Multiplayer games based on thriller franchises are gaining all sorts of traction lately. Dead by Daylight has seen everyone from Evil Dead’s Ash to Scream’s Ghost Killer to Halloween’s Michael Myers enter the fray. Let’s also not forget about Friday the 13th: The Game, which recently debuted on the Nintendo Switch with solid results. Now the team behind that latter effort, Illfonic, is hard at work on its next cinematic multiplayer title based on the Predator franchise.
Well, let’s be more specific here. Predator: Hunting Grounds isn’t based on the entire franchise, since it has nothing to do with Predator 2 or, thankfully, the latest entry in the series, The Predator. Instead, it focuses more on basics, with a set-up akin to the original 1987 film that started it all: John McTiernan’s Predator. Instead of simply making it a solo affair where players can hunt down soldiers with ease, Illfonic has a four-on-one multiplayer approach in mind.
Sony recently provided me the chance to go hands-on with the game, to get an idea of what it’s like. There are two sides to the story here: the Predator, and the poor (yet well-armed) mercenaries that are assigned with the near-impossible task of taking him down.
Setting the Stage
While Predator: Hunting Grounds is inspired by the classic film, it doesn’t take place in the same timeline. Yes, your group is in the jungle and the hunting rules apply. However, it’s set more with modern weaponry, including a number of rifles and other tools you can use to your credit on the human side.
Where the Predator game differs from others is with its pacing. There are some scary moments, like when the Predator eventually collects his “trophies” after cleaning house on a team, but this is more of an Evolve sort of affair rather than the previously mentioned survival games. The Fire Team – four soldiers each with their own roles – find themselves pitted against the intergalactic warrior.
The Mercenary Side
Now, when you’re playing as one of the four human mercenaries, you’ll not just have to contend with the Predator. As you start your mission, it revolves around enemy soldiers in a nearby camp, who will stop at nothing to defend their ground. So your team will begin by taking down these soldiers. By doing this, you’ll alert the Predator to your position and the hunt will essentially begin as a result.
There are a number of objectives that become available with each new start of the game. This includes securing Intel from certain areas of the camp or disabling equipment to avoid back-up being called in. These goals change frequently with each new match, so players won’t simply depend on going to the same spots to get missions completed. That randomization can make all the difference, mixing things up rather nicely.
What’s more, each character seems to have a special role on the human side, including CQB, assault, scout and sharpshooter. Along with certain aspects to each one, this also includes watching the backs of other teammates and getting to a crucial mission point while the others clean house on the AI soldiers. This is a good opportunity to work together as a team and take out the other elements that prove to be threats, before focusing on the real endgame with the Predator.
When it comes to controls, Predator handles like a typical first person shooter. Players can rank up, even as they fail to take down the creature in a tight spot. As a result, you’re able to rank up with weapons, and change your loadout however you see fit. Sometimes different tools may work better, so it doesn’t hurt to experiment. Just don’t dilly-dally too long, or the Predator track you down and take advantage of said distraction.
Enter the Predator
Then there’s the other part of the game, where you get to play as the legendary intergalactic Predator. This feels like a completely different part of Hunting Grounds, thanks to its own unique control set-up and the variety of items available to you.
This portion of the game feels a bit like Assassin’s Creed or Shadow of Mordor. You can keep track of your Predator on-screen at all times and also have a number of options when it comes to hunting down prey. This includes the thermal vision, a trademark from the film, to follow their trail and then turning on invisibility as you’re in hot pursuit. This leaves behind a very faint invisibility figure when you move, making it tougher for the on-ground mercenaries to kill you. It’s still possible for players to make a mistake as the Predator, so maybe watch your step as you keep track of things. Don’t turn off the cloak, stay out of sight, keep tabs, and find your moment to strike within the proper time frame allotted for the match.
There’s something about being able to see what’s happening from a third-person perspective with the Predator. You get a better idea of your surroundings; and what’s more, your aiming system seems a little more open than that of a first-person perspective.
This brings us to the weapons. The Plasmacaster is a great way to blast someone from afar, though it’s likely to give away your position if you fire off too many shots in a stretch. Fortunately, you can also use stealth with your cloaking device and make the kill personal with your wrist blade, which can stab someone and take them down very quickly and quietly, unless they notify their teammates of your position while they go down.
