What is it? Multiplayer hunt-'em-up set in late 1800s Louisiana.
Expect to pay: $40/£35
Reviewed on: Intel i5-4590 @ 3.3GHz, GeForce GTX 1660, 8 GB RAM
Multiplayer: Yes, a mix of cooperative and competitive
Link: Official site
In Hunt: Showdown, you don't win. You survive. After the tutorial, I was already on edge and sweaty. Nearly two-dozen hours later, I'm coming out of every round much the same, only with added exhilaration at my near-deaths, kills and cleverly executed traps. Crytek's merging of survival horror and battle royale has resulted in an intense multiplayer FPS, a great foundation that's only let down by a lack of variety—there's just two maps, and relatively few weapons.
Hunt blends Resident Evil 7, PUBG, and Red Dead Redemption 2 together to produce something that's remarkably distinct. The basics are familiar: players choose a loadout, spawn on a marshy patch of dirt and vie for supremacy. The twist is you're not alone, as zombies and other ghouls prowl these knee-high lakes and abandoned cabins. You're on a mission for one creature in particular, your bounty, and have to gather mystical clues to find their exact location.
Set in an alternate history 1890s, a horrifying force is invading through interworld rifts, infecting people and animals and turning them into terrifying mutations. Framed by centuries of mythology from multiple sources, the titular hunters partake in the dark arts and hunt for sport and research. The weaponry is crass and archaic: revolvers, single-shot rifles and crossbows, all requiring slow, manual reload. Machetes and battle-axes are available, if you want to risk the intimacy, and makeshift bombs and bear-traps are handy in a bind. Your greatest asset is your wits, and if you want to last out in the wilderness of Stillwater Bayou, you're going to need them.
My early forays were rough. One time a demented canine chased me right into an Armored, a human-shaped thing with a tumorous-looking outer shell, and in trying to escape I attracted a group of regular undead and was promptly eaten in seconds. The next round, I met a similar fate after successfully getting the first of three clues I needed for the bounty. Thankfully permadeath is disabled until rank 15 so I wasn't forever losing all my loot.
Gradually, I started to find my way, and understand Hunt: Showdown's allure. Proficiency lies cutthroat tenacity and the intuition of survival.
There's no room for hesitation, and through much trial and error I started developing a feel for monitoring how much noise I was making, and switching guns or healing on the fly, and always making sure I knew my exits. Soon, my trusty crossbow and machete and I were getting closer and closer to scoring our first contract, and one blessed night under Stillwater’s beautiful silver moon, I killed the meat-cleaving Butcher and escaped to tell the tale.
In the mud
A number of graphical options are available from the in-game menu at all times, including object, texture, lighting, shadow and effects quality, and a render resolution scale. Playing with everything on high, the game ran at a relatively smooth 60 fps for the most part, though with a noticeable drop off when a number of human players and NPCs were onscreen. I would recommend switching to medium if your hardware is towards the minimum requirements like mine. I did encounter a launch error when I first installed that a Windows update ironed out, so make sure you're all up to date before booting up.
When you find the three clues, detectable using special vision called Dark Sight, you get the bounty's exact coordinates. Then, if you kill the target in a one-on-one, or two-on-one, or three-on-one fight depending on your group, you have to get to an extraction point at the edge of the map for full completion, which means getting by all remaining opponents as well as whatever hellspawn is still roaming around.
This inversion of the standard battle royale formula—it's about escaping, not killing everyone—is simple but deeply effective. It changes the whole complexion. Encounters against other players are more nuanced, sometimes coming with unspoken agreements. I helped a struggling rival kill a Hive—poisonous wretch—and after we just stared at each other briefly and parted ways. Ammo and supplies are in short supply, so picking a gunfight could severely deplete your inventory, and your only prize is whatever they're carrying.
Up to three players can enter the swamp together, and matches are limited to 12 total players. I mostly played solo, as in-game communication is limited and I preferred not having to worry about or rely on anyone. I could slip by six and seven-person shoot-outs with relative ease, letting them wear themselves out. The mix of mossy quagmire, high-grass forest and timber village allows a variety of approaches once you figure out the landscape.
Hunt: Showdown's primary issue is that by the time you've mapped out the bayou's hideouts and passageways and found a groove with your roster of hunters, a grind sets in quick. The map got repetitive, as did the relatively short list of weapons and three available bounties. After a time the only substantial unlockables are lore, which, though well-written and fascinating, isn't enough to sustain my interest long-term. It all just feels a bit lacking, especially given the price. That said, new options are in the pipeline, and I'm more than willing to get back on the hunt once they arrive.
Correction: An earlier version of this review stated that there is one map, when there are two.