Reviews

Let the hunt begin — Predator: Hunting Grounds review

Cinema has created a whole bevy of intriguing and deadly characters, with some of them becoming so popular that they extend into other forms of media such as video games. Examples like Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, Michael Myers, and so on have made it into games like Mortal Kombat and Dead By Daylight. It’s even more impressive when a character gets their own game instead of just being a guest character. The Predator, from the movie of the same name, has gotten its own 4v1 asymmetrical game that recently came out. The Predator is attempting to hunt down an elite fireteam comprised of four people that have been sent on a special operation in the jungle. Who will survive? The Predator or the fireteam?

Predator: Hunting Grounds follows the usual 4v1 formula that pits a team of four players against a lone, more powerful player; in this case it’s four soldiers against one Predator. The fireteam arrives on scene and is tasked with completing a set of objectives. From here you and your comrades head towards the marker on screen and attempt to complete your tasks. Along the way you may encounter AI soldiers that will shoot first and ask questions later. Put them down and stop them from setting off any alarms. Typically you’ll hear a soldier yell that they’re going for the alarm and they’ll be marked as a target to kill. Stop them and you can continue as normal; let them hit the alarm and you’ll be dealing with reinforcements. In areas that you’re just passing by, it’s not a big deal to have alarms go off since you can just leave the area, but you may be creating a problem for later. Your mission will send you to several areas around the map, and one of your destinations may end up being that spot where reinforcements have gathered. So I’d say you’re better off trying to prevent any and all alarms that you can, especially because you already have enough to deal with between your objectives, normal AI soldiers, and the Predator hunting you down.

The gameplay as the fireteam is the same as the typical first-person shooter. You can run, jump, shoot, interact with certain objects, help teammates up etc. Depending on the class you choose, your health, stamina, movement speed, and the amount of gear you can carry will vary. You start with only assault available, which is the standard balanced soldier, but as you level up you’ll unlock classes like recon and scout. Besides the stat differences, each class has two special bonuses to them. For example, the recon class marks the spotted Predator for longer and also stays muddied up longer. If you find large sections of mud, you can interact with it to cover yourself for a little while and hide yourself from the Predator’s thermal vision. It’s very helpful, so mud up when you can. One important tip is that if a teammate dies, they are gone until the game gives you the chance to call for reinforcements. When this happens, if you can make it to the designated radio and interact with it, then all of your fallen allies will respawn next to you. This is extremely helpful as the fireteam, but a wrench in the plans of the Predator.

Your loadout also includes a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, your combat knife, up to three pieces of gear, and up to three perks. You have slim pickings early on, but you unlock more as you play and level up your player level. Primary weapons are either assault rifles or sniper rifles, while secondary weapons are pistols, submachine guns, or shotguns. Choose whatever fits best for your playstyle, but I tend to prefer the assault rifle and shotgun combos. Some of the gear the fireteam can carry includes flashbangs, frag grenades, healing syringes, ammo bags, and extra medkits for the team. Some of the perks include increased health, faster aiming, more gear uses, and doing more damage to the Predator. Each piece of gear and each perk has a cost to it and you can’t go over your class’ limit. That being said, think carefully about what you want to bring and how effective it might be in the field.

Now, onto what everyone was excited for: The Predator. The Predator’s goal is simple: kill the fireteam and claim their skulls as trophies. When you down a fireteam soldier, you can perform a quick claim or a long claim. The quick claim is faster but only nets you the skull, while the long claim takes longer and earns you the skull and spine. Long claims reward you with more experience, but they also leave you completely vulnerable and open to attacks. If you have the time and are safe enough, rip it all out, but if you’re in a hurry, just take the skull quickly and leave. Don’t get greedy though or you’ll get yourself killed. Outside of killing, you can also climb marked trees, jump between branches, and even leap long distances. These are all amazing ways of traversing the map and keeping your opponents guessing as to what direction you’re coming from.

As the Predator you have a nice set of tools at your disposal to take down your prey. By default you always have your arm blades, cloaking device, thermal vision, and shoulder-mounted plasma caster. The latter three all use energy, which is represented by a bar on the bottom right of the screen. Thermal vision slowly drains energy while letting you see the world through heat signatures and the cloaking device slowly drains energy as you blend into the environment around you. If you stay completely still, you become basically invisible, but as you move, reflections of light can be spotted and your cover can be blown. Keep in mind that cloaking doesn’t mean completely invisible. The shoulder-mounted plasma caster is aimed with laser sights by pressing L2 and fired with R2, but you can also charge it for a more powerful blast. Longer charges require more energy, but the results are totally worth it if you hit your target.

