PREDATOR: HUNTING GROUNDS
By Tom "TomBsTone" Bronneberg on May 7, 2020
"If it bleeds, we can kill it."
Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) said it back in 1987, and I will say it now: "If it bleeds, we can kill it." Predator Hunting grounds. Wow, if there ever was a game I have been waiting for, it has to be this one. And is it all I expected it to be?? Well, in some areas yes. In others... no, but not in a negative way. Allow me to explain.
One of the first memories I have of the Mythical Predator is from the time right after the movie was released, I was still a little boy, maybe around 8-9 Years old, when my mother took me with her to where she worked. The family of the shop owner lived right above the shop my mother worked at and whenever I was there, I got to go upstairs and play with the other kids. However, this time was different. When I got upstairs, they were watching a very violent movie. I peeked through the doorway right at the moment Blain got shot by a plasma blast, and Mac picks up "ol' painless" and the entire crew of soldiers levels a rainforest while screaming at something that was partially invisible. It was a type of Alien I had never ever seen before. This made quite the impression on little me at the time, let me tell you.
After many years of "growing up", ...what?! I put quotes around it, didn't I? So don't make a fuss. I never lost track of the Predator after that. I collected many trophies of my own, PSN trophies of course. In addition, watched the movie many times over and I own several way too big replicas of the Predator itself. Yes, I am a fanboy of the Predator.
So, as you can probably imagine, when IllFonic, the same developer that brought us the "Friday the 13th" video game in 2017, announced that they would create a Predator video game I was ecstatic. The main reason being that there is no real Predator game yet. Of course, there have been some Alien vs Predator releases and even a Mortal Kombat instalment in which the Predator was added to the fight roster, but no "pure" Predator game. Obviously, I bought this one just to play Predator. Now there's finally a real game based around Predator. Man, this would have to be great.
Now for the details, Predator Hunting Grounds is a cross platform, 4 vs 1 online multiplayer game. You can play with your friends or let the server's do the matchmaking for you. We have a few nicely detailed maps, placing one Predator at once side and four marines at the other. The Predator's goal is simple, seek and destroy, then claim your trophy. On the other hand, the marines have a mission to complete, mostly counter-espionage and or assassination of a drug lord, that kind of stuff. So yes there are many "AI" hostiles in the area, some armed, some fortified like human tanks. The mission then lets you hop all over the map to gather Intel or to find your mark. In a way, this is already pretty fun.
*Ok, I have to press pause shortly at this time and make a confession. You see, I am usually not that big of a fan of shooters, mainly because I'm playing on a PS4 and it's just not my cup of tea, so perhaps a veteran Call of Duty player would disagree with me on some of the things I state here.*
In itself, this is not really challenging because the AI does not seem to be very bright. Let's just say that its more A than I at times. Although they can still surprise you if you are not paying attention. The real threat of course is the Predator; you know it is out there, you know it is strong and you know it is invisible. So, every time you hear its roar, or laser tracker fire up, you WILL be on the edge of your seat. Franticly looking around you into the tree tops hoping to find it before it kills you, .... It has already found you, that much is certain.
The game starts out very simple; you either start an online "quick" game, create a "custom" game, or play the tutorial. The tutorial is only for the Predator and yes, I got stuck the first time, because I missed the cue on how to do a big jump. Luckily, I found the right button and finished the tutorial with great satisfaction. After that, it is straight into the customisation of your playable character. For the Predator there is not much to tweak at the start, most stuff you see is unlockable by levelling up or spending your game credits on upgrades. The marines have a lot more to tweak, and in here I did spend quite a while because obviously I wanted to create a "Dutch" and Blain" character. There are many weapon varieties, ranging from pistols, via sub/automatic machine guns, via sniper rifles, right up to the 'piece the resistance', the almighty "ol'painless" minigun. But this is only unlockable at a very high level.... So sadly, it was a sniper rifle for me.
The mechanics feel logical and fluent for me, both as marine and as the Predator. Marines have the basic set of shooter skills, crouch, run, jump, slide, shoot, melee and interact. The Predator on the other hand is a Parkour Master and can run across the branches of the forest. Make great leaps (as I said, I did eventually find the right button for it), attack , go stealthy and scan for heat signatures. And this is really, really fun to do. When you activate the heat map, the sound goes all woolly, just like in the movie, and you can focus on heat signatures. I highly recommend playing this game with high quality audio and high volumes. It is an awesome feeling and one hell of an experience.
Now for the less awesome stuff. If there's one type of game I do not like, it has to be Online matchmaking... And yes, I know this game revolves mainly around that concept but, lucky for me, I found out that the custom game function allows you to start a game without other players. Now, you might find this silly, but I had hours of fun playing this mode both as Predator and as the Marines. As a Predator, you will always lose of course, because your only goal in life is to kill the marines, and there will be none in this mode. But lucky for you there are still hostile AI running around. In addition, you will still collect XP and goodies after the 15 min round is finished. As a marine, you will most likely win most of the games, because you can complete your objectives, kill the AI, "GET TO THE CHOPPA" and be home in time for dinner. Because there is no Predator to fight against you. Well that's not fun you might think. But like I said, it was for me. BUT !! I truly hope that the developers will eventually create an AI for both the predator and Marines, so I can play this game offline. That would be just great for me. I could die a happy man... or Predator.
As far as the online matchmaking part is concerned; I had some mixed experiences. And I think this is my main problem with these types of games. Your gaming experience is highly dependent on your team mates and/or enemy. I had people drop out mid game, or even right at the start, leaving me with half a squad or even alone in the jungle against the predator. And then it's all up to the other player how this round will play out. I had a few lousy two-minute matches and even a match with three team members dropping out before starting the game, but the Predator guy was like "aw look at the little bugger , I'll play around with him for a bit" and he chased me up and down the jungle for the full 15 minutes and finally managed to finish me off just before I got to snag the chopper safety lines. At this point, I got the most epic view of a Predator doing what he does best, Collecting his trophy.
For me this game is almost perfect, I would really like a single player campaign, or the ability to play random generated maps against AI as both Marine and Predator. The game itself looks and feels awesome. Especially the sound effects. Okay, maybe the voice acting for the AI is a bit repetitive and loud at times, but this is also a way for you to hear where they are. As the predator runs around stomping the ground or treetops, you will shit your pants the first few times. It's an awesome experience... not the shitting your pants part of course, but the fear of dying and the thrill of hunting.
So, all in all, I can only say: great job IllFonic! Thank you very much for making my childhood nightmares come to life once more. It's like Blain would have said, "This stuff will make you a god damned sexual Tyrannosaurus, just like me". Now, if only my wife would agree with me on that...
PREDATOR: HUNTING GROUNDS
April 24, 2020