If you’re currently hunkered down and looking for something new to play, you may find yourself drawn towards the Predator: Hunting Grounds beta at some point this weekend. Available on both PlayStation 4 and PC via the Epic Games Store you can get some early hands-on time ahead of its official launch on April 24th.
Cursor hovering over that demo download button? Here are some quickfire impressions to help you make your mind up.
In truth, we were fairly sceptical when booting up Hunting Grounds for the first time. As much as we enjoy developer Illfonic’s Friday the 13th: The Game, it has its fair share of problems and the studio’s more recent Dead Alliance is an absolute honker. Seriously, if we had to cobble together a list of the worst games from this console generation, Dead Alliance would be right up there.
Even with a big horror license in its locker and the backing of Sony Interactive Entertainment, it’s hard to ignore Illfonic’s track record and their pitch for Predator: Hunting Grounds made us think they’d bitten off more than they can chew. We’re glad to report that isn’t the case.
Hunting Grounds looks to capture that deadly cat-and-mouse tension of the first Predator film with its own asymmetric brand of multiplayer action. Each match throws five players into a jungle arena, one of them donning the iconic Predator mantle while the others form a Fireteam of elite soldiers.
As the humans you’ll be tasked with carrying out a small series of random objectives. These typically involve hunting down AI controlled targets, collecting items of interest, and defending control points from waves of guerrilla fighters and rogue ops. Mission accomplished and you’ll need to get to the chopper (yep) and await exfiltration.
While all of this is happening, the Predator will be carefully stalking their prey. Where the soldiers play similarly to other first person shooters like Call of Duty, their alien adversary is far more dynamic in their movement and combat abilities.
Using the Predator’s flashy arsenal, a lone player can survey the jungle in heat vision while also using their cloaking device to stay out of sight. Once you’ve located your targets you can then unleash a variety of deadly weapons, firing rockets from your shoulder-mounted launcher, ensnaring enemies with nets, or slicing and dicing with the Predator’s blades.
Your ultimate aim is to wipe out all four members of the Fireteam before they can get away. This is easier said than done, however. The Predator will appear to be practically unstoppable in your first few matches, but in truth a concentrated salvo of bullets is enough to slay the slayer should they get a bit too reckless. No matter how you perform during a match, you’ll still gain experience which then unlocks more customisation and loadout options to experiment with.
What surprised us most about Hunting Grounds is how smoothly it plays. Although we experienced the odd dip in framerate on PS4 and the occasional T-posing enemy, it holds up much better than Illfonic’s previous games. Not only that, but compared to the incredibly clunky Jason Vorhees of Friday the 13th, the Predator moves with ease through the jungle, easily traversing the canopy of treetops above.
The production values here get another thumbs up from us. Character models have some great detail and variety whereas the jungle environments are convincingly dense. Then there’s the music and costume designs from the Predator films themselves, all of which feel authentic.
From what we’ve played, this is already the best Predator video game adaptation out there, but we’re still only scratching the surface. This trial version offers a meaty chunk of the full game to sample, but there are more maps, weapons, and classes that will no doubt continue to layer on advanced gameplay mechanics in the full game. It also seems likely that, as with most multiplayer titles nowadays, Predator: Hunting Grounds will continue to grow with a roadmap of free content in the pipeline.
So is Predator: Hunting Grounds worth giving a try this weekend? Absolutely!