Predator: Hunting Grounds takes most of what you loved about the 1987 classic movie and condenses it into 15 minute matches for your enjoyment. Notice I said most. With a solid premise and some great mechanics, this budget release, has a bit of jankiness to it that may or may not bring down your enjoyment of the overall experience. Developed by Illfonic and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, Predator: Hunting Grounds is available on PS4 and Epic Games Store on PC.
Illfonic is a small developer with around 80 members on their staff. They also have a divisive history depending on who you ask. Their previous title, Friday the 13th, was touted as a Kickstarter funded competitor to Dead by Daylight. Unfortunately, it was bug ridden at launch. Once a majority of the issues were taken care of, the game got swept into the Friday the 13th Lawsuit. As a result, Illfonic was told they could no longer add anything to the game only a year and a half out the door. Predator: Hunting Grounds is a fully licensed release so if a fan base takes to this who knows how it could shape out.
Back to Basics:
Predator: Hunting Grounds is a lot of fun to play. 20 hours in and I’ve enjoyed my time playing as both the Fire-team and the Predator. As it stands, there are three maps all during the daytime with three spawn points each for the Fire-team to choose from. There’s not a lot of mission variety (fetch quest, train escort, or kingpin exterminating) but the reason to play this game is for the Predator Vs Fire-team dynamics.
Fire-team controls are tight first person shooter fair with a mud cloaking mechanic which hides you from the Predator’s heat vision. It’s a great detail. There are A.I. enemies spread throughout the jungle waiting for you while you complete the randomly assigned missions. After completing these missions (and if you survive the Predator), you need to “Get to the Chopper” to finish the mission. The Predator and it’s heat vision can’t tell the Fire-team and AI enemies apart so it needs to study your movements or just attack everything in sight. If one of your teammates gets slaughtered it’s not game over. There are little points you can deviate to that allow you to call in reinforcements. Use these sparingly as you can only do it once per match. If you get matched with a good team or you play a private match with at least two other people, I’ve found playing Fire-team to be more enjoyable to the Predator but just barely.
Playing as the Predator take some getting used to, but the controls are great once you’ve gotten familiar with them. The first time you jump into a tree using Predcore will be equal parts exhilarating and frustrating. As you jump through the trees you feel free to traverse and kill at a breakneck pace until you need to jump down. Too many times I ended up breaking stealth leaping across a hot zone because I pressed the jump button thinking I was descending. The Predator’s wide arsenal is here and each weapon is different enough that if something isn’t working for you there probably is another weapon you can dominate with. I love the Audio decoys and smart disc combo but I love to divide and conquer.
Load times in Predator: Hunting Grounds have improved greatly from the beta which had queue times up to 30 minutes. If you’re playing Fire-team, the usual time to find a match is around one to five minutes. However, if you want to play as the Predator, you’re looking at a 5 minute to 15 minute wait. With such a long wait, it would suck if you pick the wrong loadout and got taken out early right? Well once everyone is added to a match you get 10 seconds (usually less) to ready up and pick your load out. There is also an audio bug; If someone nearby uses the mini-gun, the audio doesn’t stop when they finish shooting. Another thing that needs to be fixed is having the interact button be the same button as the reload. Too many times I was going to collect the in-game material/connecting to the escape helicopter and I would start reloading. To make matters worse, one the reloading animation has started, it can’t be stopped. Getting killed during either of those situations feels cheap.
Illfonic has been very vocal about fixing all issues brought to them on their personal forums and the Predator: Hunting Grounds reddit. A chunk of these issues are band-aided if you have a group of people available to play private matches. No queue times, you can pick the loadout of your choice. You can even be a Predator and hunt your friends while earning XP which is not something you can do in quickplay.
Predator Hunting Grounds is a great budget release at $40 launch! There is a lot of character customization available. The gameplay is fun for both sides with neither team feeling too strong. The mission variety is a little lackluster but realistically that’s the last thing on your mind during matches. Instead, finding and killing the Predator is the true thrill! The load times and occasional bug show room for improvement. With a little more time, this could have been a great Playstation FPS exclusive, something they’ve lacked greatly this generation but as it stands this is still damn good. As of 5/12/2020 Illfonic has kept their roadmap ahead under wraps but has revealed Arnold Schwarzenegger is coming to the game as Dutch in a paid DLC soon. If they bring in additional locations and protagonists from the Predator franchise or maybe even an Aliens tie in I can see myself playing this a lot more throughout the year. I ain’t got time to bleed, but I do have time to give Predator Hunting Grounds a Good rating with the possibility of Great if some updates are made.
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