I’m not a good hunter.
theHunter attempts to recreate the hunting experience without the need to shoot actual living creatures for sport. I have no actual experience hunting any creature, the closest experience I have is trying to find my friends in a nightclub. But the experience created here is a unique one, portraying hunting as a slow, incredibly technical sport with a Dark Souls level of difficulty. This game will be made or broken not on how much you like hunting, but how much you can stomach the time sink it can become.
While the game is at its most simple an open world FPS, actual gameplay feels more akin to a technical shooter like Sniper Elite. You walk your way around the world searching for animals or signs of animal life such as their tracks, poop or calls. Once you have managed to track down your target you need to take the actual shot. Shoot correctly the target drops in one, shoot wrong and you’ll have to follow the creature’s blood trail as it runs away from you. Then collect your trophy and reap the profits using them to build outposts or new weapons.
This sounds like a simple routine, however every stage requires slow, methodical thinking with serious punishments for any mistake. Move too quickly through the grass and critters will scatter from the noise. Track a creature from the wrong direction and it will dash when it catches your scent. Miss you shot and the target will run a mile requiring you to track it down again. Glance the target and you’ll be following a blood trail for a long time for no reward. All of this creates a far more meticulous style of gameplay, one which rewards patience at the same time as punishing even the most minor mistakes.
It is somewhat of an understatement then to say that the learning curve of this game is huge, and it took me 90 minutes to get my first kill, which was mostly the luck of cresting a hill and finding a deer oblivious to my existence. Before that there was 2 deer which I spooked, 1 more which caught my scent and one which I only glanced and could never track back down. This high difficulty and heavy punishing will put people off, and the tutorial is rather passive, usually chiming in after you require the information. Consider carefully before you buy.
The worlds themselves are ridiculously large, claimed at being around 50 miles in size. The landscape is littered with outposts for you to fast travel between, buy new equipment and rest up; as well as hunting towers which you can pay to build and various landmarks. All of this looks pretty, and I found myself stopping to admire the scenery a lot more than hunting. The issue is however that traversing the world is ridiculously slow. Moving at normal pace or sprinting means you will make too much noise and creatures will scatter. Moving at a pace which makes no noise is ridiculously slow, and is such a precise point on your controller that you will regularly make noise without noticing. With the world being quite full of dense foliage also I did find it was quite easy to lose the blood trails of creatures, which meant going for the kill first time or giving in.
There are other niggles with this game, some minor, some which should not have made the release, thankfully few of both. Minor niggles include far too little dpi for playing with the mouse and being able to see through the world when crawling across certain surfaces. However the larger niggles definitely hamper the playing experience. Moving to a crouch or crawl requires you to stand on controller, meaning you will make a lot of noise just getting into position. More unfavourably the ESC key does not work to close the pause menu despite the control scheme showing just that.
theHunter: Call of the Wild is a game for a select set of people. You need to enjoy hunting, you need to understand how to hunt and most importantly you need to have a large pool of patience for failure because it will happen a lot. This is not the game for me, I do not have that patience for failure and will likely only play this sparingly. But if you can overcome that hurdle you will find one of the best hunting games out there, full of beautiful wilderness and plenty of creatures to kill without risking damaging a local ecosystem or contributing to extinction. My lack of patience should not stop you enjoying theHunter: an experience worthy of an 8.
theHunter™ was reviewed on PC Via Steam