The Hunter: Call of the Wild, the new release from developer Expansive Worlds (a division of Just Cause developers Avalanche Studios), is a simulator which puts you in the shoes of a hunter, as the name might suggest. In the game it's up to you to locate all sorts of animals and kill them, and this is done by running around in a fairly open forest environment trying to avoid detection.
There are three aspects you need to master to become the perfect hunter - the noise, the smell, and how invisible you are. While you can't do anything about your scent (there's no deodorant DLC yet), you can move forward by either crouching or crawling. It takes a while to master all these aspects, but once you learn some useful tricks, such as positioning yourself upwind from the animal, then the game really starts.
Our experience with first person shooters made us think that a shot to the head would mean certain death, but here we had to put no less than four shots to the head and a shot straight in the heart of a deer before it died. If you don't kill your prey with your first bullet, though, it'll be up to you to track down the animal by searching for footsteps and blood, which tell you what animal had been there and when. The same applies to different sounds, as you push a button to find out what different sounds mean, like mating, but this is a bit tedious, and requires a lot of patience. For each mission you complete (these are otherwise entirely voluntary, but each provides a bump in experience points) you will learn more about the world, but you also get paid for each animal you kill. The money and points you earn can then be used to buy new weapons, ammunition, and equipment, and there's also a skill tree to invest in as well.
The environments in this game are amazing, and the Apex Engine is great for providing huge and atmospheric environments that made us think how wonderful these places would be to actually hike through. The audio design adds to the atmosphere, as raindrops, wind, and twigs breaking under your feet are all very carefully designed. The only minus we can find in terms of the environments is that some animals stick to the ground and don't move, which kind of breaks the immersion a little bit.
In terms of controls, they behave mostly as they should, as they're smoothly mapped and shouldn't be a nuisance for many players. What can interfere, however, is the sensitivity of the binocular controls. If you want to move the character by simply touching the analogue stick very lightly, for instance, it all goes badly, which isn't ideal when scouting for the perfect kill.
Technically, most aspects work just fine, and we played at the highest settings, with the number of frames per second locked to 60, which was mostly achieved. In some shrubbery or shady areas it went down in the 50s, but never lower. The camera is good too, and like most first person shooters it stays where it should all the time. We constantly discovered little bugs and glitches, however, which put a dampener on things somewhat.
The game's tranquil pace can either be a blessing for a curse for players, as depending on how you enjoy slow gameplay and long walks, you can either get a lot out of this or tired after just over an hour, patience being a key factor. The amount of bugs and glitches within the game, however, are a bigger issue, and coupled with repetitive gameplay this may well just be too much for some gamers to bear.