Predator: Hunting Grounds Review — If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It
One thing Predator: Hunting Grounds gets right from the offset is nostalgia. The agonizing wait for a match is reduced by the sweet orchestral sounds of Alan Silvestri's memorable score as it pulsates from the screen straight into your auditory cortex. It's a constant reminder of how adrenaline-fuelled the original film is, and how unfortunate it is to find that's all been lost in translation.
What developers Illfonic have created with Predator: Hunter Grounds is a facsimile of an asymmetrical multiplayer title, which pits a team of four player-controlled marines against one player-controlled Predator.
With no single-player content, Predator: Hunting Grounds relies solely on its online functionality to craft a name for itself, doing so among a glut of other titles that dominate the market. It's not unheard of for a multiplayer-focused experience to garner a wide audience, with games such as Overwatch making their mark, but it's a tough feat to accomplish.
Unfortunately, Predator: Hunting Grounds doesn't have the legs for the chase.
Predator: Hunting Grounds Review — If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It
While Predator: Hunting Grounds does away with single-player content, it does attempt to base itself around some loosely connected narratives. A team of four marines is sent into the jungle to complete a variety of objectives, and unbeknownst to them, an alien from another world is hunting them for sport.
The objectives in each mission range from finding intel to taking down AI targets that roam the map. None of the tasks are particularly interesting, and most will have you begging for the evac to arrive quicker than Arnie can say, "Get to the chopper!"
While mission structure and AI enemies offer more incentive to proceed than a simple 4v1 scenario, the objectives themselves are so bland and easy to accomplish that the game offers little incentive to push forward — other than reaching the end of a match more quickly.
Tackling the AI is an absolute slog, amounting to nothing more than an inconvenience in many situations. Enemies simply provide no challenge, nor are they particularly effective enough to pose any real threat. Additionally, the AI logic itself feels about as smart as the victims in an Alien vs Predator film, remaining consistently unaware of your position or simply oblivious to anything going on around them.
It's entirely possible to complete a match by taking down the Predator itself, which lends itself to some of Predator: Hunting Grounds' best moments. Venturing through the dense jungle only to hear the inhuman clicking of the Predator or the sound of his camouflage activating adds a degree of tension that's hard to find in other games in this genre.
Traveling from area to area only to have a laser pointer suddenly aimed at your skull is one of Predator: Hunting Grounds' strongest elements. When the back and forth cat-and-mouse battles between marines and Predator break out, the true nature of Illfonic's vision is captured.
Unfortunately, finding the best matches proves to be one of the hardest tasks to accomplish. With such a wide audience of players, all with different skill sets, finding the appropriately matched players can be like finding gold dust.
Mirroring all this is playing as the Predator. Whereas finding a match as a marine might take less than a minute, finding a match as the Predator can often be a challenge. At launch, wait times regularly reach well beyond five minutes.
Entering a match as the Predator often goes one of two ways: you can go down and self-destruct, killing some or all of the marines in the process, or you can go down and die.
As of release, the Predator feels extremely underpowered, with fireteams able to dispose of the grotesque creature in a matter of seconds. Any team that sticks together will find it's much easier to band as one and dispose of the beast quickly. Even the self-destruct sequence is easily stopped by anyone who knows what to do.
In Predator, the team faced a ferocious beast, one that took out the majority of the team before good old Arnie was only able to defeat it by the skin of his teeth. Here, the opposite feels true as the Predator's health can quickly diminish, ending matches quicker than you found one.
Despite the hunter's lack of power, playing as the Predator offers you all the toys seen in the films. You have the signature heat vision, which is useful for tracking the opposing team, alongside the ability to activate camouflage and blend into the background to avoid detection. As for your arsenal, you can use your blades to cut through enemies in a matter of seconds or use your shoulder turret to cause devastating damage from afar.
Utilizing all of the Predator's skills is the key to survival as you mix a range of close-quarter attacks with the far-reaching blasts of your turret. As you level up, more tools are dished out to make things easier, such as a powerful bow and arrow. But getting there is a rocky road.
Predator: Hunting Grounds dishes out toys and abilities at a fairly steady pace, attempting to instill that "one more game" mentality into the game. Some are worthwhile, while others are simply for looks. Pushing through the levels in an attempt to reach "the good stuff," though, feels like an absolute chore. It doesn't help that there's very little content here.
As of launch, there's only one game mode segregated into several maps offering different objectives for each match. Complicating things are the technical missteps that Predator: Hunting Grounds takes. Its inconsistent frame rate, dated visuals, and poorly-constructed AI feel like a precursor of a past generation.
Predator: Hunting Grounds Review — The Bottom Line
- Invokes a sense of nostalgia
- When matched with the right players, it can create some fun matches
- Dated gameplay and visuals
- Poor AI that becomes a hindrance
- Balancing issues
- Lack of content
When Predator first hit screens, it became a classic in its own right; a wide audience fell in love with its brutal action and cheesy one-liners. By comparison, Predator: Hunting Grounds feels like a failed experiment with the license.
It clearly tries to feel relevant in a modern setting, but launching with such a severe lack of content — or content that isn't reasonably interesting in the first place — is a giant oversight. Underneath all the mess, there's definitely an interesting concept to be found, but the question is whether Illfonic will support Hunting Grounds long enough to ultimately create something to stand the test of time.
As it stands, Predator: Hunting Grounds is nothing more than a hollow representation of the much-beloved franchise. It's a game desperately trying to keep up with today's trends of intricate leveling systems and loot-box rewards, but its gameplay and visuals hold it back years.
[Note: A copy of Predator: Hunting Grounds was provided by Sony for the purpose of this review.]