As you level up you’ll also gain access to gadgets such as the elder blade, net gun, audio decoy, war club, sonic disks, and more. I definitely recommend playing around with everything you unlock since they’re all neat tools to use. For example, the sonic disks can be wielded as melee weapons or thrown and aimed as bladed drones. When thrown they constantly move and can only be moved side to side or sped up. If they hit a non-human object, go a certain distance, or get shot down, they get stuck and stop. If you want to use it again, you’ll need to go pick it back up unfortunately. The sonic disks are a bit tough to actually hit players with unless they aren’t paying attention, but the AI is much easier to slice through. I do have to admit that even with all the cool gadgets available, that nothing ever really beat the shoulder-mounted plasma caster. It’s so powerful when charged up and I found myself using it quite a bit. That’s not a bad thing, but I do wish the other gadgets were more appealing than one that you have by default.

Just like the fireteam, the Predator also has a loadout consisting of a primary weapon, secondary weapon, gear, and perks. The weapons consist of gadgets such as the elder blade, sonic disks, net gun, etc., while the gear consists of healing syringes, audio decoys, and more. Depending on the Predator class, the same stats, gear limits, and perk limits apply as with the fireteam. Perks include reducing bullet damage, making the plasma caster laser harder to be spotted, increasing melee damage, increasing energy regeneration, and much more. As you play more and figure out your playstyle, you’ll learn what perks are best suited for your hunts. There’s enough to support close combat fighters and also long ranged assassins.

No matter what side you’re on, the game only ends when one of three conditions are met. The fireteam either needs to successfully complete their missions and escape via helicopter, the fireteam must get wiped out, or the Predator must get killed. When the exfil helicopter arrives, the team can interact with ropes to slide up and escape before the timer ends. The helicopter only stays for about 30 seconds, so you better grab on fast if you want to leave.

When the Predator is “killed”, the match doesn’t immediately end. Right before death, the Predator has a chance to activate their suit’s self-destruct procedure. If they pull it off before the fireteam officially kills them, then the Predator starts laughing and the fireteam has a short time to get out of the large blast range. If they trigger the device, you better run if you don’t want to be taken out with them. After it explodes, the match is over. On the other hand, you can attempt to defuse the device by interacting with the Predator’s body. This pulls up a puzzle where you have to match four boxed symbols with the correct one above each box. This is very stressful, but if you’re successful, then you’re tasked with defending the body for a short time until the research crew can arrive. Fight off the enemy forces trying to get to the body and get rewarded for how good of condition the body is in. This is a neat little addition after taking down your greatest threat during the match. I’ve only defused it once as of writing this, and man did I cut it close!

There are some issues that I do need to bring up, but they couldn’t be discussed until the end since only one aspect is gameplay and the others are for the game as a whole. When switching between items in the radial wheel, there are times when the system doesn’t respond correctly and fails to actually switch your new choice. This leads to some frustration and even mistakes as you attempt to make a move only to be thwarted by the game not swapping items. It’s more of an issue as the Predator, but it caused me a fair amount of grief during my playtime. There are also issues where the match starting countdown will begin before giving you the chance to select your loadout, forcing you into loadout 1. If you set up more than one loadout for a variety of playstyles, this rushed loading can block you from using them, which is a huge bummer.

The last issue is one that you likely have already heard about, and is an issue with some multiplayer games out there, and that’s queue times. As of writing this, the game has only been out for three days, but the Predator queue time isn’t great. On average it took me around 5 minutes or more to find a match as the Predator, while the fireteam can grant you matches within around a minute or so. I’d like to chalk it up to the game just coming out and everyone wanting to be the Predator, but if it continues like this, the game could potentially suffer. If you have to wait a long time to be the titular Predator, then what’s the point? It may turn some people off from the game if it hasn’t done so already. Again, hopefully this will change and be improved in order to provide a better experience for all.

All in all, Predator: Hunting Grounds is a tense yet enjoyable 4v1 game that’s satisfying as both Predator and fireteam. The gameplay takes a bit getting used to as Predator, but it’s easy to pick up as the fireteam. No match is going to be easy for either side, so you’ll need to think carefully and fight strategically. Mission structure gets a bit repetitive after a while, but that’s not too big of a deal to me in a game like this. Predator queue times are currently longer than I’d like, but hopefully that’s just because of so many people clamoring to be the Predator. Here’s hoping those wait times improve because I’ve been enjoying my time with it on both ends. Let the hunt begin!

75

Good

Predator: Hunting Grounds

Review Guidelines

Predator: Hunting Grounds is a 4v1 asymmetrical multiplayer game that pits a fireteam against the deadly Predator. Gameplay is tense and enjoyable on both ends, but if you want to play as the Predator, then queue times are currently much longer. It's best played in bursts of a few hours at most.

Codi loves to play video games and watch movies. He will watch almost any kind of movie just to experience them. His ideas take inspiration from the shows and movies he watches, and games he plays. He also loves a good pun.
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