From March 27th to 29th developer Illfonic hosted a beta trial of their new asymmetrical multiplayer game Predator: Hunting Grounds. The popular 80’s film franchise is no stranger to video game adaptations. This effort however may be the closest in spirit to the actual nature of the Predator, which deeply roots itself in the thrill of the hunt.
In Predator: Hunting Grounds you’ll either take on the role of the Predator himself, or one of a group of four fireteam mercenaries. Here are a few of my thoughts on the game after spending some time in the recent multiplayer trial.
Does the premise of taking an 80’s movie icon and placing them in an asymmetrical multiplayer battle sounds familiar? Developer Illfonic is no stranger to concept. They are in fact the masterminds behind the recent Friday The 13th game. As such they’ve cut their chops already on the idea of a lone, powerful baddie taking on a team of survivors.
With Predator: Hunting Grounds then it stands to reason that hopefully experience will lead to innovation and improvement. The Predator himself is a much different character than Jason Voorhees. While the latter is a dull, blunt, brute force, the former is quick, stealthy, and intelligent.
This leads to a much quicker pace in combat. The Predator can use “Predkour” to scamper up trees and leap along branches. Combine this with long, sprawling leaps and the Predator is capable of covering the length of the map in mere moments. It’s a satisfying way to stalk your prey.
The Predator also employs heat vision to identify both players and NPCs (the killing of which grants additional XP). An additional power with a longer cooldown specifically tags high-value targets (ie. human players). In short, playing as the Predator is an invigorating blend of stealth and speed.
On the other side of a Predator: Hunting Grounds match is a fireteam of up to four mercenaries. These guys control like something straight out of Call of Duty. Players can customize with a variety of guns, grenades, and the usual ordinance. Gameplay for them is cookie-cutter FPS fare, but the mechanics do feel solid and gun-play is tight.
What I learned very quickly here is that your fireteam must stick close together. Perhaps it seems obvious, but it really is important. Your only hope in defeating the Predator is to have every gun that isn’t currently being mauled trained directly on the foe. Anyone who strays from the safety in numbers can be easily dispatched by a competent Predator.
The Predator is tough, but also vulnerable at times. He must “confirm” his kills to stop players from being open to revival, but completely exposes himself during the lengthy animation. So to when healing, and he even lets out a guttural roar when he does so—alerting the fireteam to his location.
Naturally each side has a different objective in combat. That of the Predator is fairly predictable. Eliminate each member of the fireteam and enjoy the thrill of the hunt. There’s a bit more happening on the other side of the coin however.
The fireteam dispatches not with the sole intent of eliminating the Predator. In fact, it’s not even the primary win condition. Instead, they are given a series of objectives to complete prior to their extraction from the combat zone. Eliminating the Predator in any given scenario is just the gravy on top.
The objectives themselves in Predator: Hunting Grounds are also pretty standard competitive FPS fare. Set up satellite receivers and other equipment. Restart broken engines and reboot crashing systems. Defend the area for 2 minutes. Repeat. Get to “da choppa”.
Where did these guys come from?
What ultimately fleshes out the experience more fully is the presence of a number of additional gun-toting NPCs. At each objective stage the fireteam doesn’t just have to worry about the Predator, but other fighters as well. Oh, and the Predator can attack them too. They earn everyone playing additional points and XP.
The funny part is that I have no idea who these guys are. I either missed some obvious context, or it simply isn’t a part of the trial experience. Nevertheless, I’m not sure why the map is crawling with human hostiles who aren’t on the fireteam, or why we are all caught up in a three-way battle. Who’s good? Who’s bad? Who’s WHO? Oh well, just keep shooting.
Either way, this dynamic makes the game much more interesting. If it were simply 4 players v. the Predator, it would be pretty easy for the fireteam to win simply by sticking in a tight group.
Instead, engaging in objectives and being attacked from all sides is what eventually breaks the fireteam apart. Despite your most co-ordinated efforts, things are eventually going to break down. Players are going to stray, or be split off from the group. This is when a keen Predator who has been observing from the tree tops will make their move.
Predator: Hunting Grounds is a promising 4 v. 1 multiplayer shooter
My overall experience with the Predator: Hunting Grounds multiplayer trial is fairly positive. I have heard from some that there were matchmaking difficulties throughout. However, I spent most of my time with the game toward the end on Sunday evening, and matchmaking was quick and (mostly) smooth. The only persistent issue I had was regularly only having a fireteam of 3 (rather than 4) human teammates.
I definitely enjoy the pace of the game as well. Matches are 15 minutes at most, and can end much more quickly if either team is successful. If Friday the 13th is a game of hide and seek, then Predator: Hunting Grounds is more like tag. Both have their strengths, but there’s something to be said for the action of a shooter vs. a camp counselor rummaging through drawers for batteries.
Did you play the Predator: Hunting Grounds multiplayer trial? If so, what did you think? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!