Hunt Showdown is an early access first person shooter from Crytek with an interesting take on the genre. It is a bounty hunting game with a combination PvP and PvE, essentially PvPvE. It is set in a dark corner of the world, with swamps scattered around dirt roads, derelict barns and shacks. The atmosphere is what makes Hunt stand apart from other shooters, it feels like you’re in a morbid horror movie. Savage, nightmarish monsters roam the Louisiana swamps, and you are part of a group of bounty hunters who want to rid the world of their presence. These supernatural beasts can still be sent back to hell with a bullet to the head. All enemies are different, some need to be killed with fire, some with melee, and others need a long range head shot, regardless of where that head happens to be.
The choice of the time period is unique too, it is set in 1800s Victorian-era setting and it comes with all the weapons and equipment you should expect to find in that time period also, such as slow reloading revolvers and one shot repeating rifles. The movement speed and general weight of the character make this the opposite of a twitch shooter, you need to make strategic and tactical decisions, you need to decide when to make noise and when not to, map movement and positioning can mean the difference between success and failure. Oh, and getting your shots on target.
When you start in a match, the first order of business is to locate clues. Hunters have an ability called Dark Sight which allows them to see clues in the world, and they guide you to them. You need to head over and study the clues, and each clue you discover narrows down the boss’ location. If you read 3 clues it will completely give away where the boss is, and the boss is the one with the ultimate prize, the bounty. Bosses are either the Butcher or the Spider, each with their own attack and movement styles, and each with their own weaknesses, just like most monsters in this dark world.
If you manage to kill the boss, you then need to banish it from this world and pick up the bounty. What happens then is a proper rush, and this is where the game’s real vision shines through. You know need to extract the bounty tokens out, through any of a few extraction points around the map. The catch is that as you start banishing the boss, all other hunters in the world will see this and know this. They can choose to go straight in and kill you and your partner, or they could wait for the last second and barge in, kill you and claim the bounty for themselves. Or they’re waiting outside ready to ambush you right outside. Or even more sinister, they’re camping the nearest extraction point. This is where the tension really rises, and you and your partner must decide how you will play this out. Rush for the nearest extraction, sneak out the back and traverse the map to an unexpected extraction point? Or sit tight in your building and play a game of holdout, barricade the doors and windows, setup traps, turn up the volume to full and wait for them to go right where you want them. Hunter kills can be very rewarding, you earn money, XP and can loot their guns and equipment. Not to mention the thrill of killing other humans.
Hunt Showdown also has a unique progression system. You first need to hire some randomly-generated hunters, each with their own unique weapons, traits, and gear. Some of these will be unavailable to purchase, at least not early on. As you play the game, your bloodline rank goes up. The higher your bloodline rank, the more weapons, traits and tools you unlock, which then become available for purchase. You can then swap out the weapons and customise your hunters’ loadouts.
When a hunter dies in combat, they’re gone for good. All of their weapons and tools, whether they are part of the original loadout or ones you bought with in game currency, are lost. If they survive, you will keep their weapons, tools and consumables, but they will also level up. Yes, not only do you level up but your hunters can level up too. This allows you to add more traits, such as quicker healing times, or the ability to add more tool slots and carry more gear into the match. All of this adds another element to the match, where if you don’t want to lose a specific hunter and their gear, you can always extract without the bounty. This is still a way to level up your bloodline and hunter, and perhaps go for a real fight another day.
The sound in the game is also a very important element. As there are other bounty hunters to compete with, you want to try and be as sneaky as possible at times to avoid giving away your position. You come across a myriad of things in the world that can give your position away. Gunshot sounds travel very far, you have injured horses, ducks, and caged dogs that all make noises when you approach them. Inside buildings you have shattered glass on the floor and chandeliers that give away your position, there are lanterns, bear traps, sledgehammers and axes scattered around the world ready for you to use.
Team play is important too. You and a partner can hunt together and use each other to outplay the other hunters. One can lure and bait and the other can surprise attack them from a corner. Or one can draw their attention from one side of the building while the other sneaks up and kills them from behind. You can also revive a downed teammate if they fall, meaning you will have a second chance or two to get back into the fight and going for the bounty. For those who like to go it alone, there is also a solo-player mode available.
Perhaps something not many people expected, but Hunt Showdown is a clever competitive shooter that is distinctive and very promising. Combining PvPvE in a dark, atmospheric and spooky Victorian-era setting is something that you don’t come across every day. With a pinch of rogue-lite RPG, team exploration, open-world horror, this is something best played with a friend in a dark room with the volume right up.
Overall score 8.5/10
Written for Gaming Australia by Adam Smith.