There's been something brewing in the bayou for years now, a creeping darkness that spits out vile, stumbling monsters from its sickening maw. These ghouls are out for blood, and they're gradually spreading their tendrils over the land, just now slopping all the way over to DeSalle.
And that's just the people that play Hunt: Showdown. There's also hoards of zombies, eight-legged critters, and birdmen with backpacks trying to find a home in a more temperate climate. DeSalle seems like a good fit, then. That's the name for Hunt: Showdown's brand new map, now live on test servers, and let me tell you: it's everything I've been waiting for and more.
If you've played Hunt: Showdown before, you'll know the Lawson Delta and Stillwater Bayou maps like the back of your hand. That's why you already know there are precisely 16 locations in each map, right? Not like I had to count them, either. Anyways, the new De Salle map once again packs in 16 locations, each one a potential bounty location and delivering a unique strategic challenge.
But let it be known that De Salle feels a little different to the two previous Hunt maps. The central locations are seriously crowded. Weeping Stone Mill is only a stone's throw away from Forked River Fishery, which itself is closely adjacent to both First Testimonial Church and Pelican Island Prison.
It doesn't feel like there'll be much breathing space when you're in the mix of central locations, and that'll lead to just one thing: more tense holdouts and firefights.
Similarly, the most direct route between the Kingsnake Mine and Stanley Coal Company in the north-west of the map is a single wooden bridge. A double bounty or even a dogpile of teams would be absolute havoc, and the bridge itself a deathtrap for anyone that dare cross it.
All of it is stunningly beautiful, of course. Crytek's intense attention to detail flourishes in DeSalle, and every building, hut, and object helps string together a sense of place. It feels like it was once inhabited by people, not just creeping zombos, and every item littering the ground or picture on the wall is a relic of what once was.
I'd be remiss not to mention the location on the map that has already provided me with immense entertainment, or rather two locations. That's Upper and Lower DeSalle. The township of DeSalle is divided by a river, once again leaving one primary bridge to traverse between the two that's oh so perfect for an ambush. Yet it's the maze of buildings, rooftops, and back alleys that makes this a truly deadly, and beautifully crafted, location—something I swiftly found out while playing with a friend on the test server.
We swing open the doors to the saloon at the centre of Lower DeSalle and head inside, on the lookout for a clue we expected inside. I waltz over to the piano, laugh at a 'no shooting the pianist' sign, hit play for atmospheric effect, and continue my search.
Lo and behold, the clue is bright red, signifying another hunter, or team of hunters, is close by. A mild panic occurs before the first shot from a rooftop across the street streams past into the wood behind me. After some brief strategic manoeuvring, my teammate and I end up taking pot-shots off the saloon balcony across the street while hearing bullets whipping past, splintering the wood behind us.
All the while the piano plays a jaunty tune.
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Cut to a few minutes later and I'm feeling brave. I've got my big boy cowboy boots on and I'm going in for the kill. Rushing over the street into the building, I take up a position overlooking the rear alleyways and the back of a nearby building. My teammate, with even bigger boots and perhaps a 50-gallon Stetson, charges directly into said house where we reckon an enemy hunter resides.
Long story short: fight ensues, panicked shots are taken, a few grazes marked here or there, but so far no confirmed kills. I'm spending my time checking the rear window and a door behind me, when, wouldn't you know, out rushes one enemy hunter from the back of the building ahead. A few shots of the Mosin-Nagant M1891 Avtomat and it's all over for that player.
I'll admit, the Mosin-Nagant Avtomat isn't my usual thing, but give me 50,000 hunt dollars and every in-game weapon unlock, a benefit of playing on Hunt: Showdown's generous test servers, and I'll treat myself to one of the more expensive guns in the game every round. It's a bit of a novelty, but I'm a bit of a frugal Hunt player usually.
Shortly after, my teammate scuffles with the remaining hunter and manages to put him down. We're cautious a third could be hiding somewhere, so we burn the bodies and get out of dodge.
We didn't survive much longer, I'll admit, but that DeSalle shootout was one of the best I've ever had in Hunt. It's a game that so wonderfully creates these tense, nail-biting shootouts in any and all locations across its two previous maps, yet DeSalle seems to cater more to an up-close and personal firefight than ever before. The locations are intricate, winding, and have tremendous verticality.
Seriously, you need to be looking to high heaven and down into mining pits to be sure you're not about to get jumped. The landscape, too, is far more varied than before, creating pockets of sightlines to exploit.
Safe to say, I'm excited to get DeSalle into the usual rotation on live servers. The map alone is superb, and well worth the wait, although it appears a few more tweaks and changes to ranking and menus are planned for the next update.
There's so much more I want to explore in DeSalle. I've only run into danger at a few locations, and it's going to take a lot more matches to really feel out the strategy of each area. Yet there's one thing I'm absolutely sure about: the new map and coming update mark the best time to get into Hunt: Showdown, well, ever.