Hunt: Showdown displays the most realistic depiction of the apocalypse yet: the end of the world has been monetised. Bands of hunters possie up to track down giant, skittering spiders, and butchers wearing pig-head helmets - all while fighting off zombies, hellhounds, and humans infested with killer bees. They do not fight to save the world. They do it for good ol’ capitalism.
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The game’s alpha offers two scenarios across a single map, with night and day variances for each. One has you hunting the spider. The other has you hunting the butcher. You band together with a couple of other hunters and track your prey across a large map filled with dank swamps, farmland, and outbuildings, collecting three pieces of evidence before pinning down the location of your bounty.
The environment is filled with enemy creatures, but there are also other teams of player-controlled hunters out there somewhere, doing exactly the same as you. Your mission is to get the bounty first then extract with the spoils before you are killed.
Other players who are not on your team will not work with you - they, too, are pursuing a payday. With the cash you can buy better weapons and gear before heading out again to earn more with your heftier buckshot, repeating the cycle until you end up coughing up regrets on your deathbed. “Don’t be like me, little Billy. That engraved shotgun isn’t worth wasting your life for.”
This hellish vision of human greed sets the scene for some unexpected moments. You can track down the bounty, hide nearby, wait until you hear the gunshots of another team attacking your target, then rush in and mop up what is left. Or, you could get to the target fast, take it down, then escape before other players even have a chance. Another option is to try intercept other players on their way to the monster, leaving the map open to you and your squad.
Your decisions are impacted by other factors, such as your ammo stocks, and how injured you are. If you waste too many bullets fighting the undead on the way to the main target, you could find yourselves ill-equipped for a standoff with other players. In this case, perhaps you could lure in some zombies to do your dirty work for you.
These walking corpses react to sound. Luckily, Hunt: Showdown gives you plenty of tools to manipulate them: there are bells you can ring to lure creatures in, you can toss flares to draw their eyes, or you can kite them.
The fact that you have to purchase a new hunter when you die, losing all the equipment and unlocks you bought for them, gives these choices more impact and encourages discretion where you might otherwise be tempted to go all “Leeroy Jenkins!” Sure, you get to keep experience and overarching upgrades, but there is still a tangible loss.
All of this is wrapped around satisfying gunplay, complete with gooey headshots and enemies who react to every impact convincingly: shoot their legs and you slow them down, shoot an arm and they might drop their weapon. The firearms in the alpha all have a limited range so you get to appreciate every grisly gunshot up close.
Hunt: Showdown displays a lot of promise but will only be able to prove itself at release. After all, it could be scuppered by the same thing it leverages: human greed. This first-person shooter is filled with menus, upgrade screens, currencies, and unlocks. Give players the option to use microtransactions to get ahead and it will soon become an unbalanced nightmare: the rich getting richer as they live out their fantasies of hunting poor people through the woods.
Grab a closed alpha key for Hunt: Showdown now.