Developed By: Illfonic
Published By: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PS4 / PC
Reviewed On: PS4PRO
Predator: Hunting Grounds is a 4 vs 1 multiplayer shooter that comes from the same folks who most notably did Friday the 13th: The Game. Thanks to PlayStation Asia we were able to secure a review copy for Predator: Hunting Grounds and after playing a ton of matches I do have thoughts on the state of the game as a whole which I will get into in this review.
If It Bleeds We Can Kill It
Since the game is multiplayer focused there is not much of a story here, but they have referenced a lot of the established Predator properties (yes including Shane Black’s The Predator). When players boot up the game, they are given an option of jumping in straight away in Quickplay or to take a quick Tutorial before you do. I would advise that you do take the Tutorial because even though it is only for the Predator side it will help players to familiarize themselves. It might seem easy at first, but it can get just a little bit complicated or confusing if you do not. Also, you do not want to end up looking like a lame-ass Predator when you go out on a hunt.
The general idea of the game is basically four members of a Fireteam will be dropped in the middle of the jungle to complete a set of objectives and then evacuate. While trying to complete the objectives the Fireteam will undoubtedly encounter resistance by the A.I soldiers in the jungle. Now according to the bits of info meant to flesh out the in-game universe found in the Extras section, there are two types of soldiers, the PMC and the guerrilla fighters but in all honestly, I really could not tell the difference while playing. The biggest challenge for the Fire Team will be the player-controlled Predator which will be on the hunt for the Fireteam. So it will be up to the Fireteam to complete the objectives and escape or terminate the predator and it’s for the Predator to hunt down all four Fireteam members or be as much of a nuisance as possible to let the time run out and foil the Fireteam’s mission.
There’s Something Out There Waiting for Us, And It Ain’t No Man
When it comes to the graphics, atmosphere, and sound design of the game I can say that it is just okay. I mean I wouldn’t say that it is one of the best-looking games on the PS4, but I have definitely played other games that really looked much worse. If you watched the trailer above and were worried with all the womp womp music rest assured that they only used that music for the marketing of the game. I was quite impressed that they used the soundtrack of the original Predator movies and it really does add to the nostalgia factor which was a big plus for me. When it comes to atmosphere, I wouldn’t say they knocked it out of the park because even though you are dropped I the middle of the jungle but I didn’t really feel like there was a lot of ambient jungle noises. However, one part they really nailed was how when the Predator is close by you can really hear him sneering so it instantly makes you alert.
However, there is definitely a few shortcomings when it comes to the presentation of the game. There have been many times where the textures or even character models in the game loaded in slow from the main menu to in-game and although it did not take too long it does happen often enough. I thought it was a nice touch that the character models in the main menu reflected the cosmetic options you chose for them but then when the load in problems happen it makes me wonder why include them at all. The animations in the game also look quite dated especially with the ragdoll effects as some enemies will just lay in awkward positions on the ground that reminded me of games that came out last generation or even in the PS2 era. There were even a few matches I had where the sound of an assault rifle (when no one was firing) just kept going on until the end of the match and even continued until the main menu before it stopped. At times it honestly felt like something I expect to experience during a beta so that is a shame.
Get To The Choppa!
I had fun with my time with the game. I would not say that it was genuinely one of the best multiplayer experiences I have ever had but it is also far from being one of the worst and I have played really terrible ones.
So, as I mentioned earlier players can jump right into the action through the Quickplay option where there are three options to choose from. You can either choose to be a Fireteam member, be the predator or pick the last option which places you in either role and the game will matchmake you into an appropriate match. It sounds simple enough because it is and the only problem with it is basically if you are impatient and are the type who likes to jump into as much as you possibly can without wasting time then you should always pick being a Fireteam member or the last option (which still places you on a Fireteam) as the wait times to jump into a match are at an acceptable 30-40 seconds (but it can stretch longer during peak hours I assume) If you insist on playing a Predator though be prepared to have to wait a whopping five whole minutes and more often than not it actually can even stretch as long as ten minutes. Now I know you can say that “oh, five minutes doesn’t feel that long” but trust me when I say when you start doing it concurrent times it can feel like forever especially when you can play double or more amount of matches as a Fireteam member in the time you wait to play a Predator.
