E3 2017 Impressions: Hunt: Showdown shows dark and uncertain promise

E3 2017 Impressions: Hunt: Showdown
Hunt: Showdown is coming to PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4

One of the games I got to take a look at behind closed doors at E3 2017 was Hunt: Showdown by Crytek. First formally announced a while ago, Hunt: Showdown is a multiplayer-only monster hunting game with a distinct Victorian aesthetic. In addition to watching the gameplay footage posted below, I also got a chance to ask the developers some questions. Here are my thoughts, likes and concerns.

Here’s the gameplay, then my thoughts below:

E3 2017 Impressions: Hunt: Showdown

The gameplay footage opens with two hunters making their way through a dark, murky swamp. What struck me immediately was the visual quality and just how well the setting came across. Obviously, the game is being built using CryEngine and it clearly shows. Everything from the detail on the guns to the moonlight reflecting on dark surfaces simply looks fantastic. This is great however, it clearly comes at a cost. The pre-alpha footage has an incredibly choppy framerate, at times looking to be simply unplayable. I’m sure this will likely be resolved down the road but for now it’s distracting at best.

In a match, you either play alone or with a single hunter as a partner. Simply choosing a hunter to take on a mission is a huge choice, as permadeath is in effect; if a hunter dies in a match, they die for good. That said, when asked about this feature, the members of Crytek giving the presentation did confirm there was a “bloodline” feature for families of hunters however, they weren’t willing to go in-depth on this topic quite yet.

The concept of a match is fairly simple: you or you and your partner are hunting a horrific monster. Additionally, there are myriad nightmarish creatures and an ambigious number of hunters on the map with you. In order to get the trophy for the beast, you’ll have to first kill it then banish it from the Earth. When you banish it, any other surviving hunters are alerted to your location, so you have to be careful. Hunts can take some time, as each map is 1 square kilometer.

Hunters can be outfitted with different weapons and equipment. Some of it will make them more deadly in combat, other bits simply help them evade enemies more easily. Indeed, given the scale and uncertainty of everything you face in a match, choosing not to fight may often be the more prudent option.

The Victorian look is represented nicely with elaborate details on the weapons, as well as providing a neat explanation for the setting. In essence, Hunt: Showdown is a realization of the whispers about monsters in the dark corners of the earth that were common gossip at the time. It’s intriguing lore and has fantastic potential for various types of monsters and storytelling.

All of these details come together nicely to create what appears to be a tense gameplay environment. Some of the features are deliberately vague, and while it’s a bold strategy, I think it could work out well.

The concept is certainly intriguing and the gameplay looks great (when the framerate holds up anyways). That said, I have some concerns. Many multiplayer-only games haven’t fared well in the last few years. Crytek will need to show quite a bit of post-launch support, with new monsters, equipment, maps and the like.

Hunt: Showdown is planned as a free-to-play title for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, with AAA design and polish. This is a very bold thing to attempt however I certainly applaud Crytek if they pull it off. Certainly, being free-to-play from the start would have helped multiplayer-only titles like Evolve find a more eager audience.

All in all, I’m cautiously optimistic. I cannot stress enough how incredible the world design is for this game however, I also have to raise my eyebrows at the lack of a single player campaign and overall multiplayer-only focus. This is definitely a game to keep your eye on and I’m looking forward to seeing more in the near future.