If you are a fan on the Predator series, you will be instantly met with a version of the iconic theme tune. The thumping mix sets the mood for the game, as you are about to enter the jungle- will you be the hunter or be the hunted?
Predator: Hunting Grounds gets its DNA from the classic 1987 sci-fi action horror film, which sees a team of special ops military group, enter a jungle to rescue some hostages from a guerrilla faction. What seems like a bombastic action flick, soon turns into a tense horror, as the highly trained team are not alone and are being stalked by an alien out for the hunt. Using advance technology, including thermal imaging mask and a stealth cloaking device, the rest of the movie sees the Arnold Schwarzenegger lead special ops team, attempt to take on this ‘Predator’, in order to survive.
The game takes many of these movie elements and sprinkles it into its 4v1 asymmetric multiplayer title. You will play as either one member of a four man fireteam or play solo as the Predator. Each play and feel very different, with the fireteam being a rudimentary first-person shooter and the Predator is more agile, as you play in a third person perspective. Both have a number of gadgets, perks, weapons and customisations available to unlock. You do this by earning XP or in-game currency, as well as earning loot boxes during gameplay. Currently all items are unlock through natural progression and there is no real world currency.
As the fireteam, you are dropped into one of three South America eque jungle maps, with a number of landmarks, outposts and AI controlled enemies. You are tasked with a random set of objectives to complete, which include defusing of bombs, collecting intel or destroying enemy bases. Each objective brings a wave of enemies to combat, as a timer ticks down for the objective to finish. Dotted around the map are ammo dumps, health boxes and even weapon creates to help you take care of the AI enemies. Completing all the necessary objectives triggers the team to get to the choppa’. Setting a flare off at the landing zone sees yet one final wave of enemies to take care of, as you wait for the helicopter. You will have a limited amount of time to escape when the chopper lands, or you will be left behind.
At some point during the mission, the person who controls the Predator, will be closing in on your position. As the Predator, you can scale the trees and traverse the skyline. Dropped on the opposite side of the map to the fireteam, you are armed with number of advantages over your human counterparts. Armed with thermal imaging mode, allowing you to identify AI and human players on the map, you also have a cloaking ability that helps you blend into the jungle and creep up on your targets. These are both tied to a an energy cell that depletes during using of these iteams. The team can use mud to hide their heat signature, but shooting there guns will appear on the Predator’s HUD. Being hidden is your greatest strength and you are best to use distraction in the environment or the bombardment of AI waves attacking the fireteam to your advantage. You will always have access to your wrist mounted claws, the ability to jump great distances and even arm a bomb if you get downed.
Although all the elements are there for a tense battle, gameplay can be let down by poor AI, who act more of a nuisance than a viable threat. Even lack of teammate co-operation will lead a match to end quickly, because a Predator can take you down as a team is split up. Later gear and weapon unlocks can feel a bit overpowered at times, especially on the Predator’s side, but it is a balancing act every time you enter a match.
Matches are cross platform compatible, as PC & PS4 players can play together in the public games, but currently private matches can only be hosted on the same platform. Graphically, I had a few framerate issues, especially in bigger fire fights. Built in Unreal engine, some character models are fine, but some of the environments are bland and become to blend together. PC users seem to have a slight graphical improvement, but neither stand out as anything groundbreaking. It’s a comparable game, with decent mechanics for both sides, but it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before. Another downside to the title, are the long wait times for Predator based matches. Jumping into a fireteam match is fairly quick and consistent, but the devs are dropping updates regularly since launch.
In some ways, developers Illfonic have created a love letter to the original Predator movie and it nails the action set-pieces. If you have a good mix of players for each game, a match can be a chess battle of nerves. But the long wait times can sometimes outlast the match itself. Hopefully some future DLC, more game modes and maps will keep the game fresh, but so far I have enjoyed most of my playthroughs. Hopefully some news on future DLC will be announced soon.
If you get a game, play it
Although there are some flaws, when I got a good game (be it as part of a tight fireteam or as the staking Predator), I enjoyed my time with Hunting Grounds. Lacking some diversity at times, the inclusion of more maps, objections and some gameplay tweaks, the title could give more of a reason to continue the hunt.