Every match has a timer of fifteen minutes for the Fireteam to complete their objectives then escape or kill the Predator then escape, the Predator must hunt down every Fireteam member to win. Even winning in this game is also not as straightforward as it seems. For example, If you do manage to take down a Predator but it decides to self-destruct then whoever is caught in the blast “lose” but if there are some who manage to escape then they “win” and it ends the match immediately even though objectives aren’t met. If everyone dies, then the Predator wins. If the timer runs out and the objectives are not met but the Fireteam is still alive the Predator still wins.
Earlier on I said I had fun so what is fun about the gameplay? Well basically as a Fireteam member, there is nothing like completing the objectives and narrowly escaping a great Predator or even just managing to blow their Predator brains out before they skewer you. It is a really good Cat & Mouse game especially if you have a really good Predator player and a really co-operative Fireteam. As a Predator, just the feeling of hunting down and annihilating the Fireteam gives you a feeling of the ultimate hunter. Unfortunately, that’s all that’s fun about the game.
The objectives that the Fireteam must complete is pretty much laughably shallow. Just go to point A do this then Point B then do this then Point C and escape. They do try to inject a sense of purpose with radio chatter but ultimately it just sounds like white noise because as a player you are just focused on doing the objective and looking out for the Predator. It really does not help much also that the A.I that players must deal within the game are very braindead with no tactics whatsoever. If the soldiers are alerted, they just casually run up to you and shoot. There is no effort whatsoever for the A.I to run, hide, duck or even have flanking tactics. I even noticed a couple of times where the alarm was tripped in one of the camps and more soldiers came out and they just kept on shooting at the Fireteam even though there was a Predator taking them out one by one. I get that it is meant to add more tension for the players to add another antagonistic entity to look out for, but it ended up being quite bad. In the beginning, I was okay to give it a pass because I was having fun just soaking up the atmosphere and tension but eventually it just got really monotonous due to how one dimensional the matches end up being and having only three maps at launch (Overgrowth, Backwater, Derailed) really overstays its welcome quickly.
I felt like the objectives themselves should be more varied and Fireteam members should be given more options so that the matches and objectives themselves feel more dynamic. I get that you must have a mission for the Fireteam but when the Predator comes into play why am I still bothering about getting confidential data back to the government? They should be options to trap the Predator instead of if you managed to kill it then suddenly the timer goes away, and the game prompts you to guard the body until it can be evacuated. Most of the matches I participated in was basically the Fireteam rushing to complete the objectives and get out. There are even balancing issues that arise due to how the matchmaking system works. I do not know how players are matched up against each other. If you have fresh players in a Fireteam of an experienced Predator you get wiped out quickly. If you play as a predator and suddenly you are against an experienced Fireteam the Predator gets wiped out fast. It won’t always happen, but it happens often enough to really kill the enjoyment of the matches themselves.
So, what is the point of participating in all those matches? Customization of course! To start for the Fireteam, players will earn EXP and level up so they are allowed access to bigger and better guns, gear and perks. There are three sections of Primary weapons for the Fireteam which is the Assault Rifle, Sniper Rifle and Special sections. The Assault and Sniper sections each have one default weapon unlocked (with Special only becoming available at level 29) and the higher the player levels up the more weapon choices will be unlocked. The secondary section offers four sections which are Pistol, Shotguns, Submachine Guns & Special and functions the same as the primary with additional choices unlocked at certain levels. Each weapon can also be improved until level 10 with usage and earning EXP. Improvements include extended magazines, suppressors, and better sights. The single most annoying thing about this is when you switch weapons, all the equipped skins or enhancements resets to default and it really does get annoying how you have to switch it all back again every single time. Why is such a torturous system in place?
