I don’t remember when exactly I first watched the original Predator (the movie that Predator: Hunting Grounds is inspired by). All I do remember is going to the cinemas watching Predator 2 with my grandfather as a kid. And even then, my memories of that viewing was mostly about how cool it was that there was a Xenomorph skull in the Yautja ship near the end of the movie!
Since then, I’ve seen Predator (and its sequels) countless times. While my favourite will always be Predator 2 (come on, it had Bill Paxton and Gary Busey!), Predator does have a special place in my heart simply because of this scene:
Nobody can resist that scene. Legend has it that women (and some men!) who watched it in cinemas miraculously conceived because of the sheer amount of testosterone onscreen!
So…the question is, does the game have that same power?
What is Predator: Hunting Grounds?
Predator: Hunting Grounds is an asymmetrical multiplayer game. One player is the eponymous Predator (or Yautja if you want to be technical), while four others play as the soldiers.
It’s developed by Illfonic and Twentieth Century Studios, with publishing duties handled by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It’s available on both the PS4 (reviewed) and PC, with crossplay multiplayer capabilities. That means, PS4 and PC players can play together, making the pool of players larger.
First off, don’t go into the game hoping for a campaign mode. It’s not coming. When we met up with the developers at last year’s Tokyo Game Show, I managed to them about that and they emphatically said it wasn’t on the cards. Neither was the addition of bots. Maybe for the sequel.
Luckily, the game’s crossplay with the PC, so at the very least, there’ll be more gamers to team up with. It’s still not an idea solution (especially when the majority move on in a few months) but it’s better than just being locked to playing PS4 or just PC players, right?
Despite it just being launched, I’ve found it rather hard to get into games as the Predator. with waits of up to 20 mins to get matched for a game. Playing as the soldiers, the queue was much better. The longest wait I had was just shy of 5 minutes.
Perhaps that might be due to the fact that servers are to be peer-to-peer.
I’ve had pings that ranged from the high 100s, to less than 50ms. The game’s very playable when the ping’s low, but as it gets higher, it gets worse. Response times go down the drain, enemy soldiers will teleport or won’t register your hits. Surprisingly, I’ve not reached a point where it’s unplayable…yet.
The frame rate needs some polishing too. It’s not as bad as when the game was in beta for the trial weekend, but boy it can go south in a hurry when things heat up. I found that playing as the soldier was worse (since you need to cope with the enemy AI swarming you) when compared to the Predator, but both still encounter frame rate hitches much more frequently than I’d like.
Not surprisingly, playing as either side is pretty different; the soldiers have missions to accomplish, plus they have to contend with the enemy AI. The Predator on the other hand, just needs to hunt the soldiers. It can traverse quickly via the trees (which the game terms Predakour), cloak, shoot plasma bolts from afar and (best of all) self destruct when you’re losing.
A testament to the game is that it’s incredibly fun, no matter which side you’re on. I’ve had a great time teasing other players with hit and run tactics and then watching them shoot the trees in panic. On the flip side, I’ve also had a good time a the soldiers, running around trying to do missions while keeping an eye out for the Predator.
Ok, I admit the shooting could feel a bit better (it seems a tad janky and awkward when compared to top tier shooters like Destiny or Call of Duty) and the enemy animations could use more work, but it’s pretty laudable what a relatively unknown studio like Illfonic’s accomplished.
The only thing I hope Illfonic keeps tweaking and adding are new missions and maps. I can see the ones in the game becoming stale rather quick, since they’re mostly of the same type; go to a location, interact with some things, stay and defend the location or move on and repeat until it’s time for extraction.
Maps are all jungle based, so I hope new ones come in that are different. Why not urban locations like in Predator 2? Or even different types of jungles like in The Predator?
Like most modern FPS games nowadays, there’s a leveling system in the game. You gain levels that apply to both the Predator and Soldier so you don’t need to keep playing as one side to level up. You get new guns and options at set levels and you also get loot boxes every time you gain a level.
The unlocks certainly give you incentive to keep on playing, but the loot boxes (for now) only offer cosmetics. I’d have liked it more if they had more impact; perhaps exclusive character models (why aren’t the cast of the original Predator in the game as playable characters anyway?) or even unique weapons.
We have Jesse Ventura’s Ol’ Painless minigun as one of the unlockables…so why not more exotic fare like RPGs or portable turrets? It’s much more fun with the Predator’s cool weaponry…you can even unlock a bow!
It’s still lackluster on the Predator side though, with only the Yautja helmet being customizable. There’s the ’87 Predator skin, but that’s only for pre-orders. Hopefully, Illfonic has plans to expand this with more well known Predators; like the Elder Predator from AvP or Predator 2 or even Broken Tusk from the original Aliens vs Predator comic series.
The Bottom Line.
While Predator: Hunting Grounds isn’t my favourite Predator game (that goes to Capcom’s arcade Alien vs Predator game), it’s a close third…right behind the original Aliens vs Predator FPS on PC.
It offers a fresh take on playing as a Predator, taking it back to the character’s origins. Not even the AvP games with their multi-species multiplayer compares to what Predator: Hunting Grounds’ accomplish; make the Predator a true hunter.
Unfortunately, technical glitches and bouts of lag mar the experience. Both are inescapable right now, though I really hope that patches down the road will iron kinks out. The lack of bots or a single player mode stings too, especially for gamers who hop on later when the player base has shrunk.
Blemishes aside, Predator: Hunting Grounds is hands down, THE best Predator multiplayer game for quite awhile now. Hopefully it does well enough that Illfonic gets the green light (and a bigger budget) to really make an awesome game the next time around.
Fun but flawed.
- Incredibly fun.
- Lots to unlock.
- Different experience as Predator or Soldier.
- Long queue times.
- Not a lot of customization options.
- Technical hitches.
- No dedicated servers.