Get to the choppa
It’s maybe borderline to define Predator: Hunting Grounds as a horror game. It certainly leans more on the action horror end of the scale, focusing heavily on gunplay and fast-paced thrills. But it bears many similarities to other asymmetric horror games like Friday the 13th (also from IllFonic) and Dead By Daylight. So in my book, it counts enough to merit a review on this site.
And for any fans of the asymmetric horror sub-genre, there’s a lot to love here. It’s markedly different from Friday the 13th, which is much more focused on a dark atmosphere and recreating slasher movies than sprinting around with assault rifles.
That said, there are elements that set it apart from your standard first-person shooter: As in the movie, the Predator stalks survivors from the treeline. And you’ll hear its trademark clicks and realise it’s on top of you long before you see it.
All in all, it’s a very fun game for those who like the genre, especially if you have a few buddies to team up with. It’s not a totally polished, AAA kind of experience, but there are definitely thrills to be had.
Presentation: Simple graphics and atmospheric touches
Predator: Hunting Grounds doesn’t focus on super-sharp graphics or environmental detail. There are several maps to play in, but as with Friday the 13th they’re all quite similar.
In this case, you’ll be trekking through dense rainforests interspersed with wide, open settlements. There’s some variation, for example a fishing village, a ruined pyramid, and military camps, but they mostly look quite samey.
Character details are actually quite good, especially on the Predator itself. And there’s a nice amount of variation in cosmetics for both the survivors and the beast itself. But, look too closely at environmental textures and you’ll notice some previous generation-looking details.
The sound design is excellent, bringing a foreboding but understated melody that underpins the sounds of the jungle. And the stark contrast between this and an intruder alarm when you’re discovered, or the sound of the Predator’s weapons destroying your team, create a real sense of panic that’s delightfully chaotic and unexpected at times.
Gameplay: Fast-paced, simple fun
Each match consists of four survivors (the Fireteam) and one Predator. There are different classes for each, like Assault and Scout for the humans and Hunter and Berserker for the Predator. You can also customise your gender for either side, and add details like sunglasses and different hairstyles, or change the Predator’s mask, for example.
The Fireteam work together to take on a set of objectives, and there’s quite a bit of variation here. You could be collecting evidence that a local cartel is contaminating the population’s water supply, or assassinating a high-profile enemy soldier. It’s all pretty simple stuff that either involves activating something like a computer and surviving nearby while it does its thing.
The Predator is outnumbered by the survivors, but has a set of specialised skills. This includes sound and heat detection, as well as the ability to jump around the trees like a super-fast monkey and use weapons like laser-guided missiles or your own claws.
Survivors win the match by completing all their objectives and escaping to the helicopter when it arrives. The Predator simply has to kill all the survivors to win a match. Alternatively, the survivors can kill the Predator by damaging it enough. This is certainly possible for a well-coordinated team, and not nearly as convoluted at killing Jason in Friday the 13th.
In retaliation, if the Predator feels it’s about to lose, it can activate a powerful self-destruct sequence, which the survivors can try to disable or run away from. All these factors combine to create some incredibly tense moments during matches, and it’s especially fun when playing with friends.
There are also AI-controlled humans, who will attack both the survivors and the Predator on sight. The AI is quite ridiculously dumb at times: I’ve had occasions where I’ve fired a shotgun right behind someone and they haven’t noticed me. Their detection seems to rely totally on line of sight.
The fact that they raise the alarm and cause lots of noise (making the Predator’s job easier) means a stealthy approach to objectives can pay off. While they’re not the brightest bulbs in the box, the inclusion of AI adds another interesting facet to each match.
In a fairly unusual move, the game is only available on PC and PS4, but there is crossplay between the two platforms. The crossplay element seems to work well from what I’ve seen, although it’s very disappointing for Xbox owners who want to get their hands on this.
Entertaining gameplay, not too loot boxy
Predator: Hunting Grounds is priced at a level that feels fair for what you get. There’s no campaign, but this is a great multiplayer experience, especially when playing with friends. It costs £34.99 (US$39.99) for the Standard Edition, and £49.99 (US$59.99) for the Digital Deluxe Edition. You don’t get a lot more for your money with the Digital Deluxe, mainly early access to some gear, as well as some field lockers (loot boxes) and 48 hours of double XP.
On the subject of the loot boxes, they’re actually not too egregious here. You earn them naturally during gameplay, and can spend them to unlock random cosmetics. These can all be unlocked through regular gameplay, and it doesn’t take too long at all to earn what you want. Currently, there’s no way to buy field lockers with real money, which is welcome news.
Overall, the gameplay should please fans of the asymmetric horror genre who also like first-person shooters at least somewhat. I definitely prefer survival horror games like old-school Resident Evil and Silent Hill to FPSs like Call of Duty, but I’m having a lot of fun with Predator.
If you’re not a fan of FPS or asymmetric horrors (or online games in general), this one is unlikely to change your mind. But what’s there is fun, and there are lots of unique elements and references that will please fans of the movies.