Gears are supplementary items to bring along to aid in an offensive or defensive move or even survivability like the field syrette for a quick health regen or a grenade to blow up enemies. Perks are passive bonuses like faster movement, more health or gaining more experience and as expected the higher your level is the more Gear and perks you will unlock to be used. This is the same for the Predator as well. Even loadouts are level gated with a total of 6 loadouts available to the player. To make it worse even if you have more than one loadout it doesn’t really matter much due to how only sometimes before matches you can switch matches but most of the time you will be locked into your default one so anyone who wants to try this game you better be aware of that.
Players will also be able to customize their Fireteam member or Predator with cosmetic items for their weapons or character models. These cosmetic items can be obtained in two ways. The currency used in the game is called Veritanium and players can either save up to buy these cosmetic items which range from as low as 500 to a whopping 25,000 (the Predators are very high maintenance) or they can take a gamble to purchase Field Lockers for 500 veritanium which will reward three cosmetic items. I prefer the field locker way because firstly you earn these when you level up and secondly if you have duplicates you earn veritanium and hilariously enough it is possible for you to spend 500 on a box only to get more than that amount back because of duplicates. Also, in case you were wondering these cosmetic items do range from the typical basic to the exotic types for those who love collecting. I mean it is okay for the most part but when the issues I mentioned above about how things reset when you switch it just made me not give crap eventually. Luckily it is only limited to just your weapons.
Also, I almost forgot that both the Fireteam and the Predator have different Classes. The Fireteam has the Assault, Recon, Scout & Support Class. Each class has different stats regarding your total Health, Stamina, Movement Speed & Gear with each class being a trade-off another. The Assault class also has the bonus of being able to revive teammates faster, but the Recon class can stay mudded up longer. The Predator only has three classes: Hunter, Scout & Berzerker.
Do these classes matter? It is a Yes and No but depends on how your build feels for you. Early on I switched from the Assault class to the Recon class because I wanted to stay mudded up longer but honestly that felt dumb after a while because the only way I could ever tell if I needed mud for camouflage is if my gun was completely clean or not but I could equip better Perks and Gear due to the extra points I was afforded. I mean even if you were hoping to be able to craft a specific build to a loadout at this moment it does not feel viable enough for the playstyle diversity it offers. For example, I had two Predator builds, one Melee and another Range focused but I always went back to the Melee build due to how incredibly more effective it was early game. At higher levels, more ranged options do open up but even then, at the moment it seems there are only one or two weapons that are truly worth exploring due to how much more it offers. Players will always go back to what is always the most effective way to win fast ruthlessly.
What I Liked
- Atmosphere & Soundtrack – Definitely brought back memories of watching the first Predator movie.
- Short & Sweet – I do feel like every match feels nicely paced but just too much monotony.
What Needs To Be Better
- Bugs – Hopefully, the bugs that are currently plaguing the game will be ironed out.
- More Variety – There really needs to be more maps, more objectives, more dynamism in the matches themselves or there will not be much of a player base.
- Wait Times – It seriously does suck how long I needed to wait to play a Predator.
- Better Balancing & More Viable Build Variety – All options should be viable whichever way the players will choose to tackle the game.
I don’t really want to write this game off because I do feel it has potential and a lot of it. The only question now is will it ever realize that potential? There is a lot of work yet to come that needs to happen in a short time and I do not know if the player base numbers are going to justify that level of commitment from the developers. I do know that the developers have been listening and are already focused on appropriate fixes and balances but then hopefully there is more in the pipeline for this game. For now, even the cross-play implementation seems to be working well enough but it is also yet to be seen once the first wave of cheaters how the developers are going to manage that. It is hard for me to recommend a purchase right now but hopefully with future improvements, it might become a must-have title in your library.