Hunting: a pastime as ancient as man itself. Once a necessity to survive, these days it’s seen more as a hobby. What in days gone by may have been done with bows and arrows is now done with guns. It’s certainly a morally ambiguous pastime, but in games it’s mostly seen as a side attraction. theHunter: Call of the Wild certainly tries to buck the trend, but it’s fraught with problems.
I’ll level with you here; theHunter: Call of the Wild is a very niche game. If hunting the computer or player controlled monster in Evolve annoyed you due to the amount of downtime involved, this game is significantly worse in this regard. If you’re suitably prepared for this inevitable fact, then conceptually the game lives up to expectations.
Visually at the very least, theHunter: Call of the Wild is a remarkably pretty game. Whether you’re traipsing through the Pacific North West wilderness or a forest in Europe, the trees and bushes are surprisingly well animated, even going as far as showing which direction the wind blows in the grass. Less impressive though are the animals themselves which have rather rigid movement animations.
While you’re hunting, you have various tools at your disposal. Binoculars to attempt to track your prey, callers to imitate animals to lure your prey into range, and eventually sprays to mask your scent. It’s an impressive array of tools on offer, but there’s one big problem.
Items bought in the Outpost cache are locked through level progression. It isn’t exactly a new thing in games, but here the gating of key tools is somewhat frustrating; not only requiring you to accumulate the right funds from killing game, but also achieving the correct rank.
This is doubly problematic when the fact that animals have incredibly sensitive hearing, much as they would do in real life. Tracking animals efficiently is a slow and methodical process where you must not be down-wind of your prey, as silent as a dormouse, and even then you’re reliant on skill to take down the animal.
As for actually tracking the animals using the phone, this is where the game falls down badly. Occasionally the tracks will get confused because of the bit of terrain that the animal stepped through, meaning it takes a couple of minutes to pick the trail back up; by which time, the animal could have scarpered. It’s a frustrating annoyance that the game could have done without.
theHunter: Call of the Wild is essentially two games as there are two huge territories in which to hunt. Navigating is relatively simple, though I would have liked the ability to have your waypoint show up on your device that you can use to track animal tracks. Lookout points act like towers in your standard Ubisoft game, while hideouts require funds to build, limiting their effectiveness. Hunter stats and perks are carried over thankfully, allowing for more efficient hunting.
Missions range from relatively simple such as taking a photograph of a deer, to the ultra-precise. It’s not enough to find a Whitetail Deer and shoot it from beyond 150m away; you must also kill it within a very small area. When the stars do align, one slip up is enough to set you back hours of game time. You do have narrators who guide you through their quest lines, but they rarely deviate into anything that could be construed as a story.
Perhaps part of the problem is that playing on your own is not recommended. Having multiple eyes on one prey, tracking its movements, and also shooting at it when it’s time to attack it, alleviates some of the frustration. You can have a party of up to eight players online, which seems to run well. That is of course if you can convince a group of you to go hunting virtual game.
One thing I will say is if you and a buddy are thinking about buying into theHunter: Call of the Wild, wait a little bit. There are so many glitches and blemishes that range from not being able to exit out of menus unless you hover over another option, to items not equipping. I’ve even died while jumping in between two knee high rocks several times, both that I could easily have jumped out of.
Granted, there are also more amusing and inadvertently helpful ones such as fleeing animals unable to move or not knowing where you are. To their credit, Expansive Worlds are attempting to fix as much as is possible thanks to feedback from players, meaning there’s hope for the game’s performance yet, but the product was incredibly glitchy at launch.
When theHunter: Call of the Wild works properly, it’s still going to be a game that only those with the patience of a saint would enjoy. It’s very slow, full of barriers, and isn’t very exciting. That’s not to say it’s not completely without merit as it’s a stunner to look at and there are rare occasions where everything comes together to make a compelling experience. Just note that those rare occasions are few and far between.