At last year's gamescom, Predator: Hunting Grounds was one of the few big surprises. In fact, nothing was known of the PS4-exclusive multiplayer title at the time before the fair. The mere fact that developer Illfonic came here with a large brand like Predator was already causing a sensation. Our 30-minute intro session was also convincing – even though we only got a pre-alpha version. It should take some time until the release.
In the end everything went faster than expected: Almost seven months later, Predator: Hunting Grounds (buy now)a concrete release date, April 24, 2020. Then the title will no longer appear only for the Playstation, the Epic Games Store has exclusively secured the distribution rights on the PC. And what has happened to the gameplay? To answer this question, we plunged into the public trial version last weekend and share our first impressions with you here.
First things first: What is Predator: Hunting Grounds anyway? Like the battle mode of the recently released Doom Eternal or the resistance mode of the upcoming Resident Evil 3, it's an asymmetrical multiplayer experience. Means: The two sides that compete against each other are of different strengths. Four human marines hunt for a Predator in the jungles of South America – or vice versa.
Source: PC Games
The game principle is already familiar from games like Evolve and Co. However, the biggest difference to the genre competition is that the so-called fire team not only has to escape from the map alive, it also means completing various missions within 15 minutes. On the maps of Kaff, Derailed and Dickicht, which can be played in beta, we were faced with several multi-stage orders that kept moving us to another place in the game world. Since these tasks are different for each game, there is always a lot of variety. Sometimes you should bring counterfeit money to yourself, sometimes destroy the satellite systems of a guerrilla rebel group and sometimes neutralize poison barrels.
To be honest, it often boils down to the same thing: you shoot wildly at enemy equipment or enemy waves. In Predator: Hunting Grounds you also face AI mercenaries that you have to do. But mostly they are no more than cannon fodder, the NPCs do not take cover, but instead run you in front of the gun or sometimes do not react at all. Nevertheless, the ball games are quite entertaining. Sure, the gameplay cannot keep up with the gunplay of a Call of Duty. The ratchets lack any recoil and are a bit imprecise, especially if you want to aim with the controller at a distance. But it pops properly and every confrontation gives you XP with which you rise in rank.
Source: PC Games
The jungle as a catwalk
Earned level-ups to unlock new equipment and weapon boxes in the menu. These are loot boxes with lots of (preferably double) cosmetics such as headgear, glasses, face paint and weapon skins. Alternatively, they can also be bought with the in-game currency Veritanium. There are (yet) no microtransactions in Predator: Hunting Grounds. Which is better, because the title is not Free2Play, but costs between 30 and 60 euros depending on the version.
Source: PC Games
Anyone who has clicked through the never-ending flood of accessories will also find some useful items. Your navy can also be equipped with various primary and secondary weapons, which you can level up and then improve with sights or extended magazines. There is also equipment in the form of grenades or stim packs and the so-called advantages. These perks allow you to move around more quietly.
Armed and dangerous
New additions to our gamescom event: the classes. Four archetypes such as the assault soldier, the scout or the supporter await you in the game. These each have different character values, so they have, for example, more life energy, more endurance or more space for equipment. In beta, of course, we experimented with all the available constellations, but it was hardly worth it. It's best to just play with an assault rifle and the standard class assault soldier. This combination offers the best chances of survival in the fight with the Predator.
In contrast to the fire team, you play the Yautja fighter in a third person instead of a first person perspective. And otherwise, if you slip into the Predator's skin, you have to prepare for some changes. Despite the tutorial, it is a bit difficult to master the skills of the born killer, so it may take some time before your first moments of success begin. Ideally, use your thermal vision to locate your prey, climb through the treetops with your parkour skills, use your stealth mode cleverly and attack your opponents tactically. It is best to separate one member from the rest of the group and then kill him with a rechargeable plasma cannon or arm blades.
Source: PC Games
Unfortunately, it's not that simple in practice – mainly due to balancing and design problems. As a Predator, you are not necessarily the silent hunter you would expect. Instead, you move clearly audibly through the jungle and can be discovered by your opponents despite the camouflage function. In addition, the fire team can cover themselves with mud to escape your heat vision, or simply stay together. The game never actually forces the marines to split up. If your opponents also use the ping system or voice chat wisely, you as a predator have hardly any chance – especially since the group of people also has the opportunity to revive fallen teammates. Frustration quickly arises.
Source: PC Games
This is reinforced by the miserable matchmaking. We have also waited more than six minutes in the main menu before a lobby was opened. It was sometimes not even full, so that there were even two-on-one games in which the Predator naturally had enormous advantages. With the optional crossplay function between PS4 and PC, such problems could of course be solved in the final version. In our test phase, however, neither cross-platform games nor parties were created.
And if we are already complaining: what is wrong with the graphics? Admittedly, we only tried the trial version of Predator: Hunting Grounds on a standard PS4. But in the connected forums, numerous PC players also complained about performance problems – including poor frame rate, edge flickering, reloading or low-resolution textures, wooden animations and a blurred motion blur effect.
This could also be due to the fact that the graphics settings on the computer are a joke: there is no Vsynch function, no antialiasing and no other advanced options. In addition, unlike the controller, the mouse and keyboard control cannot be freely assigned. Here it is clearly noticeable that Illfonic probably only had the console in view during the development and only then a rather half-hearted PC port was added. Too bad.
Dear developers, think again about a shift!
Predator: Hunting Grounds is not a bad game per se. The cat-and-mouse game between Marines and an alien hunter even works quite well and made me happy in my almost 10 hours of play. Aside from the solid gameplay framework, there isn't much to praise. The graphics are at most on PS3 level, the matchmaking is a horror, the balancing is not yet mature. In addition, given loot boxes and cosmetic items, I have the acute fear that beautiful microtransactions will be introduced here after the launch. My recommendation: postpone the release again, instead of throwing a possible full flop on the market, which neither publisher Sony nor the already critically eyed developer Illfonic is in a good light.
Various missions await you in the game, in the course of which you have to complete various tasks. For example, one thing is to track down and destroy a truck. (Source: PC Games)
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