Predator: Hunting Grounds is an upcoming asymmetrical multiplayer game from developer IllFonic. They’re Responsible for another asymmetrical game, Friday the 13th: The Game. So they know how to make that type of experience, but that doesn’t mean they are still easy games to make. I’ve been playing the free trial for Predator: Hunting Grounds this weekend, and I can tell you this… if it launches how it is now, I don’t think it’ll have legs.
So let’s take a look at some of our impressions of the trial, and whether or not you should jump in.
What is it?
Predator: Hunting Grounds, as I mentioned, is an asymmetrical multiplayer game. Meaning whilst one player controls the titular Predator and hunts a fireteam, four other players control said fireteam. The fireteam needs to complete a series of objectives in a jungle map, fending off against NPC guerrilla fighters (or a close equivalent) and then exfiltrating. The whole time the Predator uses the verticality of the tree’s and their famous arsenal of weapons to kill the fireteam and take them as trophies… delightful.
If that sounds good to you I implore you to try it before you read on, the free trial ends at midnight on the 29th March, so get on it. Sadly though as of right now Predator: Hunting Grounds just feels like a rehash of Evolve. With a lot of the same problems.
On a side note PlayStation.Blog have rounded out some useful tips that’ll you need whilst playing, you can read it here.
The Good – The Predator
I’ll start with what really works about the game… The Predator themselves. Whilst you’ll struggle to play as them in an online match (likely because everyone else wants to as well) what I did experience was really entertaining. You’ll have all the typical Predator weapons and abilities: invisibility, heat vision, shoulder-mounted cannon, blades, guns, and a tonne of equipment.
All this works expertly well, the Predator can leap great distances and scale trees (Assassins Creed III style), which when coupled with all the other mechanics it creates a cat and mouse style experience. Having verticality over the fireteam and a whole settlement feels great. Scaling the trees and planning attacks gives you this great sense of power.
Assassinating the fireteam is good fun too! You’ll have to try and break them up, wait for them to split off by themselves, or risk it all guns blazing. The last one doesn’t really work though. Having to plan on the fly isn’t easy, but incredibly rewarding.
Dealing with the Predator as the fireteam is great as well. You’ll hear the Predator’s signature clicking noise or its modulating voice box that mimics other soldiers. This is when the fear starts, the team sporadically glances around, and then you’ll see a strange silhouette jumping through the trees. What do you do? Continue with the mission? Run? Or fight?
Don’t fight. you need to catch the Predator player off guard if you want to beat it and end the mission. If you manage that, as my team once did, you begin to hear this eerie beeping noise. If you’re familiar with the Predator films it quickly clicks as to what this is, and a massive warning comes on screen. “YOU ARE IN THE BLAST ZONE”. So you’d better get moving.
Much like with Evolve or Friday the 13th: The Game, this is where most of the fun is to be had. If the Predator doesn’t interact with you for 75% of a match, prepare to have a boring experience.
The Bad – Fireteams
As of right now, this side of the asymmetrical multiplayer experience feels uninspired and unpolished. Each player can unlock weapons and use different classes to help others… standard fare so far. But the controls and feedback of shooting and moving around the world feel incomplete. I know the game isn’t out yet, April 24th is just shy of a month away though, and I don’t know if the developers want to change how the game feels.
When you’re in a fireteam the best part is encountering a Predator. If you don’t though, it’s wandering between a couple of objectives that boil down to “shoot this”, “press this” or “collect this”. You do that a couple of times then escape. There are some enemies to fight in most camps. But their AI isn’t anything to write home about, and they seem to go from bullet sponges to bullet bricks!
Sometimes the objectives aren’t clear either, or completely glitch out! So you’ll find you and your team meandering the map until either a) the Predator kills you, or b) time runs out. Both of which eliminates any form of tension the game tries to bring.
There isn’t much mechanical or moment-to-moment fun to be had as the fireteam sadly. Which will probably remind most of Evolve.
The Ugly – The Map, Loading Times and Loot Boxes
For being the end of current genre consoles, the game doesn’t exactly look fantastic. I’ve been playing the game on a regular PS4, so that might have something to do with it. Shadow and texture pop-in has happened to me, multiple times, right in front where I am. If you thought the Borderlands series was bad for it, Predator: Hunting Grounds makes it look like nothing at all. The maps aren’t exactly that big either, so I don’t know why this was happening. It could have been my connection or PS4, but it still wasn’t pleasant to look at.
There just isn’t any flair to the design. it’s just a jungle and a Predator. It doesn’t do enough to pull you in. Sure the Predators sound design is great but outside of that, there isn’t much else.
On top of all that… loading times are bad… real bad. You’ll wait a minute to find a match, then probably another two or three for it to start, then it needs to load again. Now, this could very well be ironed out by the time of release, so keep that in mind. But imagine waiting that long to then just play as the fireteam again. Everyone just wants to play as the Predator, and if you pick them before matchmaking, you could be waiting a very long time.
One aspect of the game truly took me off guard, but I should’ve expected it. Loot Boxes. Why wouldn’t an online multiplayer game have cosmetic loot boxes? You can use in-game points to buy them. I assume you can get these points not just by playing but, when the game releases, with real-world money.
These ‘field lockers’ don’t bode well for the game honestly.
There is a fair amount of customisation though, and if that part of the experience is fully thought out. It could be quite good!
The game also looks incredibly ‘grainy’ from a distance and up-close, everything feels unnatural and doesn’t look like it should. Couple that with the constant frame-rate drops whenever the game has something mildly taxing going on and the overall experience begins to wain on you.
As of right now, it feels like the Predator IP was used to great effect, but then the game itself takes a backseat to that. Everything revolves around it being a Predator game, instead of this fact just enhancing overall gameplay. It seems pretty well balanced as of so far in terms of fireteam vs Predator, but only time will tell.
At it’s core, it just doesn’t feel polished enough, so hopefully updates change that.
If you like the look of it, give it a try. After all Predator: Hunting Grounds is free this weekend. or just play Aliens vs Predator on PS3 and Xbox 360. That’s pretty good. Predator: Hunting Grounds would probably fair better as a single player experience anyway, instead of making it multiplayer to make some quick money.
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