Predator: Hunting Grounds is the first major multiplayer-only video game Sony has published since MAG on PlayStation 3. And while Friday the 13th: The Game developer Illfonic may not be a first-party studio, the project is still a statement of intent from the Japanese giant. After defining the action-adventure genre for a generation, it is experimenting with different experiences when it can to entice a new subset of players into the ecosystem. Sony is going to have do better than this if it wants to succeed, however. Predator: Hunting Grounds is a game lacking in both content and longevity.
IllFonic’s previous title was Friday the 13th: The Game, which offered a similar four-versus-one setup. Unlike the relatively helpless campers in that experience, however, players don’t have to rely on hiding in closets or calling for help as they’re stalked by a powerful entity. Your four-person fireteam is more than capable of downing this intruder, provided you work together and take advantage of your superior numbers. The predator may pack more firepower than a Cabela’s warehouse, but it still bleeds. And if it bleeds, as the saying goes, that means you can kill it. But you have to find it first.
With Friday The 13th: The Video Game, the biggest issue lays in it’s poor servers and wait times and that has once again been repeated in Predator: Hunting Grounds. The desire to play as a Predator can have you staring at a less than impressive waiting queue for anywhere up to ten minutes at a time (sometimes even longer). Just like in Friday The 13th: The Video Game with Jason Voorhees, the majority of players want to play as the Predator and rightfully so. Unfortunately, IllFonic have slapped a price on it and that price is hours of waiting times in lobbies for experiences that usually never make it by the five minute mark with every individual game lobby. Playing as a Fireteam member is almost instant and makes excruciating wait times to play as the Predator a severe chore more than anything else. It’s depressingly disappointing because everything else on display here has promise.
A levelling up system allows you to change and tweak your loadout on both the human and Predator side, but even this feels somewhat basic. Your rank will increase at such a rate that the system feels almost meaningless, arbitrarily locking you out of equipment and items which, on the Predator side at least, seem essential to survive. Although, the sort of abilities you unlock are hardly game-changers for the humans either. Thanks to clunky and unresponsive controls, aiming and shooting feels especially poor. But at least you don't have to worry about lining up long-distance shots which only have a chance of connecting. That's because brain-dead enemy AI makes combat a bit of a joke when you're not up against a real-life player.
Hunting Grounds treats the character and setting with reverence, which, as a fan of the movies, is easy to appreciate. If you’re looking for an authentic predator experience, this is about as good as it’s gotten. And fittingly, it’s perhaps best enjoyed the way the predators have interacted with humanity: drop in, enjoy the hunt, and get out while you can.
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