I love the Predator movie franchise, I’ve watched every movie many times, and I even love the criminally underrated Predator 2. For years I’ve wanted a top quality videogame using the Predator license, sure we’ve had Alien vs. Predator on PC and console, as well as a fantastic side-scrolling arcade beat-em Up, but those games were shared with the Xenomorph aliens. There have been other Predator games and one that comes to mind is Predator: Concrete Jungle, a decent, but certainly far from great game that released on the original Xbox and PS2 back in 2005. Not including a 2010 mobile game based upon the Predators movie, Predator: Concrete Jungle was to be the very last console game using the beloved license. That was until the recent arrival of Predator: Hunting Grounds, an asymmetrical multiplayer game developed by Illfonic, the team behind a videogame of the same genre, Friday the 13th.
At this stage of a review, I would normally talk about the game in question story, but Predator: Hunting Grounds has no real story to tell. On one hand, you have a special operation team of soldiers collectively known as a Fireteam, who are sent on a mission in the jungle and depending on the one of few missions you’re assigned, you’re either gathering Intel or assassinating a drug lord. Then on the flipside, you have the Predator who is in the jungle to hunt and kill the highly trained operatives to collect their skulls as trophies. That’s pretty much your lot in terms of story content, other than some tapes you might find scattered within the jungle, detailing Alan “Dutch” Schaefer events following the 1987 movie, which were added via a free update, alongside some paid DLC (more on that later).
In terms of gameplay, the premise is also simple, four human controlled Fireteam members will be armed with the usual arsenal of weaponry such machines guns, shotguns, pistols, grenades, knives and so forth. You will venture into the jungle in an attempt to complete your objectives, while trying to stay alive from the human-controlled Predator that is hunting you down, as well as killing off some dumb A.I grunt soldiers. The Predator is armed with the weapons and gadgets that any fan of the movies and comics would expect to see, such as the awesome Shoulder- Canon, Wrist Blades, Combistick, Smart Disc and more, with additionally weaponry for the humans and Predator as you level-up.
The human Fireteam is played via a First-Person perspective and if you’re used to any FPS game such as Call of Duty and so forth, the Fireteam gameplay is FPS 101, which is fine as it doesn’t try to over complicate things. In-fact, I would actually say that I’ve had more fun playing as the humans, because the gameplay is straight forward and easy to play, and there’s something unnerving when you hear the Predator clicking noise nearby and the sound of its Shoulder-Canon blasting a few feet away.
The Predator on the other hand, I found to be not quite as fun. Sure it’s cool to be the Predator, it’s what you probably play this game for, and after all, it is named after the Predator. Sadly however, I found the Predator to be clunky to control, from its long-range jumps to trying to climb up trees. The Predator was fine what it comes to using its Should-Canon and once you’re in the trees, its fun jumping from branch to branch, disguised in your cloaking technology, hunting down your prey with its infrared vision. But everything in-between just feels clunky and awkward, and that includes trying to utilise the weapon/gadget wheel during the heat of the battle.
With any asymmetrical shooter, this genre of game needs a thriving online player base to survive and Predator: Hunting Grounds is no exception. This review comes a good month or so after the release of the game and the reason that I’ve waited so long is that I wanted to see if the player base is still thriving and in fairness, I’ve had little issues when it comes to getting into a game. At the time of writing and during launch, it took about a minute to find a Fireteam Squad, but the Predator can take around five minutes. This in fairness makes sense, because whereas four-players make up a Fireteam, there can only be one Predator in a single game and just about everyone wants to be the Predator. This game also features cross-play between PC and PS4, so if you want the best chance of filling out your team, I’d keep this function active.
However, I did find issues with the matchmaking from time to time, where it would pit low-level Fireteam members against a high-level Predator players. It’s not as much of a problem having higher level Fireteam members against a decent Predator player, but if you’re a lower level Fireteam and you go up against a high level Predator, in particular a Berserker, you will stand little chance and will be wiped out quite easily. With this issue, I hope that developers Illfonic find a way to fix this matchmaking issue, because it can make attempting to battle against a Predator pointless and thus, kills much of the enthusiasm.
If the Fireteam kills the Predator, you will be tasked with defending his body from waves of grunts until the OWLF (Other Worldly Life Forms) arrives and extracts the Predator’s body for study and to claim its weaponry. However, if you down the Predator before it is killed, the Predator player can activate its self-destruct sequence, and in such case, you can attempt to disarm the bomb in very little time, likely to no success or you can run for it, sprinting out of the blast radius before the bomb explodes. During my time playing Predator: Hunting Grounds, the bomb has only been de-activated once and that was by a random player on my team.
I must also mention the Field Lockers aka loot crates. At least at the time of writing, these boxes can only be earned via game progression. The Field Lockers contain cosmetic items only such as Fireteam, Predator and weapon skins, and so forth to kit out your male and female humans, and Predator. There is also an in-game currency that unlocks new weapon attachments, shaders and more. The progression for me at least seemed quite fair, especially as there is no ‘pay-to-win’ mechanics, though you still have to be dedicated like any game of this type, if you want to max out your Fireteam and/or Predator.
Now, let’s get on to that paid DLC that I mentioned earlier. At least with the 1987 movie in which this game is based upon, the second most iconic character is Alan “Dutch” Schaefer played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who unfortunately is not included in the base game and can only be acquired via a purchase of the DLC. Granted the “Dutch 2025 Pack” only costs less then £6, but I feel that Dutch should really have been included in the base game. Illfonic have detailed a DLC roadmap and at the time of writing, we don’t exactly know what’s included past the Dutch DLC.
Seeing as Dutch was paid DLC, the roadmap will include more paid-for playable characters, which will likely feature some of the other characters from the 1987 movie such as pencil pusher Dillon, as well as Mac, Blain and Billy, as well as guest characters. I would like to see further maps added, as the base game only features three in total, all of which are very similar and we only have one mode. So with Predator: Hunting Grounds severely lacking in maps and modes, hopefully they will be added for free, though I won’t hold my breath, but hopefully I’ll be proved wrong.
While the gameplay can be fun, despite the clunky nature of the Predator, I know visuals are not everything, but this isn’t particularly good looking game either. The Predator may look decent, but on close inspection, the environmental details are not quite what you’d expect for the PS4 on the dawn of a new generation. For its full price, and as a fan of the movies, I cannot recommend this game, unless you’re fortunate enough to have a group of friends that will be active for months to come, but even then, I’d still recommend holding out for a reduction of half-the price if you can.
All in all, Predator: Hunting Grounds might not have an RRP of a full retail game, but at a launch price of £34.99 (when it’s not in the sales), it seems like a very steep price to ask on entry. It would be easy for Predator fans such as myself to be lured in, especially when you hear the sound-effects of the Predator and the theme music ripped straight from the movie, but when all the dust has settled, likely after a few hours tops when you’ve seen most that this game has to offer, Predator: Hunting Grounds feels like a cash grab, which is backed-up by making fans pay to play as Dutch. Predator: Hunting Grounds is the equivalent of Dillon the “pencil pusher” that Dutch claims him to be and rather then avoiding something like the plague, you should avoid Predator: Hunting Grounds like you’re being hunted by the Predator itself and hopefully one day, it might at least go go Free-to Play or have a steep drop in price.