Get to da… Ah, who are we kidding?
Predator: Hunting Grounds is cross-platform asymmetrical multiplayer game, brought to you by Illfonic games, the developer behind Friday the 13th: The game. Based on the original movie, a fire team is deployed into the jungle to complete a range of objectives against AI enemies. Although, did I just see something move in the trees? And what is that strange clicking sound behind me?
I had no idea about the game before playing so I went through the tutorial, which I retrospectively found to be somewhat lacking after attempting a couple of games. The tutorial does a perfectly good job of teaching you the basic mechanics of playing as the predator: covering basic movements both on the ground and through the trees, which has been dubbed Predkour (but not by me personally, I might add), as well as killing enemies using both ranged weapons and melee. Unfortunately, it misses out so much that would be useful to know before jumping into your first game. This includes, and is not limited to, becoming totally invisible when perfectly still with the camouflage on; heat-vision making your eyes glow red so you’re visible to the fire team; consuming wild animals to gain health and head-shots causing you to lose your mask which makes it impossible to use heat-vision. Given the lack of detail in the tutorial, I would recommend starting a private match as the predator to hunt the AI until you get a proper feel of the character. Unfortunately, there is no tutorial at all for the fire team, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started a game. At the very least, it would have been useful to know that the fire team can cover themselves in mud to disguise their heat signatures. This was a nice nod to the original movie.
The first thing I noticed when trying to start a game was the long wait times, although this is to be expected at launch. It is however; pretty frustrating to be waiting around 10 minutes to play as Predator, which I suppose gave me ample time for making review notes. Both platforms can also choose not to play cross-platform, which can further extend the wait times. As with many other games, levelling up allows you to gain access to better weapons, classes and perks. This is some grind though and requires many hours of gameplay, providing you can get into a game. The game also currently only has three maps, with little variation between them.
I played this game on both the PC and the PS4 Pro. Graphically the game looks decent on both, but significantly better on PC with a decent monitor. This also made it much easier to spot the predator. However, weapon selection on the PC is difficult to use and not very intuitive. I also had performance issues on both PS4 and PC, which was widely reported by users on the online forums. These issues, along with the long wait time to play as predator, are still happening almost a week after launch. In terms of cosmetics, the customisation within the game allows you to change gender, mask type, deadlocks, weapons and skins: All the things we come to expect from customisable characters. All customisations are unlocked by Field Lockers, which you gain by playing the game. Additional lockers can be bought using in-game currency, which can be found throughout the maps. To my knowledge, there is no pay to win.
Once I managed to get into a game as a predator, I found the gameplay to be fun, but difficult, particularly as a low-level predator. I also found the first few games frustrating as I tried to get to grips with aspects of the gameplay missed by the tutorial. The objective is to stalk the fire team and wait for the right time to attack while they complete their objectives. If the fire team are competent, they will stick together, giving the predator a hard time picking them off. Once you reach a high-level predator it will still be hard to win matches, but it’s slightly easier with better weapons at your disposal. By far my biggest complaint about the predator is that it’s weapons can’t seem to penetrate through the leaves on the trees. There is nothing more frustrating than using your heat vision to line up a perfect shot, only for the blast not to even make it through the canopy. I also take particular offence to the fact the fire team are able to kill the predator with a knife.
The fire team have three objectives throughout the map that need to be completed, whilst being attacked by the AI. The AI do a good job of distracting you from the fact there is an unseen menace stalking you, but most of the time they feel like an annoyance than a legitimate foe by just standing in the way and not even trying to shoot you from cover. It is however, unsettling to be walking somewhere, or crouched to cover yourself in mud, whilst hearing the signature clicking sound of the predator somewhere nearby. This feeling of paranoia is even worse if you find yourself separated from the rest of the team. I found this atmosphere to be one of the highlights of the game and it really kept me on edge. After completing the objectives, the fire team need to call in extract and some might say you need to GET TO DA CHOPPA (sorry, couldn’t help myself). Once the helicopter is called in, you will be set upon by AI while you try to defend the position.
At this point in the game, a few things can potentially happen. If the predator is particularly ineffective, the fire team can just get on the helicopter and leave, thus winning the game. If the predator attacks and the fire team are able to down it, you can stay behind and try to defend the body while the AI attack. Successfully completing this awards the fire team even more XP, assuming the predator hasn’t activated the nuke and blown itself and the fire team up. If predator activates the nuke, the fire team can choose to run out of the blast radius, or diffuse the bomb. Or in my case unsuccessfully attempt to diffuse the bomb while predator laughs in my face.
As this is a co-op game based on teamwork and communication, I would recommend playing the game with friends. A team that is spread out and not working together makes for easy-pickings for the predator. When I was playing alongside a competent fire team I almost always won the match, further adding to my gripe that the predator is underpowered. It should be more of a challenge to the fire team than it actually is.