Being from the UK, hunting is something that isn’t really part of my life, I see it very much as an American past time – where you grab a few mates and head out into the great unknown with the hopes of bagging a trophy buck. That being said there has been a long history of games based on the thrill of the hunt and the latest to join this pack is Way of the Hunter, developed by Slovakian studio Nine Rocks Games. In an interesting move there is actually a bit of a tale behind this one, as you play as the grandson of a legendry hunting lodge owner, who is getting on a bit and is in hospital due to bad health. He gives you a ring and asks you to fill his boots until he’s back on his feet, and tasks you with the running of his business – hunting for the locals in the vast Nez Perce Valley. It’s an OK frame to see the “action” unfold in, as you find yourself having to complete a number of hunting quests, as well as explore the 52 square mile area for new beasts and wildlife. You will be drip fed the backstory on the events that led up to your arrival.
Like past hunting games I have played, Way of the Hunter is very much a slow burner and sits firmly in the sim side of things. You’ll have three main stages on each hunt: first you have to track your target using your hunter’s sense; then you have to take aim for that perfect shot; and finally you’ll have to harvest it for cash or a trophy. When you get to the harvesting stage you are presented with a stat filled screen about how your prey died, as well as being shown where it was hit – which is displayed as a cool (if a little bit gruesome) X-Ray of the animal. For the most part how you complete this route is open-ended, as you can choose your kit as well as the path you want to take. This is actually mirrored in the way the game wants you to play, giving you the open wilds and saying have at it any way you want. That can all feel a bit overwhelming, but once you get into the loop of doing things it’s actually a refreshing sense of freedom. You get to roam two equal sized areas, with one set in North America and one set in Europe. Developers have said is populated by some 5,000 animals that are ever-changing based on the eco-system. The biggest part of the game has to be the shooting which overall is good, though it’s a game based on taking the perfect shot and not going full auto and mowing down herds of deer. In an odd way it has more in common with the likes of Sniper Elite or the Sniper: Ghost Warrior series.
You can also team up with another two mates if you want and attack the game as a trio, which does put a bit of a spin on things as you’re left to hunt what you want as a group. Though it can be a rough outing with what we expect are issues with the net code just now. There are a few more issues too, which are not a surprise given the size of the areas. You’ll have to deal with visual glitches like lighting and textures not popping; as well as things not rendering in the distance… is that a deer lying down or a log? Yeah… not great given the game is all about shooting at a distance. Also worth noting is that the animals themselves sometimes have super powers i.e., can hear you from over 400m away whilst you’re sneaking – which is a killer given it’s taken you 15 minutes of slow moving and tracking to get there only to have that White Tail bolt into the woods and have to do it all over again.
Visually the open world looks good most of the time with an interesting mix of environments, that are unfortunately let down by the above issues. Way of the Hunter is a full fat sim in a lot of ways that will appeal to fans of this sort of thing, but there are a good few rough edges that do need to be ironed out. Whereas if you have a passing interest in hunting, it may serve as an oddity.
An Xbox review copy of Way of the Hunter was provided by THQ Nordic’s PR team, and the game is available now on Xbox, PC and PlayStation for around £40.
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