Make no mistake, when the film Battle Royale released in Japan at the end of the new millennium, it brought a taste of a new genre to film design, storytelling, and unforgettable moments. Its gripping moments unbeknownst to all always surprise to the point where alliances are often the cause of tragedies. H1Z1, PUBG, and the most recent Fortnite are the largest, most well-known, battle royale games to hit the market with a saturation looming on the horizon. Crytek enters the fray to an already busy craze with Publishers; however, they have brought something considerably different to spice things up.
Set in the late Western 19th century, Hunt: Showdown is about bounty collecting, a simple premise where you enter a map after choosing your objectives, find your target, kill it, acquire its bounty marker then leave the map. Sounds easy and nothing too complicated, until you find out that it takes more from the film Battle Royale than battle royale games.
After arriving on the stage for the first time, you have the lowdown on your mission status and approach. While you’re trundling through the bushes for the first time, you’re devoid of any other players being in the map, so traversing is not a problem, the monsters tend to be considerably weaker and easier too.
The real challenge comes from entering the multiplayer mode. Let’s make this crystal clear; your character will die a lot, especially when learning the ropes and you’re soloing. It’s much safer to be in a team of two or more else surviving will be very rare - this is where the real issue lies.
When queuing up as a solo player, you’re always going to get into a match without a hitch, but you will be alone, it’s when you try to have a random partner, especially as a beginner, where you’ll have issues getting a game if at all. All players tend to look at the rank (known as Bloodline) of the player. As a beginner, you’re going to stand out like a sore thumb, especially with all of your equipment.
It might seem dissuasive in unforgivable elitist attitudes, but one in this case that does seem to merit it. An approachable target without proper communication and constant noise are going to draw in other players from around; you need to be confined in secrecy while out in the wilderness searching for bounties. Everything you do in the wilderness has a purpose. Twigs snap, birds make a noise when startled, monsters groan when seeing you. With enough experience, you can spot areas where not to tread, not to approach or you’ll beget the situation.
Audio is so paramount to the experience that I highly recommend wearing a headset to get an advantage over other players. After all, you don’t want another Hunter to pick you off.
On the other hand, you can utilise the environment to your advantage by listening out for ambience to help flank other players. If you’re new to the game or running from danger, then do precisely that – run! Seasoned pros will lay down traps to deter other players from coming close during their bounty extraction.
As a beginner, it will be notoriously difficult to survive, so it’s always best to get as much experience as possible before your character hits level 10. Once you reach level 10, you’ll be thrown into another challenge unbeknownst to you.
Initially, you level throughout the game, and you don’t mind dying, after all, you can pick up where you left off, but not for long. Eventually, when you die, you die – permanently! Permadeath isn’t the most fun mechanic in the world, but this game’s atmosphere oozes tension. With a chance of a character being deleted forever in a matter of seconds, it adds to the pressure considerably.
Often it is a better option to run than to enter a chance of roulette. Knowing that you can lose a character, entering every match gives a sense of paranoia around every corner. Hearing a twig snap as you brush through the foliage makes your heart jump in fear. It’s even worse when fighting a marked target and even more so when attempting to acquire a bounty marker.
Assuming you manage to survive the acquisition time of bounty looting, what, with this dark cloud emanating high into the air for every player to see, you need to leg it out of the map as quickly as possible as all players will be on your tail. There are a few extraction points to leave from. Expect resistance from other players, who also require the bounty to survive. Without the prize, your character will even die in Quick Play mode.
For every zombie and player you kill, clues you find, bosses you encounter, and bounties you acquire, you earn experience that levels up your Bloodline and skill points. Your owned Hunters also gain their own separate experience and skill points; you use these to uniquely train your Hunter to your specifics. Bloodline skills are present between all owned Hunters.
You also earn credits for the same actions as experience points. You use the currency to purchase new weapons and upgrades which aide you every round. If your character dies, you still keep hold of all currency that is brought back after every battle. If your Hunter dies, then you lose all equipment your Hunter was carrying at the time.
With this in mind, it’s easier and safer to enter a Bounty Hunt instead of Quick Play to assure that your Hunter does not die if you don’t get a bounty. You can play a low-risk game by venturing out for some quick zombie killing, maybe a clue or two, then leaving at the extraction point. Alternatively, you could play the high-risk strategy by killing a bounty, awaiting players, kill them, loot their corpses and subsequently leaving at the extraction point.
The satisfaction of pulling off a bounty kill and annihilating other players that are hunting you down and being able to extract with the bounty is second to none. The atmosphere always keeps you on edge until the very final moment you complete your objectives and escape.
Finding bounties is a matter of briefly switching to dark mode to search for glowing blue areas. As you approach the corresponding area, it gets larger until you notice a round, dark, creepy circle on the floor that you extract for clues regarding the bounty.
Your map gets updated automatically after you find each clue. There are zones per bounty where each clue will darken an area of the map that does not include the bounty. Eventually, a single segment on the map remains. The faster you get to the bounty, the more chance you will have of killing and subsequently banishing it before other players.
There are currently only three bounties: a giant Arachnid, an Assassin and a Butcher. Killing these solo can be quite tricky, but it can be worth it for the kill and banishing instead of risking extraction with a bounty marker.
If you’re in a team of two or more players, it is considerably safer to kill a boss then have the remaining members patrol the area, in case other players try to sneak behind you while banishing.
The camaraderie and backstabbing are genuine when in Quick Play; thankfully, you do not get this issue in Bounty Hunt mode. You do get moments of players deliberately being a nuisance, as with every online-only game.
Assuming you reap the rewards enough to max your Hunter to level 100, you can cash in your Hunter for Blood Bonds - this allows for purchasing legendary gear and other Hunters with their unique characteristics and equipment. This gear tends to be legendary only in skins rather than statistics; however, they can come with upgrades that can make the initial start easier.
If you don’t want to trade in a Hunter, you can acquire Blood Bonds by unlocking and completing challenges within the Book of Weapons and Book of Monsters. These are your typical “kill a number of monsters” or “increase a weapon’s experience” challenges. The number of Blood Bonds you’ll accumulate will be considerably less than trading in your Hunter, but, it’s infinitely more manageable, especially if you have a well geared and levelled Hunter at your disposal.
There is an option for purchasing Blood Bonds with your hard-earned real money, which allows you to get upgrades immediately instead of via in-game tasks.
Overall, Hunt: Showdown is a unique experience that will cater to those that wish for a different experience from PUBG, Fortnite, and the other battle royal games on the market. It’s a frantic game that can seem lonely at times, but, its permadeath mechanic changes the atmosphere from gung-ho to sneaky and occasionally campy.