Hunt: Showdown Review — Live and Die by the Hunt
Hunt: Showdown's take on PvPvE is elevated by its masterful horror elements, great world design, and addicting gameplay loop.
Crytek’s Hunt: Showdown has remained largely elusive in the overarching talks of Battle Royale and PVP shooters on the market. It shouldn’t be. Hunt: Showdown offers a widely unique approach with PvPvE that I’ve never really experienced before.
While my playtime with Hunt: Showdown has been wildly unique compared to other titles, it’s not without its own kinks that need refinement. The game has players assume the role of a Van Helsing-like hunter in Louisiana’s bayous during the late 1800s. The land has been infected with zombie-like ghouls roaming the area and three distinct bosses players will have to hunt down. Hunters will be rewarded for just about everything they do, but the main goal of the game is to ultimately take down the bosses, collect their bounties, and make it to an escape route alive.
Problems arise when other hunters get in the mix. Players can go into matches as pairs or teams of three and there’ll be a total five teams in-game. Hunt: Showdown doesn’t have any way to track how many hunters are in-game, so you’ll just have to come to that conclusion on your own based on what you hear, who you fight, and how many bodies you find on the map. The sense of fear during each match is palpable. One game had myself and a teammate finish off about five players, only to be met with an additional hunter tracking us down in the final moments of the game.
Interestingly enough, once players collect bounties from bosses, they’ll be marked on the map for all players to see. Those that collect bounties are given a limited ability that allows them to see hunters in their vicinity. However, as I said, this ability is limited so those carrying the bounties need to use it quite sparingly as it drains very quickly. These mechanics drastically change the gameplay as those who were once playing as the hunters quickly turn into the hunted.
One of Hunt: Showdown’s most interesting systems comes with how the game handles death. You start the game with a healthy number of character slots which can be used to recruit individual hunters with unique weapons, tools, and perks. When one of these characters dies in a match, they’re dead for good. Surviving means that the hunter will be able to gain experience points, rethink their loadout, and upgrade themselves. However, players won’t be finding themselves getting attached to any particular character for far too long. Death is all but inevitable as the game’s guns can very quickly put you down with a well-placed shot.
The nature of Hunt: Showdown is very hardcore, but Crytek does an admirable job easing players into these unique systems. There are two separate level bars, one dedicated to your account’s overall rank and one that’s focused on individual character ranks. Hunt: Showdown starts players off with the opportunity to die a couple of times before they hit a certain rank, but once that threshold is reached you’re in the core game. As previously mentioned, you can recruit a handful of characters at once so if you find that you’re doing particularly well with one, you can save him or her and opt-out for a weaker hunter. Collecting and leveling up powerful hunters became an addicting loop that I couldn’t personally get enough of despite some heartbreaking losses.
There’s a wide variety of weapons from the period that all require some skill to get the hang of. Hunt: Showdown’s gameplay is slow and methodical. Reloading takes time, shooting takes time, and ammo is relatively low. There are also a decent amount of melee weapons, however, one well placed shot to the noggin can take you down so it might not be the most optimal approach to charge at someone with a repeater or shotgun. Once you take down enemy players you can actually go ahead and steal their weapons even if you don’t have them unlocked yet. All of the tools you take will carry over into future matches if you survive. Additionally, you’ll also have to spend currency to heal yourself and restock items before going into another match.
These features ensure that the game never really stops even outside of combat. I can only really compare it to something like Capcom’s Monster Hunter. Players are essentially forced to plan ahead and take what they need into a hunt. It’s difficult to get the hang of and keep track of everything but it’s so rewarding when it all comes together.
Unfortunately, one of the weakest things about Hunt: Showdown is the bosses themselves. The Spider, Butcher, and Assassin are all really interesting from a design perspective but the way that they work mechanically could still use some fine-tuning. Each map is littered with clues that’ll bring you closer to one of the bosses, then you’ll ultimately find them hiding out in a large building. What’s problematic is the fact that these bosses don’t really run out of these areas, leading many players to just do some damage, leave the building, and then go back in until said boss is defeated. The added sense of tension from other players being in the area, who at a moments notice could come in and end your fight, counteracts the issue to some extent but not completely. Nevertheless, the Spider and Assassin, in particular, are actually really scary. The sound design with the Spider would make any arachnophobe throw their computer out of the nearest window. My problems with the bosses don’t ultimately ruin the game, but they do get in the way at times with what is generally a pretty well-ordered experience.
Hunt: Showdown comes with a second mode called quickplay that’s a bit different from the core gameplay loop. Players will choose a randomized hunter based on their playstyle preferences and go into a battle royale like arena free of any bosses. General enemy NPCs will still be roaming the area, but the goal ultimately to reach a certain point on the map, collect a special bounty, and hold it for a set amount of time. During this time, the player with the bounty can be seen by all enemy players so the tension is still very high during each passing moment. It’s a good distraction from the base game that is less disappointing since you don’t have to worry about losing any of your personal hunters. I had fun with it.
I touched on it briefly with the bosses but Hunt: Showdown’s impeccable sound design cannot go unpraised. Alerting enemies, shooting your guns, treading through water, stepping on glass, and so much more will easily give away your position to other hunters. Players more accustomed to run and gun gameplay will have the most trouble adapting to the environment. Unless, however, you’re comfortable enough with your shooting skills to take hunters head-on. I can almost guarantee though that this approach will not work every time if you opt for it.
Hunt: Showdown offers one of the most strenuous multiplayer experiences I’ve ever had and I loved every second of it. There are some defeating lows and victorious highs that come with its addicting PvPvE gameplay. While it definitely has some things that it still needs to refine with its overall formula, as it stands, it’s a really solid game for those into horror elements and hardcore FPS gameplay.