The Hunter (Review)

“A hunting game where the actual hunting almost takes a back seat.”

I was blasted on a forum I visit regular for playing the The Hunter. If I was still a teenager, my ego probably would’ve been hurt and I would have stopped playing the game. Fortunately I’m an adult with my own mind, and I’m willing to accept that there are people who view The Hunter as disgusting or inhumane, despite the fact that nothing in the game is even real. It is interesting that these are the same people who will beat pedestrians with baseball bats before running them down with cars in Grand Theft Auto and other games. A lot of games are “morally” wrong, and I felt that it was pointless of them to criticize a hunting game considering the fact that the real life activty is educational and productive. Bloody, yes, but it still has benefits such as providing you with food and controlling the population. Anyway, I should be reviewing a game here.

The Hunter is a free to play hunting simulation originally made by Expansive Worlds but now developed and updated by Avalanche Studios (think Just Cause), and was released in March 2009.

In The Hunter, you take on the role of a hunter who you you choose an avatar and name for and set out across Whitehart Island to hunt animals. If you are playing for free, you will only be able to hunt mule deer. If you subscribe, you will be able to hunt several other animals including elk and turkeys.

When you’re not off on your own shooting at things, you will probably be taking on “quests” from a guy named Doc, who I think is the resident expert hunter on Whitehart Island. His quests do not seem to offer any kind of rewards and instead just seem to eixst as a way to familiarize yourself with the gameplay and the island’s geography.

Before I explain how the hunting works, I really want to talk about Whitehart Island. This island is very, very large and takes about an hour to run from one end to the other. It has everything from beautiful beaches, marshes, cliffs, deep forests, and meadows. It truly is a very diverse island and there’s a lot to see. The best part about all of these diverse locations is that they all look really, really good. For a free to play game that is now a year old, the visuals are simply gorgeous. Screenshots do not accurately depict just how pretty the terrain is in this game. Every piece of grass and every leaf on every tree animates realistically. Clouds drift by overhead, realistically blanketing the landscape in shade as it does so. On the topic of shading, it’s very good in The Hunter. There are many shadows in this game, especially when you are in the middle of the woods. The amazing care taken to make the forests look real in The Hunter is very evident, blowing other forest-based games out of the water. After exploring The Hunter’s woods for a few days, looking at the deep forests in Oblivion was like looking at a cartoon. Wild animals also look fairly good in the game. They animate well and have somewhat realistic texturing.

You can’t have attractive graphics without having sound to match, and The Hunter does not disappoint. The ambient sounds in this game are so realistic that it’s frightening. If you were to close your eyes and listen, you could almost feel as if you are in the forest. Crickets, birds, rain drops, wind gusts and the sound of water gently lapping against the shore all sound very convincing. Animal calls are also very convincing, and are real attention getters when the environment is fairly silent. The sound really pulls you in too, as I can remember trying so hard to be completely silent while stalking animals that I could visibly see. Sometimes you will lose sight of your prey in the thick woods, only to have them end up getting extremely close to you, spotting you, and then running away frighteningly fast. The sound that the deer hooves make when they do this is captivating, and in quiet moments, quite shocking to hear out of the blue.

Now, for the hunting portion of the game. The Hunter must be initialized from the game’s website where you choose where you want to hunt. You can check messages, accept quests from Doc, and a few other things on the website as well. When you’re ready to jump into the game, you go to the map screen and choose which lodge to start at. The game will then start up and make you choose your equipment before setting you down ingame outside of a lodge. Equipment ranges from your typical hunting rifles, to animal callers, and to baits and lures.

Finding an animal can take a bit of time. Usually you won’t just happen to see an animal grazing as you stroll down the road. Nine times out of ten, you’re going to have to find out where they are, or bring them to you. To find out where they are, you can use your callers which will attract nearby animals, usually tempting them into making vocal calls back to you. Whenever there is an audible noise from an animal, your Huntermate, which is a small GPS-like device, will pick up on it and tell you what direction it came from. If you tap a button on the Huntermate when this happens, you will be able to track the animal. The Huntermate will kindly let you know where the animal last was and what direction it’s moving in.

Another method of tracking animals is to find droppings or foot prints. The Huntermate picks up on these too, but you’ll likely see these clues before it does since they always have glowing red “domes” around them so that they stick out. I thought that this broke the immersion a little, but considering the fact that these clues would be next to impossible to see without the red glow justifies the decision to illuminate droppings and prints.

Anyhow, when an animal is coming towards you that you are hunting, you will quickly learn that being quiet and taking cover is absolutely vital. If you make one wrong move, the animal is going to pick up on it and either become cautious or just run away without hesitation. If you let them get too close to you before taking a shot, you will find that they almost seem curious of you, wondering what you are as they slowly approach. However, once they are about fifteen feet away, they will clue in and run away so it is best to take a shot before that happens – provided you know which direction an animal is approaching from. I had two deer sneak up on me in a very bushy area. I didn’t see them and they didn’t seem to see me. They only knew that a buck (which was really my doe caller) was beckoning them closer and closer. They got too close and ran away, so that was a botched hunt.

Between looking for animals and then tracking them, and also exploring the beautiful island, you can easily lose yourself for an hour or two at a time in The Hunter if you’re even just a casual fan of hunting. I don’t hunt in real life and only have a minor interest in hunting games, but I found The Hunter to be very engrossing.

Considering that the game is free, I really do recommend trying this game out. If not to enjoy the thrill of the hunt, then at least to admire the animals as well as the beautiful island you are playing on.

Try out The Hunter by clicking here: http://www.thehunter.com/.

Final Score

8.1/10

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