve been on one excursion with a small group and I didn’t even get to shoot my rifle. However, even the excitement of our group getting one and knowing we are feasting well that night was amazing. I got to help bleed it, gut it, skin it, and butcher the deer which was an experience on its own. Unfortunately, Hunting Simulator 2 misses all of this and ultimately feels like a hollow experience.
Hunting Simulator 2 does not feature a story mode, so what you get out of the game is up to you. There is a training tutorial that does feature voiceover to help guide you through the basics of the game, but that’s about it as far as hand holding. Once the tutorial is over, you’re free to hunt as you please. What I did appreciate is that all of the hunting locations are accessible right from the start. No need to grind your way to the next map.
While all maps are accessible from the start, literally everything else needs to be purchased. You do start off with a single rifle and type of ammo, but the ammo is only good for a small selection of animals. Don’t do what I did and spend all your money only on hunting licenses or on the gun and ammo that you’ll need to hunt that animal.
Guns and ammo are extremely expensive and even clothing will set you back a few hundred credits per item. The credit system needs a rework when bagging a deer only grants you enough credits to buy a hat. This creates a very tedious grind to unlock the hundreds of available items. There is also penalty system that comes into play, but I’ll get into that later.
The lodge acts as your main hub, where you can display your trophies, view your guns, take a look at a bestiary list, change the time of day, and shop. From here you can leave to go to the shooting range to try out any new weapons or attachments. This is also where you’ll choose a location to start your hunt. There are three different locations: the plains of Colorado, the Texan desert, and the forests of Europe. Each location features two different maps that will feature different animals.
Once a location and map is picked, you begin your hunt. You start off next to the hunters cabin where you can swap your loadout and eventually drop off and register your day’s kills. Once you finally leave the cabin and begin your hunt is when you finally meet the best thing about the game. You get to finally play with your dog! You start off with a Beagle and you can unlock additional dogs like Labradors, who are good at fetching birds from water. Your Beagle is your best tool during your hunts. He will sniff out tracks as well as continue to follow the tracks and droppings. When he finds something, you can praise him and give him a pat. Using him to track animals and praising him will level him up to become a more efficient hunting dog as well.
It may take a while to find your first animal, but once you finally do, you better hope you take it down in a single shot. If you don’t critically wound your animal, it will begin running away extremely fast. Your only option now is using your dog to track the blood trail and this can take an extremely long time. Your dog will run out of stamina and constantly stop and continue. It feels far too long to track down a wounded animal. It doesn’t help that the walking speed is extremely slow and the sprinting doesn’t last that long.
Most of the penalties are fair when you consider that you don’t want to only slightly wound an animal and not kill it. Or completely destroy it with a large caliber. Penalties occur if you shoot an animal with the wrong caliber, if you don’t have a license, if you shoot it too many times, or shoot a female. Unfortunately, I ran into issues with the excessive amount of shots penalty.
As I described above, if you miss a vital organ you have to track the animal down. Missed my second shot, but now the deer was limping and I was able to walk with it. I followed this poor deer for a very long time and he wasn’t dropping. Without other options I didn’t know what else to do besides make sure my 3rd shot was a vital shot, but that gave me a penalty.
Outside of your hunting dog, there are a few other things that can help you hunt. Throughout the maps there are towers that you can go into and wait out an animal. From here, using various animal calls is a good combination. There are also camps to unlock fast travel, as well as blinds to hide in and wait. Combining animal calls with bait and scent removers will make your hunting much easier.
My main issues with Hunting Simulator 2‘s gameplay is that it all around feels cumbersome. Some things feel needlessly complex, while others are overly simplified. While you’re out at your hunt there is no easy way to check your bestiary to see what ammo you need for what ammo. That information is only viewable within certain menus in the lodge. If you’re in your hunt and want to change the time of day, you can’t simply sleep in your cabin or tent, but have to travel back to the lodge. This also means you will not get dynamic times of day and alternating animal behaviors.
More often than not I stopped relying on my dog and continued to sprint through areas until a marker popped up showing the animal’s location and distance. Once I was 100 meters out, I would start being cautious. This completely ruled out the need for the slow dog tracking. Once an animal is shot, you don’t need to do anything else since it will magically be transported to your cabin for you to claim.
There didn’t seem to be a clear decision on what they should and shouldn’t simplify for the player, and the end result feels disjointed. On top of that, the general movement and gameplay does not feel polished at all. Movement is very stilted and clunky, and there is no way to go prone if you wanted to. Using the towers and blinds felt like a waste of time and without the dynamic day/night cycle, you didn’t even get to watch the scenery change.
The visuals unfortunately won’t make your experience any better. While there can be some good looking scenery shots, especially in the forest areas, as soon as you get close to anything it all goes out the window. The Texas desert areas or in large plains, you’ll also get some funky assets that try and hide the bad draw distance while zoomed in. Without the dynamic lighting system, they missed some opportunities for that random perfect scenery view. The animations of the animals are also lacking, looking as stiff as your character plays. I will say though that the gun models, attachments, and various items are very accurate to their real life counterparts.
Sound design is decidedly quiet, as it should be for a hunting game. There isn’t much of a soundtrack, but instead it relies on natural ambient sounds to immerse you. For the most part they really nail the ambient nature sounds, as well as the various sounds of each animal. The more you play, the more likely that you’ll be able to know what animal is near you only by its call. However, some environmental sound effects become extremely repetitive and sound low quality like the crunch of your boots or running water. The weapons have a realistic sound to them capturing the various bolt action and caliber sounds well.
Hunting Simulator 2 unfortunately misses the majority of feelings that come with actual hunting. With cumbersome systems, clunky gameplay, unbalanced currency system, and no dynamic day/night cycle, Hunting Simulator 2 feels like a test of patience in the wrong way, that ultimately does not pay off.
There are brief moments while exploring the maps where things may lineup and be good looking. However, once you either look close or far in, the distance the visuals fall apart.
There isn’t much depth to Hunting Simulator 2, and some design decisions seem intentionally cumbersome. Outside of that, the gameplay just doesn’t feel polished.
Sound design is tame, but that’s to be expected for a hunting game. There really isn’t much of a soundtrack or voice acting, but the various animal species and their calls are well implemented.
I absolutely loved the first time I went hunting, it was a thrill when our group bagged a buck. Unfortunately, Hunting Simulator 2 doesn’t capture that thrill and instead feels cumbersome and repetitive.
Final Verdict: 5.5
Hunting Simulator 2 is available now on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro.
A copy of Hunting Simulator 2 was provided by the publisher.