From Commodore to PlayStation 4, the iconic Predator has appeared in a slew of video games, boasting a legacy spanning more than thirty years with recent cameos in Call of Duty, Mortal Kombat, and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon.
However, it’s this depiction of the alien hunter – in Illfonic’s Predator: Hunting Grounds – that is the most exciting. The developers behind Friday the 13th The Video Game have adapted another popular horror film franchise into an asymmetric multiplayer homage. Hunting Grounds can be a fun multiplayer romp, though it’s unmistakably rough around the edges, even with Sony as the game’s publisher.
The setup here is relatively straightforward. Each match of Hunting Grounds sets a Predator loose in the jungle to hunt a four-man Fireteam of elite soldiers. As the humans, you’ll be tasked with completing a random string of objectives that vary between the game’s handful of overgrown maps. Typically, these involve infiltrating guerrilla camps, taking down high value targets, or holding down a checkpoint. Meanwhile the Predator will attempt to wipe them out before they’re able to successfully exfiltrate – by getting to the chopper, of course.
Playing as a member of the Fireteam has a familiar first person shooter feel, much like Call of Duty. There’s a snappiness and precision to the weapon handling, but the feedback you get from mowing down AI grunts saps away some of that bullet-spewing satisfaction. They’re just not particularly engaging enemies. The AI’s behaviour can vary from ultra aggressive to laughably unaware, but either way they don’t put up much of a fight and are obviously just there to distract the Fireteam while the Predator lies in wait.
Their alien adversary is more fun to play as, though it will take a handful of matches before you start to get comfortable with the Predator’s abilities. Speed and verticality go hand in hand as you traverse each map’s network of treetops while also being able to leap long distances.
The Predator’s gadgets are just as important, with your go-to abilities utilising the cloaking device and heat sensing Biomask. When combined with shoulder-mounted rockets, nets, and other tools, you’re given plenty of options to harass Fireteams, though it’s getting up close for melee attacks that are the easiest way to rack up kills.
Compared to how Illfonic designed Friday the 13th’s Jason Vorhees, the Predator is far more dynamic and mobile, yet much more vulnerable at the same time. Although you have a significant one-on-one advantage, jumping in and swiping your claws at a full Fireteam will never end well, presenting the human team with an easy win.
Matches usually last around ten minutes and drop you straight into the action with little preamble. It’s unfortunate that the matchmaking times are too long, even with crossplay enabled. What will keep players coming back match after match is the way Predator: Hunting Grounds deals with progression, taking cues from other popular online shooters.
As you level up you’ll unlock new ways to hone your Predator and Fireteam loadouts. These include additional weapons, equipment, perks, and classes, many of which require a fair amount of play time to access. There are also Field Lockers (loot boxes) with a small glut of cosmetic items to dress up your characters. So far there’s thankfully no way to purchase these with real money.
If the slightly rugged gameplay does click for you, you’ll soon settle into a groove as you tick off mission objectives while scanning the trees and listening for the Predator’s distinctive audio cues. It can start to feel repetitive, but there’s definitely some lasting appeal the more you experiment with playstyles and tactics. There are some concepts such as parrying and the Predator’s self-destructing bomb, but they go completely unexplained due to the lack of a Fireteam tutorial. It’s by no means a deal-breaker, though suggests that Hunting Grounds could have spent a little more time in the oven.