Hunt: Showdown is a first-person shooter from the makers of Crysis that manages to distinguish itself with a unique setting and game-play loop. It takes place in Louisiana in the year 1895 after a mysterious epidemic has cut through the Louisiana bayou, infecting the people and animals, and turning them into monsters.
From the moment I launched the game, the music was captivating, and when my character loaded into a map, the world came alive around me. Birds chirped in the trees beside me. I heard the buzzing of insects, the hum of cicadas and the flapping of wings from crows resting in the dirt path ahead of me. Far off, towards some decayed and weather-worn buildings, I heard the somber wailing of some unseen creature. As I approached the lumber mill, I heard heavy footsteps from inside and a vocalized groan from a monster that sounded like the harsh creak of the wood from a ship in a storm. Each of these sounds was distinct, and I could pinpoint the exact location. There hasn’t been a game in recent memory that has done audio this well.
From accurate positional audio to the captivating sound of the game world, the sound design in Hunt is perfect. It is also integral to the gameplay. Twigs crack underfoot and shards of broken glass are littered around the world. Tin pots hanging from ropes clang and crunch when a player carelessly walks through them. Doors creak when opened, and different surfaces like wood or metal are loud when stepped on. I typically hear players before I see them, and this makes navigating the game world a tense and cautious affair as I try to avoid making noise that would give away my position.
Characters level up and unlock talents which help them navigate the game world. Beast Face, for example, makes it so crows and zombie dogs are less likely to be spooked as you creep around the map. A trait like Fanning makes it so you can fan the hammer of a revolver and rapidly fire the gun. Each hunter can become distinct from the last with different guns and talents. I’ve become oddly attached to some of my hunters, only to have them die to one of my many stupid mistakes. Like Escape from Tarkov, Hunt has permadeath for its characters. It can be frustrating when you lose a hunter you’re attached to, but it gives every fight an urgency that would be absent if your character didn’t die. At the end of a fight, if I’m still alive, my heart is typically pounding.
Each character has a name and a distinct look. As your bloodline levels up you get access to higher tier hunters who progressively look more intimidating. The low tier hunters wear clothes like a plain button-up shirt and a straw hat, while the elite level hunters look like a gunslinger from a spaghetti western.
Hunt has two game modes. The quickplay mode drops solo hunters into a battle-royal game where they race to be the first to banish enough rifts to activate a wellspring. Once they do this, they become immediately visible on the map and must defend the area from rival Hunters. If they succeed, they keep any hunter and gear they’ve found, which they can then take into other modes.
The bounty-hunt mode throws teams of players, either duos or trios, into a map where they hunt monsters for a bounty. They search for clues around the map to try to beat other hunters to boss-monsters that are hidden randomly. Once killed, the monster must be banished, and this announces to every other hunter where the creature is located. Other teams rush towards the banishing site to steal the bounty and extract from the map with any money and gear they have gathered. Extract points are marked on the map and are usually either carriages or steamboats that are found around the game world. Extracting can be frightening, as you never feel safe when you have the bounty. Another team could have gotten ahead of you to camp the extract, or they may reach you before the boat leaves and steal your bounty. Your character also shows up as a moving lightning-bolt on the map when you have the bounty, which allows players to chase you or set up ambushes.
Hunt: Showdown is one of my favorite multiplayer shooters of the past few years. It shares a lot of similarities to Escape from Tarkov, but it is a far more accessible game. There are currently only three boss monsters to hunt, and only two maps to explore. But these maps are large and feature some beautiful and distinct locations.
Players can battle it out amongst the mangroves or along the narrow catwalks that rise only slightly above the swamp water. Or they may find themselves creeping through an abandoned fort or lumber mill searching for bounties.
Hunt is only $40 on Steam, and if multiplayer shooters are something you enjoy, this one is loads of fun, especially with friends.