Hunt: Showdown

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: PLAION
Developer: Crytek
Release Date: Aug. 27, 2019


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PC Preview - 'Hunt: Showdown'

by Thomas Wilde on June 15, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Hunt: Showdown is a match-based first-person bounty hunting game where you will face off against unearthly horrors in the forgotten corners of the world.

At this point, Hunt: Showdown is little more than an elaborate proof of concept that's being shown behind closed doors in the Concourse Hall at E3 2017. Its developers showed off a 15-minute video of an edited round of play that demonstrates how it works and what it does.

In Hunt, you and up to nine other players stalk through the Louisiana bayous of the early 1900s in search of a hidden monster. You're assigned to groups of two, and in each of those groups, you have to gather clues, hunt down the monster, banish its spirit, grab its corpse, and make it out of the swamps alive. Once the monster's dead, however, it's every team for itself, as only the hunters who get back to civilization with the monster's body get to collect on the bounty for its death. It's an entirely valid plan to wait for another team to do all the dirty work, and then shoot them in the back and steal the monster for yourself. You can then spend that stolen bounty on new weapons and equipment, such as Molotov cocktails, phosphorus flares, and the state-of-the-art firearms of the period.

This is further complicated by what Crytek's developers describe as "soft permadeath." If your hunter dies, that character is permanently gone, along with his acquired equipment; you can be revived if you go down by your partner, but if you both die, you're both gone. However, any other benefits you've unlocked — they were cagey about exactly how this worked, but the suggestion was that there's a skill system — are now part of the hunter's "bloodline," which transfer to your next character. Since you've got a lot on the line, Hunt is set up to demand and reward a methodical approach, especially since it's post-Civil War America and nobody's ever heard of an automatic weapon. It's lever-action rifles and double-barreled shotguns all day every day, with a limited ammo pool and a lot of good reasons to pick your battles carefully.

Watching the Hunt video in action — and I should be sure to point out here that this was an extensively curated experience, with no chance to go hands-on — I was reminded of the widespread critical/fan idea that, in game design, it's difficult at best to make a horror game that's also multiplayer. Hunt may come as close as anything has to proving that idea false, as the risk of permanent death carries a serious risk every time you enter the field, the enemies you're stalking are genuinely creepy, and the pulp-fiction Louisiana swamps of the game are pure Gothic novel, all atmosphere and slowly decaying ruins, occupied only by monsters and the dead. Hunt's an action game before anything else, but the "horror" part of action-horror is more emphasized here than in most games of the sort.

The gameplay featured a large population of cannibal zombies that had nothing to do with the monster the players were after, as well as rabid dogs and some larger monster that was covered in hand-welded metal. The target monster, the "Spider," was a barely visible skittering creature that occupied the loft of an abandoned barn, moving almost too fast to be seen and nearly killing one of the players outright before it was brought down.

Those smaller enemies could as easily be a defense for you as an obstacle, as once you've gotten your primary target down, you have to enact a banishing ritual before the corpse is portable and the monster is actually dead. Doing so sends a message to every other surviving hunter on the map that the job's done and it's time to start fighting over the bounty, as well as where the monster's body is. If you were able to sneak into its lair and take it out without eliminating too many of the smaller fry, they make an excellent distraction, as the players did in the video.

Right now, the official target release date for Hunt: Showdown is "when it's done." This is one of those previews that's little more than a proof of life, and while what there looks good, it remains to be seen how the actual gameplay will pan out.

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