Hunt: Showdown's latest event, Tide of Shadows, marks the first time in two years that a new boss has entered the bayou: the Rotjaw, a snarling alligator that "defies the physiology of any known aquatic reptile," according to Crytek's in-lore patch notes, and stalks knee-deep bogs waiting for its next meal. Rotjaw is Hunt's first outdoor boss, and she apparently only appears in nighttime conditions or in rain.
That's right, Hunt has rain now, and it's arguably a bigger threat than some slimy swamp lizard. For one, you can't escape the rain. It's pouring from minute one of the match and never lets up. The constant (and somewhat relaxing) pattering has an instantly noticeable effect on Hunt's stealth and combat dynamics, which typically rely on keen ears to pick up audio cues. Footsteps are louder with everyone trudging through mud, which can be helpful but also makes sprinting riskier.
Rain's biggest effects aren't felt until partway through the match, when the storm graduates from steady showers to torrential downpour (you can listen to it here). Vision becomes a problem as fog and globby drops disrupt sightlines. Water drains off rooftops by the gallon, which doesn't affect gameplay but just looks really nice. During heavy rain, sound essentially becomes a non-factor.
The only thing you're likely to hear over mother nature's awesome wrath is gunshots. "Stealth" takes on a different meaning when you can get away with stuff that's usually a death sentence—in the few matches I played today, hunters used the cover of the storm to rush into fights.
At one point in the thick of the rain, I walked up to a dead teammate and started a noisy revive. An enemy walked into frame a few meters away and I was sure he'd heard me, but he had his back turned, none the wiser.
The rain condition joins a growing list of fun Hunt map modifiers that I wish Crytek would keep in the game. Last year, Crytek introduced "wildcard" map variants like a full moon nighttime that gives every map a spooky twilight feel and the "Inferno" variant that sets the map on fire. These were both great, but like the rain wildcard, they were only available during two-month events like Tide of Shadows (and then occasionally brought back on random weekends).
More ways to experience Hunt's limited three-map pool seems like such a big win for the game that it'd be worth making permanent, but I also understand that having exclusive features during events makes them feel more special, and probably builds buzz that translates to more battle pass purchases.
Speaking of, free on the pass this season are a handful of new guns, including two new wild rifle/shotgun combo guns: the three-barrel medium ammo Driller and a long ammo pistol built to challenge the dominant Uppercut, the UpperMat. I tried both of them out briefly and, while I'm yet sure when it'd be smart to drop 500 Hunt Dollars on a medium ammo rifle, the UpperMat proved instantly deadly in an 8-kill server wipe.
Tide of Shadows is shaping up to be the biggest Hunt update of the year, if not because of the new boss, then because of the significant changes to how its premium currency, Blood Bonds, can be used. You can read up on those changes, and a bunch of other balancing tweaks, in the full patch notes. Tide of Shadows is live until August 23.