Predator: Hunting Grounds was one ugly bastard when it launched in April 2020. The matchmaking took forever, its balance was off, the promised crossplay invitations didn’t exist, and the game looked bad. and performed poorly, especially on the base PlayStation 4. While Dutch covered himself in a layer of mud to hide from the Predator in the first film, hunting grounds hid under layers of glitches and rough presentation to hide from potential audiences; only one of which is a smart strategy. But the game didn’t fall prey to its shortcomings, as two years later it’s in better shape and worth a look right before that. Next name Illfonic based on the movie franchise of the 80s.
Illfonic spent months fixing some minor bugs in hunting grounds and the many patches released gradually made the game more acceptable. Matchmaking no longer lasts forever, even for those in a crowded Predator pool. Crossplay invites work smoothly and allow players to connect from anywhere with little or no hassle. And while it’s hard to talk about its performance on PS4, Illfonic has optimized the game more for PS5, allowing users to run the game at 60fps. The smoother, more consistent framerate paired well with the improved visuals, which at times no longer looked like they were ripped out of a PS2 game.
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Balance changes, new maps, more gear and cameos from Marshawn Lynch and Arnold Schwarzenegger also they all played a part in improving the multiplayer game and should not be underestimated; Lots of cute new masks, weapons and skins gave the game a tail that only got longer over time. But addressing these systemic issues behind cosmetics was more important, as no amount of costumes in the world can make a bad game a good one. And this core experience is worth keeping as it is still different today, and why hunting grounds running two years later.
Playing as human soldiers feels like a standard first-person shooter that fits nicely with the in-game explanation that they’re on a standard mission. But this mission is turned on its head when the Predator intervenes. The unexpected variable advanced human beast means that these missions never play out the same way. Sometimes there are incredibly talented hunters who have four bloody spikes on their belt in just a few minutes, and sometimes there are those who are clearly on their first or second hunt.
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Regardless of their skill, there’s a layer of tension that guides the match before the Predator shows up, which quickly escalates when he finally bursts onto the scene. Chaos ensues as players suddenly have to fight a quirky alien monster that leaps among the branches, made all the more terrifying by the thunderous impact of its footsteps and the menacing clicks and growls that precede its attacks.
This feeling of hunting is not usually found in the online multiplayer space, especially in shooters. While games like Dead by daylight pitting multiple survivors against a single killer, it’s not a shooter and leans more towards traditional horror, as evidenced by its many horror movie crossovers. Hunting: Autopsy is a first-person shooter, and a hardcore one, but its presentation is more focused on stealth and methodical play. Predator: Hunting Grounds brings these two worlds together: being a Predator shooting dim AI and being the prey of a Predator, resulting in a unique experience with different styles he constantly jumps between.
Predator is still the main attraction, as the hunt for unfortunate people is more exciting than few multiplayer games. Watching someone get trapped or, even better, foolishly separated from the group is satisfying as it allows players to live out fantasies of being a Predator. Chasing and outmaneuvering other players isn’t as common in the online space and fits in so well with the Predator franchise. He can make good use of his license and as a result delivers an original experience that gives fans the real game and players something that hasn’t been done to death. Honesty and originality are a key part of why the Predator is still fun to play.
While Illfonic has undoubtedly fixed many of the technical issues that plagued its launch, it still got more than its fair share of that launch-era sludge. The Predator can still bounce in random directions while jumping, can’t grab a tree trunk from the ground for no reason, and inexplicably can’t attach itself to a tree while in the air. The silly caveman tactics are too powerful. Progress blocks too many essential game tools beyond high levels. Matches can be very one-sided. There is no Predator AI to train against, which is just part of the game’s staggeringly bad tutorial that refuses to teach the player its mechanics, equipment, and weapons. And these bigger issues sit on top of the countless small quality of life changes that the game is asking for.
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Illfonic won’t fix these issues, and it’s sad that they’re still around two years later. Those flaws get in the way of a good game that deserves a great game, which means she’s still kind of an ugly bastard. But Predator: Hunting Grounds has gained enough support to basically overcome its rough outer layer thanks to its prey and predator gameplay which is really different from almost everything else and deserves a second look. Illfonic said they learned a lot from hunting grounds and applied this knowledge to Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, which looks like a smoother asymmetrical multiplayer experience. And while slaying ghosts has its appeal, it’s hard to compete with jungle stalking and high-stakes cat-and-mouse games with a deadly, ugly alien built to hunt.