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Most people who’ve never been hunting assume it’s little more than rednecks rolling around in deer whizz, wearing camo, and putting back a few brews before blasting away at anything that moves. The reality is much more calculated, as the majority of hunting involves tracking prey through the woods, and remaining invisible until the shot can be made. Unlike its ridiculous ADD riddled cousins, which fill every bargain bin in every Wal-Mart in America, The Hunter aims to recreate the stealth and tactics of actual hunting instead of putting you in quick time events where you power bomb a grizzly bear.
After setting up a free account and creating an online avatar, The Hunter sends you to Evergreen Hunting Reserve where you’re thrown right into the mix. The Hunter website manages the task of handing out missions and stats, which keeps the game’s HUD very simple; the only thing on screen is your hunter’s hand and whatever he’s holding at the moment. The website also manages your licenses and what you’re currently authorized to hunt. At one point I slapped my forehead after realizing the whitetail deer I’d just killed wouldn’t count as I was only authorized to hunt Mule deer.
In game, The Hunter uses a PDA called a HunterMate to keep track of the prey and your location among other things. After running around the reserve looking for clues, the HunterMate will analyze footprints and droppings, which help to narrow down where the target is. For each call, trail, or dropping the player finds, the PDA gets more and more accurate at determining where the target is. Accordingly, as the player’s character gets better at tracking and shooting, the game updates the appropriate stats on the avatar, making shots taken and information gathered in the field more accurate.
Make no mistake, The Hunter aims for realism, and any trigger happy twitch FPSer that plans on racking up monster kills with a rocket launcher is going to go home empty handed. The bulk of the game is spent running around the reserve on your own, looking for clues as the player slowly narrows down the search radius. Given how elusive the animals are in the game, it’s a pretty big deal once you actually spot one, and the level of tension once it’s in the sights is huge. Knowing that an hour of tracking and creeping around through the bush all rests on one shot is incredibly nerve wracking but rewarding.
Of course getting close enough to take the shot is the majority of the game, and finding players willing to slink around through brush for hours at a time might be a problem. The game essentially drops you into the reserve with no tutorial and says “go for it”. While the Forum FAQ and PDF guide help, figuring out where you’re supposed to go on the reserve, where you should be looking for tracks, and where specific animals are is all left up to the player to figure out. On my first play, I was convinced the game was broken as I wandered around aimlessly for 15 minutes before finding a trail or any sign of life.
While it’s really gratifying to take down your prey, it ultimately becomes a near identical process of creeping around through the woods before getting a shot at your target, and how long that can remain fresh is difficult to say. The addition of multiplayer, or at least co-op hunts, would go a long way in keeping the game interesting.
While the glacial pace is sure to put off some gamers, The Hunter is a serviceable simulation with some interesting online features that’s worth checking out. And if hunting is really your thing? You’re going to love this stuff.
Apr 20, 2009