Hunt: Showdown has most of the battle royale trappings: an open-ended map full of people out for blood, with the primary goal being survival against your fellow player.
On top of that all-too-familiar foundation, however, is a big dollop of creating-and-hunting action akin to Capcom’s Monster Hunter, as each team takes on the role of bounty hunters competing for jobs in a monster-ridden, 19th century Louisiana bayou.
Setting isn’t usually the battle royale genre’s biggest strength – it’s considered ground-breaking when a desert map is replaced with a snowy one – but Crytek has poured a striking amount of personality into this Cajun-flavoured hellhole.
The enemies are intimidating, disgusting, and fascinating in equal measure: mutated dogs, walking hives of venomous bugs, and brutes with armour made out of wasps’ nests stalk the swamps, and bigger bosses look like something straight out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Hunt’s world is the best the genre’s ever seen, and it’s also a massive step up from Crytek’s usual fare of gruff supersoldiers in skintight nanosuits. The design on offer here could stand alongside gaming’s Gothic greats, like Bloodborne or Legacy of Kain.
Hunt: Showdown also builds on earlier battle royale games by introducing elements of character progression and permadeath, which makes each bout more than a discrete 15-minute affair with no longer-term impact, as is all too common for the genre.
Progression is tracked by your ‘bloodline’, which dictates some weapon and equipment unlocks. Your characters can, however, be permanently lost out in the bayou, making kitting them out a balancing act between keeping them strong enough to survive while also risking only the equipment you can afford to lose.
Hunt: Showdown points to a bleak yet beautiful future for the battle royale genre beyond Fortnite. Its high price, horror elements, and emphasis on monster-hunting may make it less of a mainstream success.
In a world full of generic clones, though, Hunt attempts to build something new – and that alone makes it more than worth your time.
Hunt didn’t start out life as a battle royale game, and it shows. I can’t stress enough how much Hunt’s aesthetic carries the whole thing. The music, the grotesque monsters, weapons, sounds, and world itself all knit together to make a Deep South nightmare that is begging to be expanded on in future games.
Brings some much-needed atmosphere and tension to the battle royale genre.
Genre: Battle royale/survival horror
Format: PC (tested) / XBO / PS4
Release: Out now (PC and Xbox One), TBA (PS4)