Have you ever felt like you were born in the wrong era and would feel more at home working on a ranch in the late 1800s, taking care of the fillies and stallions, sipping on moonshine? That’s until oversize spiders show up, people ‘spontaneously’ combusting and peasants who seemingly expel vicious swarms out of their nipples (maybe not nipples). That’d put anyone off. However, this is one of the main selling points of the Hunt: Showdown – it’s twisted and fiendishly fun.
Fortunately, you play one of the many hunters that occupy these deadly hunting grounds rather than working on the farm. You don’t stand much of a chance with a gun, let alone a pitchfork, so let’s take the easier option and talk about these hunting folk. Hunt: Showdown is a first-person survival horror game by Crytek, the people who brought us the Crisis series. The Crisis franchise was a stunning display when it first came out and Hunt: Showdown does not disappoint either, with the battlegrounds of Louisiana looking fantastic.
As a hunter, you seek out a series of clues to locate a demonic creature and take it down. Once successful, you perform a banishing ritual to remove all evil within the location, then retrieve a trophy to confirm your kill. This is all epic in itself, but the game doesn’t end there. After collecting the trophy, you need to reach an extraction point to achieve your bounty: money and XP. That’s a lot of objectives and all the more hazardous when you have other players attempting to kill you, or a cast that seems to have escaped Racoon City intent on taking your life. Should you be killed in the process, your character is no more: permadeath.
Hunt: Showdown is tough, but you do have a permanent progression meter called bloodline. Each time you level up a character, your attributes will improve, capped to level 100. The character side of things is heavy going at first as should you get a little cosy with your player; it will only end it heartbreak once they die. This is where the survival element comes into it as there’s nothing wrong to live and die another day. At any stage in a hunt, you can bail and head for the nearest extraction point, taking with you some valuable XP to improve your stats, perks and gear. Each hunter has a level 50 cap, but to be honest, that was always going to be a feat in itself: this game is brutal. Still, Crytek is relatively humane and throw a lifeline for the inevitable onslaught. All the while your player is under level 10, they will come back to life, only with half the rewards that you earned.
There’s quite the variety of enemies also – from NPCs that explode in a ball of flame should you shoot them, to faceless over-sized butcher-types who wouldn’t look out of place in a slaughterhouse run by Pyramid Head, that melee with such force that you become one with the dirt. As for the main bounties, these bosses hit hard and equally take a good deal of damage, so you have to make use of your environment, setting up beartraps, weapons coated in poison and lobbing a lantern onto a haystack to cause some pyrotechnic focal points. It’ll do some damage too.
Fellow players pose the biggest threat, however. Even if you manage to waltz through the clues and bounty, you need to get out of Dodge pronto, and there’s bound to be some lurker waiting to headshot you from the bushes. Reviewing Hunt: Showdown started off relatively isolated as other than fellow reviewers, there wasn’t much of a threat. That said, I managed to get through a pretty rough part of the map unscathed, locating all three clues and defeating the boss without interruption. On my way back to the extraction point, some level 37 player sniped me, and all was undone. As a level 2 player at the time, it wasn’t entirely in vain as there was that bonus of reincarnation as still within the level 10 cap. Still, it sucked arse missing out when so close to the prize.
Hunt: Showdown is a massive stress-fest. In a good way, if that qualifies it. The greatest stress-inducing moments is the audio. Without a doubt, Hunt: Showdown is one of the best games I’ve experienced that makes the most of ambient sounds; broken twigs, ricocheting bullets and tailoring the volume of a hazard at just the right moment. When in the focus mode searching for clues (a saturated viewpoint where a blue glow lights points of interest), the sounds of the beasts and their behaviour can be heard. This can help with your strategy for taking down the hunted, but also train your ears to listen out for other players. During the loading screens, the game recommends you to play with headphones, and that becomes evident: Hunt: Showdown utilises the sound perfectly. Paired with the demonic elements, bleak colour palette and lighting techniques, the overall package is fantastic. Even the menu music is spot-on.
At this time, the options are a little limited, i.e. the maps and game modes, but to be honest, the main hunt is excellent as is. There’s a quick play mode to take on other players in a free-for-all, but it didn’t appeal to me as much. It’s a good way to level up though and fun if you have some online friends you can rely on. With this in mind, you can have other players join you in a hunt or go solo. I opted for the latter, and it’s harder if other players team up and hunt you down. As touched upon earlier, if you’re killed, you don’t get a second wind or respawn – that’s it. Take out the threat early on, and the main objectives become easier. If only a little.
The fear of losing your player means that you play smarter, and it further adds to the tension that should you die, you’ll most likely lose everything. Granted, your bloodline continues to improve, so it’s not like starting again completely. With all this permadeath and potential frustration of being unable to level up your preferred character, there’s the carrot dangling of a paywall. The consensus is this is a bad thing, but having conceded to a couple of games that apply this model, it is entirely optional. However, I’ve noted that the deeper you go into these type of games, the greater the need to pay more, and that bothers me. Hunt: Showdown was originally a free-to-play title, so a paywall made sense, but having in-app purchases is a nuisance. Hopefully, the matchmaking remains accurate, and we aren’t up against those who’ve spent a fortune on levelling up.
A paywall isn’t a deal-breaker, but another element that got in the way of enjoying the game was the fact that it crashed a few times. On one occasion the game crashed immediately after reaching an extraction point. Thankfully, when I rebooted, the game jumped back to the end of the mission debrief, and I was able to collect my rewards, albeit nothing special as someone else got to the trophy before me. With only three bullets and one health bar left, hunting them down was too much of a risk, so I bailed.
The positives outweigh the negatives highlighted. Taking into account that I don’t play online multiplayer games, Hunt: Showdown has ultimately won me over. The last time I was this active online, that didn’t start with A/S/L? was Nioh when other players bailed me out of boss battles. While solo endeavours work fine, this is best experienced with others. Whether that’s to go head-to-head for the booty, sorry – bounty, or seek out the beasts as a co-op is up to you. Regardless, this is a great online experience for any first-person shooter fan looking for something a little different to the usual deathmatch type game.
Hunt: Showdown PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
An online exclusive without any story mode, Hunt: Showdown is a tense multiplayer experience with plenty of replay value whether it be for levelling up or having a slugfest with some mates. The paywall, of course, is optional.
- Fantastic soundtrack, sound effects and general ambience.
- Plenty of room for levelling up characters and permanent attributes.
- No one game ever really feels the same.
- No story mode – this is a multiplayer exclusive.
- As it’s early days, loading times are a little lengthy.
- Paywall option raises questions whether this is a bonus or necessity.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.