Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hunting Simulator Review (XONE)

Hunting games used to be popular enough on the Xbox 360 / PS3 that one or more titles would come out every single year. On the Xbox One and PS4, however, the genre has been pretty much nonexistent save for one cross-gen Cabela’s game and fans have been waiting nearly four years to get their current-gen hunting fix. That wait is finally over, thankfully, with the release of Hunting Simulator. Featuring multiple species, tons of equipment, large open worlds, and online multiplayer, Hunting Simulator sounds like a surefire recipe that should more than satisfy hunting fans. “Should” is the key word in that last sentence, of course. How does Hunting Simulator actually play? Well … kinda just okay-ish. Find out all of the details in our full Xbox One Hunting Simulator review.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Maximum Games
  • Developer: Neopica
  • ESRB Rating: “T” for Teen
  • Genre: Hunting
  • Pros: Lots of content; decently fun and addictive gameplay
  • Cons: Not much of a “simulator”; inconsistent visuals; unsatisfying shooting; unlocking everything
  • MSRP: $40
Hunting Simulator features 37 species including multiple types of deer, waterfoul, moose, elk, predators such as foxes, coyotes, bears, and mountain lions, and even smaller animals like rabbits among many others. There are 12 large open environments to hunt in ranging from dense forests to deserts to arctic tundra and the game also features dynamic weather and lighting as the time of day changes as you play. The game also features 17 different firearms and 50 accessories to help with your hunts. You can play solo in free hunt or take on specific missions in each environment as well as play online multiplayer to hunt with your friends. Hunting Simulator is undeniably a fully featured experience that offers plenty to do.

It is in its execution where things get murky, however. See all of that stuff I listed out in the previous paragraph? It all has to be unlocked. The game starts you off with just one environment and a couple of rifles to choose from and that’s it. Unlocking everything else is done by completing missions and seeing everything the game has to offer takes potentially dozens of hours. Better guns, more powerful scopes, and even binoculars have to be unlocked which means the first several hours of the game are a real grind until you open up the fun stuff. I don’t mind unlocking stuff in games at all, but when 95% of the content is locked away – particularly in a hunting game where a lot of the fun comes in the freedom of doing whatever you want – it becomes a problem.

The hunting gameplay, at least, is pretty straightforward and exactly what you’d expect. You walk around large open wilderness areas looking for animals and have to be mindful of the wind as well as how much noise your make and how visible you are which are all represented by a neat U.I. popup that shows how aware animals are of your presence. You track animals by either finding their scat / footprints and following them and you also get onscreen indicators of nearby animals that are making noise. Finding animals is rarely a problem in Hunting Simulator as they’re freaking everywhere. Unless, of course, you’re doing a mission where you’re looking for a specific species and, in a particularly egregious example of videgame-ness, they’ll suddenly be extraordinarily hard to find.

I think tracking and scouting and hiking all over the maps is actually quite well done. The onscreen indicators make finding animals fairly easy and enjoyable, though you can turn them off if you want more of a realistic challenge. One thing that isn’t exactly realistic is that the animals almost always stand out in stark contrast to their environment and are easy to see which, as someone who has hunted for real, couldn’t be further from reality.

While the hunt is fun and surprisingly addictive, actually pulling the trigger for the kill is pretty disappointing and unsatisfying. It always feels like a crapshoot whenever you fire a round because it is so darn unpredictable. The wind does affect the bullet’s flight, and there is bullet drop over long distances, but even after hours and hours of playing I never felt truly comfortable taking a shot. Even when you do hit an animal they also don’t always go down like you expect. Again, this is somewhat realistic, but at the same time it feels random and arbitrary. I will say, though, that particular complaint seems to mostly come up with smaller animals like rabbits or birds while larger game have more consistent hit boxes.

My final comment on Hunting Simulator is that calling it a “simulator” is a bit of an insult to real hunting. I get it that concessions have to be made to make a fun videogame, and very few simulator games are actually realistic, but Hunting Simulator takes it a bit too far. First off, there are no rules or regulations so you can just kill anything and everything you see regardless of species or sex. That’s freaking weird! You’re even encouraged to kill as much as possible in order to score points to climb online leaderboards. Some of what you can do in the game is also actually straight up illegal in my neck of the woods in Idaho, though I’m not sure about the laws in other areas. Specifically things like hunting at night or using drones to find animals are considered either unsafe or unethical in Idaho and seeing them in this game kind of throws the “simulator” idea out the window for me. The complaints in this paragraph don’t mean it isn’t still fun to play, but, yeesh.

Visually, Hunting Simulator is incredibly inconsistent and ranges from surprisingly good looking – as long as you’re sitting still – to downright ugly when you’re looking through a scope at anything further than 50-yards away. The game has an extremely close draw distance which means ground cover is only rendered fairly close to you. Flowers and bushes and grass pop in right before your eyes. When all of the details are actually present the game can look quite good. There is good looking lighting and weather effects, too, which can make for some fairly realistic visuals. Move around at all, though, and it all starts glitching and looking funky. And, like I said, look through a scope at anything past a certain distance and the ground cover detail won’t be present at all, which makes the game world look really flat and ugly. The animals look fairly good and have decent animation, so no complaints there. There isn’t much to say about the sound other than it is perfectly adequate. The animal noises are all realistic and distinctive and recognizable.

All in all, I’m pretty torn on Hunting Simulator. The nuts and bolts mechanics of tracking and hunting are actually fairly well done, and the game has an impressive amount of content, but there are too many little niggling issues that detract from the experience. I wish the shooting felt better and was more satisfying. I wish you didn’t have to grind to unlock everything. I wish the game looked more consistent visually. And I really wish it was more of an actual simulator than a kill whatever you want free for all. 

I have enjoyed my time with it overall, but there is clearly a lot of wasted potential. I would suggest you might want to wait to see how theHunter: Call of the Wild turns out, but there is no concrete release date for it yet so you may be waiting a while. I also want to make it clear that I don’t mind the $40 MSRP for Hunting Simulator (or theHunter, for that matter) as it has more than enough content to justify the price. If you’re desperate for a new hunting game Hunting Simulator may be worth a look in spite of its problems.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.