Developer Illfonic is steadily earning a reputation for bringing 80’s movie icons to life. Their first asymmetrical multiplayer romp was an intriguing but tumultuous take on Crystal Lake killer Jason Voorhees. Narrowly escaping a licensing deal gone bad however, they now return with their laser-sights set on a new baddie. Pursue your quarry or hang on for dear life in Predator: Hunting Grounds.
Predator: Hunting Grounds Details
Platform: PlayStation 4
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Genre: First-person shooter
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Predator or fireteam
Predator: Hunting Grounds takes the form of an asymmetrical multiplayer shooter. You’ll either take on the role of the titular hunter himself, or one of 4 fireteam members. Each side has different objectives.
The role of the Predator is more straightforward. Obviously here you simply want to kill the four fireteam soldiers. The life of Predator is marked with handy gadgets, visual aids, and a tree-scampering movement style the game dubs as “Predkour”. The Predator will attempt to put these to use in causing chaos, confusion, and ultimately death to their rivals.
The fireteam in the meantime doesn’t come out of the gate with primary concern for the nasty antagonist. Instead they participate in a FPS style mission complete with gun-toting NPC’s and interactive objectives. It’s only when the Predator deigns to make themself known that the game shifts into a new gear.
Who’s hunting who?
The nature of an asymmetrical multiplayer game like Predator: Hunting Grounds is always in balancing power. You’d think that the Predator would have the primary advantage, but somehow that doesn’t always seem to be the case. Rather, the ultimate hunter is little match for a fireteam with even a small amount of cohesion.
It all boils down to the trick of sticking together. So long as the fireteam realizes that Predator isn’t much of a match for 4 guns, simply sticking in a tight group is usually enough to all but ensure victory. Predator’s health drains too fast and their healing is too time-consuming to make a real dent in a group that exhibits any coordination.
Even Predator’s nastiest tricks aren’t all that powerful. They have an invisibility cloak, but it’s easy to spot if you have any idea of their location. I am regularly able to snipe accurate shots off at a distant Predator hiding in the trees when they’re still cloaking. Worse still for the Predator, all it takes is a few good hits to set them bleeding, which leaves a persistent florescent trail of blood to follow.
You gotta keep ’em separated
The only real path to regular success for Predator lies in hoping for some separation. If a fireteam member strays far enough from the group, it’s no contest. With enough distance the Predator can sufficiently dispatch one soldier before the rest of the group can train their weapons.
That said, with few maps and regularly repetitive objectives, most players seem to find the fireteam groove fairly quickly. From then on the game is an uphill battle to say the least when playing in the role of Predator. No doubt there will be those with the dedication to master the role, but overall the balance seems to skew heavily in favour of the fireteam.
The unique twist of Predator: Hunting Grounds centers around the fireteam. During each match they take on a series of objectives that actually has little to do with the other side of the 4 v. 1 dynamic. Their initial mission is a hodge podge of tasks revolving around repairing engines, testing water samples, and other busy work.
Filling out the gameplay from a combat perspective are a number of NPC soldiers. These provide additional targets to dispose of on your journey, but truthfully provide little resistance. For the most part they filter onto the map via open and obvious lanes that make them feel more like MOBA-style pawns and bullet fodder than intelligent enemies.
I like the concept in theory. With mission objective to perform and waves of enemies to worry about, this should create just enough chaos to make the game interesting. It paces the action and I believe the intention is to cause enough distraction to give the Predator a chance to split the squad and eliminate the fireteam one by one.
In my experience with Predator: Hunting Grounds however, that generally wasn’t the case. Again, it takes very little coordination for the fireteam to easily dispatch enemies. Furthermore, the few maps and objectives available are so similar, a bit of repetition is all it takes to be able to complete them on auto-pilot. Unless there are some seriously green members of the fireteam, it doesn’t take much cooperative awareness for the Predator’s work to be cut out for them.
Loot is for everyone
Like so many competitive shooters, Predator: Hunting Grounds adopts a loot box system for unlocking new aesthetic upgrades. However, in a bit of welcome irony, there’s seemingly nothing “predatory” about it. Players earn loot boxes entirely through in game performance. Furthermore, there are no microtransactions for these whatsoever.
In a world rife with such shenanigans, it’s worth pausing to give Predator: Hunting Grounds credit here. It’s actually fun to play and earn new cosmetics, and they unlock at a relativity rewarding pace as well. It’s amazing what loot boxes can do for a game when you remove the microtransactional noose from the equation.
Predator: Hunting Grounds is a shooting gallery for fireteams and a tough challenge for the ultimate hunter
Predator: Hunting Grounds creates an atmosphere of chaos in the jungle, amid a clash of soldiers and mercenaries squabbling beneath the shadow of the apex predator lurking overhead. Despite the repetitive maps and objectives and clear advantage toward a competent fireteam, there are still tense matches to be enjoyed when everything lines up just right.
The movie score is also wonderful, and adds to the overall experience in a great way. It’s just a shame there isn’t a bit more challenge and variety on the fireteam side (at least in my regular matchmaking experience). It could be that there are better Predators out there though, and perhaps with time more elite players will show up in matchmaking to happily prove me wrong.
+ Interesting dynamic between objectives and the hunt
+ Incredible soundtrack
+ Generous loot box system
– Advantage feels heavily skewed toward the fireteam
– Few maps and repetitive objectives
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3/5