Oh how we scoffed when we first heard the title of Crytek's newly released online shooter. Now, having played the game both during its development and since it has been deemed finished by its creators, we have to say we take the whole thing a bit more seriously. The generic-sounding title might feel a bit too broad, but it's actually very apt and describes things rather succinctly.
During a typical match, the action kicks off with the titular Hunt. Players, either alone or with a friend or two, must seek out otherworldly rifts and shut them down in sequence, dodging the advances of deadly zombie-like creatures of various shapes and sizes. Then, once they've found enough of these markers or clues, it's time for the Showdown, when those left standing must battle each other and the remaining undead as part of a mad scramble for the exit - and the glory that awaits the victor/s on the other side.
While Hunt: Showdown borrows a couple of the pillars that form the core of the battle royale genre, Crytek's take doesn't feel like another game trying to grab a slice of Fortnite-flavoured pie. The features that have been borrowed are supported by equally clever design decisions that ensure distinctiveness. Most notable of these positives is the setting, but the restraint shown in terms of the player count can't be underestimated either.
The swamp-filled Lousiana maps (as far as we can tell, there are only two) and ye olde setting immediately set Hunt apart from its rivals, and we have to say that we absolutely love the overall aesthetic and the arcane lore. It's grimy and edgy and quite unlike anything we've played before, and the unique setting also really lends itself to the horror theme that underpins the PvP/PvE shenanigans that we'll get to shortly.
The bayou wherein Hunt: Showdown takes place is full of old wooden buildings and rickety shacks, and it's patrolled by some truly gruesome creatures, each one happy to munch on any passerby and most with their own attacks that can easily swallow half a health bar if you're not careful. Each match starts the player on the periphery of the map and using your mysterious darksight you can track each objective based on its distance to your current position. Then it's a case of exploring and scavenging for improved gear, and slipping past the undead you discover en route (you can shoot them dead, although stealth is often preferable).
These swamps look fantastic, and Crytek's designers have really given life to the playspace with a mixture of detailed textures and atmospheric effects (although it is a demanding game best enjoyed on a capable rig). That said, it's actually the quality of the audio that is the game's standout positive, and we were impressed by everything, from the crunching theme tune through to the use of 3D audio to really place the player in the scene. You might be following your supernatural sight between markers, but it's just as important to use your ears when trying to work out where enemies are, and where opposing players might be coming from. Pinpointing where gunshots are being fired is obviously a big part of this, but the world is also full of noise-making obstructions, from doors that require careful and deliberate operation through to broken glass that crunches underfoot.