For each kill you score, you’ll earn a skull that you’ll be able to place on your belt. This is a great way to amass a reputation with other players online, but don’t think you’re invincible, because you’re not. As the title mentions above, the Predator can bleed, and it lets out a glowing green ooze that makes it fairly easy for mercenaries to track. If you take damage while playing as this creature, you’ll want to learn how to throw your adversaries off your trail long enough to recover and get back into the killing spirit.
Ah, but then there’s the “one last gasp” approach. Once defeated – or put into a state where the player decides it’s time to die – the mini-nuke can be activated. Like the film, it covers a great distance with a huge explosion, killing the Predator and anyone unfortunate enough to be near it. On a whim, players can set this off if they feel like they’re losing the match, and (provided they can take out the mercenaries that have been hunting after him) they could end up winning after all. There’s a certain blast zone to get out of. So, once activated, anyone playing as the human soldiers needs to run for their lives.
So Which Side Is Better Thus Far?
There’s something to be said about having a good four-player squad hunt after the Predator in Hunting Grounds. If you can work together as a tightly-knit group and figure out your strategies, that means you’ll stand a chance of surviving better and figuring out where to go next, blood trail and all. However, if you’re trying to play the game as a free-for-all, the Predator thrives on that. So maybe watch your step and don’t wander too far from the rest of the group.
As for the Predator, the gameplay feels much better. Instead of first-person controls, you have better adaptability in terms of what you can do with your character. Yes, we love what you can do with the “toys,” from the mini-nuke to the Plasmacaster, but personally, it’s those up-close kills with the wrist-blade that are the best. Assassin’s Creed fans will easily relate to that.
There’s also better opportunity to observe as the Predator while the human soldiers wipe out the dullard AI camps. Not only does this distract them as the Predator tries to figure out the layout, but it also alerts the Predator to where they are, so they can start planning where to attack. Just like in the movie. It’s actually pretty neat, especially if you’re a fan of its approach.
Is It Just the Forest You Battle In?
The one level I got to try out with my hands-on time with Hunting Grounds put me in what was called the “ancient forest.” It’s a terrain that matches that of the original film, so I was happy to see it included. Thus far, Illfonic is doing great stuff with the rendering and animations, not to mention the bloodshed. Considering that these guys took care of Friday the 13th a while back, I knew they wouldn’t hold back on the red stuff.
This is just the beginning. The team explained that a number of maps are available within the game, so there’s a possibility it’ll step outside of the forest. That’s not to confirm whether we’ll see a city level akin to where Predator 2 took place, but it’d be nice to throw in some new territory that poses a challenge to soldiers and the Predator alike. Hopefully we’ll see more of this as the game continues development.
Nailing the Predator
The cool thing about Predator: Hunting Grounds is that, although it’s more fun to play as the hunter in general, it’s cool how tension really builds with a good match. The mercenaries scamper for survival and use whatever weapons and tactics they have on hand to stay in one piece. In turn, the Predator skillfully sets up his attacks, and then finds a way to win the match, even if he’s near death.
That doesn’t mean the team at Illfonic doesn’t know how to have fun with it. The developers captured a good portion of the humor that was included in the 1987 film, including winks to the crowd that remember that piece of film history. Just take a good look at the cassette tape that plays in the “choppa” while the soldiers make their way to the camp, and you’ll get a good idea of what I mean.
Despite the setting sticking close to the first film, Illfonic has promised that it’s working closely with Fox to keep everything canon with the series in general. We’re not sure if that includes The Predator or not, but more than likely, we’ll see even more references to the series. That could possibly include designs of maps that have yet to be introduced, as well as possible characters from the franchise coming back.
Hunting Grounds still has a ways to go before it arrives, but PlayStation owners can expect it sometime in 2020, since it’ll be a published Sony exclusive. It’s still too early to tell just how deep into the lore the Predator game will go, but more than likely, Illfonic will hit on all the right nerves and make it a treat, no matter which side you play on.
For now, this looks to be another fun multiplayer romp. We’ll see how it shapes up over the next few months. In the meantime…maybe watch your step the next time you’re in a jungle, yeah? Who knows what kind of fierce creature could be watching from that tree branch above.
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