I’m writing this just a day or so after Hunt: Showdown celebrated its three-year anniversary with an event which caused it to break its all-time concurrent players record. Of course, that would be more noteworthy if the game hadn’t been breaking its concurrent players record with increasing frequency over the past several months. It seems that word is started to spread at last that Hunt, with its wonderfully unusual approach to battle royale and competitive multiplayer, is well-worth the average player’s free time.
Players in Hunt: Showdown take on the role of hunters with a contract to kill an AI “boss” monster hiding somewhere on the map. On the way you must use your Dark Sight to find clues which will narrow down the location of the boss so you can defeat it, banish it, collect the two tokens that the banished boss drops, and then leave at one of the extraction points on the edges of the map.
Of course, it’s not that simple. Various unheimlich AI monsters roam almost every part of the map, and other players are never too far away either. You can play each match entirely how you want: you could rush the boss and try to exfiltrate before anyone else finds you; you could go out roaming for other hunters to kill; you could lie in wait at an extraction point hoping to find hunters that you can kill and scavenge their boss tokens from; or you can just leave the map and end the match at any time, thus keeping your character and equipment intact for the next game.
By far the best thing about Hunt: Showdown is the audio. And for once I’m not talking about the soundtrack (though the main menu music is eminently hummable). With Hunt, Crytek have created the greatest audio experience in any FPS I’ve played. Gunshots can be heard from miles away, and the type of gun identified from the sound and rate of fire. Broken glass on the floor and chains hanging from the ceiling force you to pay attention to your surroundings, lest you alert nearby enemies to your whereabouts. Bells can be rung by shooting them with silenced pistols to distract other players. Even swapping your weapons or reloading makes enough noise to lose you the game at times. The longer games, and the permadeath of your characters, both add to give you a much stronger sense of self-preservation than any other battle royale I’ve played. And combined with the incredible sound design and sumptuous Weird West setting, it makes Hunt’s PvP fights the tensest and most enjoyable of nearly any game I’ve played.