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Hunt: Showdown

Hunt: Showdown

Crytek has repurposed Horrors of the Gilded Age, and the results of this reimagining are looking good.

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It's fair to say that Crytek's Hunt: Showdown hasn't had the smoothest development ever. It was originally announced back in 2014 under the name of Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age, and was meant to be a co-op adventure, but financial issues meant that Crytek USA was shut down. After that there was radio silence for a while, until earlier this year when we received a teaser trailer and the game got a name change. That brings us to E3, where this year we saw a bit more of the game under its new name via a hands-off demonstration, learning a little bit more about where the game is at right now, and how it's different from the 2014 vision.

The biggest change (aside from the name) comes in the fact that Hunt: Showdown is no longer a PvE focused game. Now it's a game where up to five teams of two are thrown into a map to locate and then hunt monsters, before extracting their loot (although beware, everyone can see the location of the monster on the map once it is slain). This doesn't mean you can't play on your own, though, but it is designed with two player teams in mind (Crytek said that they'd consider making larger teams if there's enough demand).

The reason the game is optimal for co-operation is because the stakes are so high. Hunt: Showdown not only gives you one life per map, but also has a permadeath system where you lose the entirety of the equipment you've collected if you die. You still keep your level and experience, so it's not too bad, but you could potentially lose a lot of progress equipment-wise with one mistake, so having a solid pair of players watching your back is helpful. Four eyes are better than two.

Hunt: Showdown

Hunt: Showdown's narrative setting sums the game up perfectly, as it's a mix between realism and the supernatural. The game takes place in an alternate 19th century, and the one map that's been designed for the game thus far sees the action take place in a dark and murky area of Louisiana. This is because Crytek didn't want the typical setting you'd expect from America in this time, like the wild west. Here there are monsters that need to be sent back into hell, and you're just the people to do it.

On the side of realism, the weapons are based on those available at the time, with a bit of poetic license we imagine. This means you'll find revolvers and vintage rifles, as well as shotguns, and if you're really into this period of history, you'll be pleased to know that there's attire to match as well, including cowboy hats and ponchos, Clint Eastwood-style.

Pretty much the only thing supernatural about the game are the monsters, your ultimate goal, but these actually don't make the game seem too fantastical. Hunt: Showdown still feels relatively grounded, never drifting into the sci-fi or fantasy genre, and this is something we appreciated, especially in terms of tone. It could easily feel like a cliched grand quest to slay the beast and save the day, but instead it's gritty, helped in no small part by the fear of losing all your stuff in permadeath and the paranoia that comes with that.

This paranoia is heightened by the game's important visual and audio cues. Although we're told that the game won't exclusively take place at night, the demo we saw was set in the quiet darkness of nighttime, and this made visual cues all the more important. Both human opponents and the smaller monsters (zombie-esque creatures) can hear what you do, including things like gunshots, so it's always worth picking your battles to make sure you don't draw unwanted attention to yourself.

It's not just gunshots and noise that can give you away when the sun sets though, light can do the same. One gameplay section we saw at E3, for example, showed the player using a molotov cocktail on an enemy which, while effective, lit up the whole area like a bonfire signal to everyone nearby. Like with noise, then, it's important to consider what you do and when to keep yourself safe and inconspicuous. At the same time, though, it can also be a tactic to deploy these cues to scare enemies away - after all, like with spiders, they're as afraid of you and you are of them.

Hunt: ShowdownHunt: Showdown

The darkness of the gameplay we saw showcased the visual fidelity effectively, and the lighting is the highlight of this. The twilight of the evening both glimmered off of objects and provided good cover in the shadows, and the sharp contrast of the flames of the molotov looked just as nice, with a very noticeable change in illumination. All of the environments, weapons, and characters are detailed as well, but this will become more apparent in the daytime. One thing we would say, though, is the death animations of characters looked a little awkward, but this is just a minor gripe in the grand scheme of things.

The concept of Hunt: Showdown is really interesting in that players are after a monster first, with other players representing a secondary objective, at least at first. However, we have concerns about whether permadeath will be enough to persuade players to stick to the objectives Crytek wants us to focus on. You can encourage people to pick a certain route by threatening them with losing all their stuff if they die, but you can never force them to play a certain way. We just hope that the threat of losing all your gear will be enough to stop players treating it as a deathmatch first and foremost, rather than as the hunting experience it's intended to be.

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Hunt: Showdown

REVIEW. Written by Mike Holmes

"This twisted online shooter is both unique and cleverly designed, and we love the atmosphere that Crytek has been able to create."



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