You’re hanging on for dear life with nothing but a red slither sitting in an almost empty life bar. Flames crackle, crows caw, and as you wade through the fetid knee-deep swamp water, you can almost feel the crosshairs of a distant rifle burning into the back of your skull. You’re two men down as you haul your bounty and make a beeline for a carriage beyond the treeline. You don’t even see where the shot came from. Three hunters lying in wait, silently shrouded among the foliage. As you drop to the dirt, they come to claim your well-earned prize, that showdown with the clacking horror in the shadows of the slaughterhouse now a fading memory. Very soon you will be too.
Forgive the overly dramatic preamble. Hunt: Showdown is the latest arrival on the survival shooter scene and it’s a fairly unique one to say the least. Crytek – the team behind Rise: Son of Rome and the Crysis franchise – have taken cues from the popular battle royale genre, then fused them with a strain of horror-themed PvE conflict.
Each match follows a loose script, whether you’re going in alone, with a partner, or as a trio. You’ve been summoned to a grim, swampy wasteland, warped by sinister unnatural forces. As a bounty hunter it’s your job to track and kill the hellish horror that lies within, gathering clues before delving into their lair to collect your trophy.
The twist to all this is that you aren’t alone. Other groups of hunters, duos, and lone wolves are also moving around the generously-sized map, locating clues, and hoping to take the bounty home for themselves. Hunt: Showdown is as much about evading and killing other players as it is about chasing monsters.
Speaking of the monsters, there are three main baddies you’ll go up against: the agile, wall-crawling Spider, the elusive Assassin, and the Executioner, Showdown’s gore-streaked juggernaut. The map features lesser enemies too, from grunt-like zombies and hellhounds to the locust-spewing Hive.
The PvE combat here isn’t terribly dynamic, it has to be said. Basic enemies are used as more of an obstacle rather than a genuine challenge, while the trio of bosses don’t require too much strategic thinking to take down. That can feel a little off-putting at first, until you realise that it’s the PvP encounters that matter most.
Where traditional battle royale games have a shrinking play area, killing those who are out of bounds, Hunt: Showdown instead draws players towards specific killzones instead. Each match will have one or two bounty targets and it won’t take long for players to lock onto where they’re hiding once they’ve gathered enough clues.
The PvE boss battles themselves create plenty of commotion too, and opportunistic hunters will often be waiting for their foes to try and extract a bounty, lying in ambush. To counter such devious tactics, those who slay a target will have the ability to temporarily see where other players are hiding.
Pacing can vary from match to match, though the turnover is relatively quick. As for the actual gameplay itself, Hunt: Showdown feels noticeably more cumbersome and unwieldy compared to the likes of Call of Duty or Apex Legends. There’s a deliberate heft to the spread of vintage weapons hunters can choose from, which mainly include revolvers and rifles.
The gunplay takes getting used to, as does managing the various items you can equip in your inventory. You’ll not only have to keep an eye on ammo and health, but stamina too, Showdown giving you more and more tools to experiment with as you level up.
Progression is something we found particularly enthralling about this game. As alluded to in our opening to this review, once a hunter is dead, they’re gone for good. All the weapons and items they were carrying? Gone. The perk-like traits you’ve been unlocking? Those too. It’s another leaf out of a bustling genre, but this time it’s the impermanence of MOBAs or roguelites stretched out in a new an interesting way.
Hunters can reach a max rank of 50 which usually takes 4-6 consecutive wins. The longer they survive the more experience they will accrue, allowing you to slot passive abilities and expand their arsenal. There’s a genuine sense of risk and reward here – it’s hard not to get attached to these expendable hunters, though extending their careers means they can be cashed in for heaps of XP if you voluntarily retire them.
You’ll get points for pretty much everything you do in Hunt: Showdown and these build towards your overall progression. The higher your rank, the more weapons and gear you can purchase from the in-game store to then dole out to your hunters. Again, you’ll need to be careful here. Spending big bucks on a fresh recruit only to have them die during their first match can eat into your reserves. While some players will be turned off by this meta layer of management, we found it engrossing.
Another aspect that drew us in was the game’s atmosphere. There’s a distinctive gritty aura of despair that clings to Hunt: Showdown, its decaying environments, and twisted inhabitants. That said, there are some technical drawbacks (at least on the console version) that can often break your immersion with the occasional pop-in, missing textures, and dodgy lighting.
Meanwhile, the sound work here is pretty consistent. If you’re at all serious about getting ahead in Showdown then you’ll want to heed the game’s advice about wearing headphones. Listening for audio cues becomes particularly helpful when roving around the map trying to spot enemy hunters.