Crytek’s Hunt: Showdown feels like one of those games that has been out for ages. After a number of delays, an earlier PC release and an extended period on Game Preview, it seems almost absurd that it is being released in February of 2020. But being released it is, and despite it’s odd, often protracted, and occasionally confusing journey to store shelves and online stores, it appears that Crytek’s ambitious online shooter was well worth the wait. It’s a game that will invariably live and die on the strength of its community (or potential lack thereof), but whatever comes of Hunt: Showdown in the long term, Crytek have, at the very least, created a unique, incredibly tense and visually impressive online shooter, one with a strong enough base on which to potentially build years’ worth of additional content.
In an industry dominated by very good, but ostensibly very similar online shooters, its feels like a breath of fresh air to come across a genuine triple-a alternative, one that delivers an opposing visual style to go alongside its unique take on the genre. By taking elements of the Battle Royale genre and combining it with more stealth inspired gameplay and an historically set horror aesthetic, Hunt: Showdown manages to take familiar aspects of disparate genres and game types and combine them to create something that feels genuinely new and exciting.
Set in an alternative 1890s in which monsters have entered the world via a number of rifts scattered about the land, Hunt: Showdown is a game that, similar to the likes of Dark Souls or Bloodborne, can be simply taken and enjoyed at face value, or one that can be equally studied in far greater detail for those looking to get the most from its initially simple but surprisingly in-depth world. While there is no single player story (there is no single player mode at all in fact), via the games’ carefully constructed narrative and deep lore, the Hunt: Showdown hides a wealth of detail on just about every aspect of the game and its world. Does it matter if you ignore all of this additional detail? No, not really. But like the Bloodbornes of this world, it’s nice to find an online shooter with such commitment towards creating a fully fleshed out and carefully crafted virtual world.
Whether you are working as part of a team or going it alone (the former is certainly preferable to the latter), the danger inherent throughout the world combined with the constant threat posed by other players combines to create a uniquely intense experience, one that makes you inherently aware of your surroundings. Sure, you can ignore all this and simply run in all guns blazing (the game actually offers two unique control methods based upon your preferred approach), but honestly, despite catering to both play styles, Hunt: Showdown is a game that rarely (if ever) rewards such a foolhardy approach.
If you want to survive until the end and successfully take one of the primary bounties, you’re going to have to play it far more carefully. That means sticking to the shadows, not giving away your position (it seems that most things in this game can give away your position) and choosing your shots carefully. Not only is ammo limited, but beyond the core bounties and additional competing players, you’ll also find yourself dealing with the local zombie folk and supernatural wildlife – oh, and annoying ducks who love nothing more than to make a scene whenever you get near them. They’re just ducks – nothing supernatural about them – but in an especially tense encounter, they can be an absolute pain in the butt. Sure, none of these enemies (or ducks) are as dangerous as the primary bounties, but it’s amazing how quickly things can get out of hand in the world of Hunt: Showdown. Like the aforementioned From Software titles, Crytek’s latest online shooter is quick to punish those that let their guard down with even the most basic of enemies able to take you out if given half a chance – or, at the very least, give your position away to opposing players.
The great thing is, given the emphasis on stealth, those looking to take on bounties on their own rather than as part of a team still have a chance. Rather than charging in to encounters, if you’re going solo, you’re much better off skulking around in the shadows, making careful use of your Dark Sight abilities to keep an eye on your surroundings (your singular supernatural ability used to track down bounties), picking your shots carefully and belting it to the evacuation point with your loot in hand at the earliest opportunity. In fact, whether you be part of a team or flying solo, skulking and running is often the best choice given the perma-death nature of the game.
While the quickplay option provides a faster and altogether less stressful game mode (the one game mode sans the constant threat of perma-death), the core Bounty Mode and Contract Mode (basically Bounty Mode with a few additional stipulations), provide the primary gaming experience and deliver rounds that can last up to an hour. If in this hour your character dies, not only do you lose the loot acquired in that round, but that character, one you might have been building up for hours is now dead…forever. Can that be infuriating? Yes, very much so. But honestly, it adds a layer of intensity to gameplay that simply isn’t found in the majority of online shooters. Beyond levelling your character up and getting increasingly effective gear, the unique nature of many of the characters means that you do become attached and that death is something to be genuinely mourned. You can build up a team of characters to take the edge off and share and sell on the loot you have acquired via previous bounties, but man, getting one of your established hunters killed really does suck.
Some will find the slower pace, long rounds and perma-death a bit much (the long loading times also don’t help), but for those looking for a top-tier shooter that does something genuinely new, Hunt: Showdown provides a triple-a online experience that is happy to take chances and deliver a genuinely unique online experience. With its smaller maps and reduced player count, it might sound small scale, but the stages are beautifully crafted and feel just the right size for the number of players and NPC enemies involved in any given round. The game’s unique combination of quiet stealth interspersed with sporadic moments of intense action provide Hunt: Showdown with a unique and often compelling sense of pacing and tone. Sure, it could do with more maps, and it could certainly do with more varied bounties (despite the ones available all being fantastically gross), but what is here as of launch is all of an incredibly high standard with Crytek clearly choosing quality over quantity.
With its top-tier visuals and genre-leading sound design (I for one can’t think of another online shooter in which sound is so important to the overall experience), Crytek’s, Hunt: Showdown delivers a genuinely compelling and utterly unique alternative to the faster-paced and more forgiving likes of Call of Duty, Fortnite and Apex Legends. It’s a tad short on content at the moment, and this game will ultimately live or die based upon its ability to establish a committed online community, but all of the pieces are certainly in place, and if nothing else, the core experience, thanks in no small part to its extended time on Game Preview, is balanced, polished and, above all else, relentlessly intense.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Hunt: Showdown Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
Crytek’s, Hunt: Showdown delivers a genuinely compelling and utterly unique alternative to the faster-paced and more forgiving likes of Call of Duty, Fortnite and Apex Legends.