Hunt: Showdown started its life as Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age. Now that Crytek owns it, what are they planning? We take an in depth look into its life since reemerging.
Hunt: Showdown won “Best Game” when Crytek showed off their latest at E3 2017. It faced stiff competition from the likes of Destiny 2, Red Redemption 2 and the latest installation of The Last of Us. While that seems fishy at first, we can rightly tell you it looks brilliant already! The footage that was shown was from the only working level that the world-renowned games and engine developer Crytek were able to field. They have taken a game that started life as something that looked like a darker version of hit action-brawler “Left for Dead” and turned it into an altogether different beast. What Crytek have turned “Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age” (announced at E3 2014 by Darksiders developers THQ) into, is a gritty PVPVE (player versus player versus environment), demon hunting, six-gun toting monstrosity.
What We Know: Setting
Set in the swamps of Louisiana in the second half of the 19th Century (1850-1899), with a large chunk of it making up an open world area to explore. You play as a demon hunter who battles through swathes of the possessed to get to the influential demons and other players. You’ll learn to track, evade, sneak and be acutely aware of your surroundings, or die trying. Crytek developers working on the game have said that they wanted to create an atmosphere of continued suspense. Set on dark hand crafted maps with randomly spawned enemies will leave you guessing every time you enter a game.
What We Know: Gameplay
No hi-tech gizmos are there to help you track these demons through dank, foggy forests, swamps and marshes. Crytek has developed possibly their darkest environment yet. Everything from the ambient sounds to the fact that with your torch out, you can’t wield another weapon serve to make this game possibly their most immersive game yet.
The gameplay can be adjusted on the fly to manage the number of demons you want to hunt and how you want to hunt them. It should allow for an easier, or even a harder time dependent on what your desires are.
What makes this game unique?
Every sound made can and will cause enemies (both NPC and other Players) to react in unpredictable ways. As one of the developers so eloquently put it: “If you are walking around and step on a twig [and it snaps], you’re fucked. Something’s going to happen”. Just in case this wasn’t enough, sound cues such as gunfire will cause enemies to react. Watch how much you use your microphone as your voice can provoke nearby enemies to that as well. Your voice communications are not direct, player to player like a lot of other games. Instead, voice is transmitted in proximity around you in-game. Be careful what you say and how you say it because you never know, “the walls have ears” or so they say.
We’ve mentioned this is a “PVPVE” game, so you get to choose how you want to complete objectives. Hunt one target in a get in and get out fashion is fine. Bear in mind, however, that some players will choose to turn the hunter into the hunted and will attempt to steal your prize. Everyone in the session has the same enemies spawn, so you might not be the only one tracking any given demon. Someone else might be lurking in the shadows waiting to strike after you’ve done all the hard work. After you kill the boss, you then defend the “banishing”. It’s no small feat to send a demon back to hell, so it takes time. You must defend the banishing against all and sundry. Once a player in the session starts a banishing, NPC enemies will react to it and your map position gets flagged as a burning hole in the world map for other players.
What We Know: Arsenal
No PVPVE Survival Horror game would be complete without a wide variety of ways to dish out punishment. Crytek stays true to the era when it comes to your available weaponry. The Dev Diary below features a burst-fire (or automatic) weapon that sends your view almost verticle, thankfully there’s no chance that a “spray and pray” attitude is going to work. Along with Colt .45 revolvers and other such various stereotypical armaments. Here’s what Crytek confirmed as in the game thus far.
Sparks LRR Rifle
The Sparks LRR rifle is modeled on the Winchester Repeating Rifle, first released in 1866. This was a revolutionary firearm for the times. It combined the accuracy of a rifle with the rate of fire of revolver-type weapons. The rounds are stored in a sealed magazine that was partially hidden by the weapon’s stock and was loaded using the trigger-guard as a lever actuator. This rifle originally used .44 Rimfire Henry rounds to hit targets in quick succession. All of this makes this weapon effective at medium ranges but a bit of a handful at close range due to the length of the weapon.
Specter 1882 Shotgun
An immediately recognizable single-barrelled shotgun. Under-barrel loading meant you could keep the weapon raised and reload with ease, a process completed with a pump-action lever. The long, single-barrelled weapon kicks like a mule but does considerable damage. Effective for staggering and taking down targets between close (ish) and medium range.
Caldwell Rival 78 Handcannon
A side-by-side, sawn-off shotgun. Huge damage at close range makes it a brilliant counterpart for the Sparks LRR Rifle. Using these two weapons is one of the “recommended” setups. Together, they will give you adequate control over close and medium ranges. Be careful though, the spread of this weapon makes its effective range ass-clenchingly short.
Dolch 96 Precision Pistol
A semi-automatic, magazine-fed powerful pistol with a fitted shoulder stock. Owing to its “powerful ammunition” I would expect the recoil on this weapon enough to discourage even the biggest CoD fanatic spraying and praying.
This isn’t a pretty, shiny thing that you’ll find with most knives in other games. Just looking at the shape of the blade you can see it’s nicked and hasn’t seen much time on a whetstone, and the blade has become concave. More of a shank than a knife, but you’ve got to have something to defend yourself with when you’re out of ammo and the lights go out.
What We Know: Your Tools
Don’t fret, Crytek are giving us a variety of tools that will make your life easier (relatively speaking of course). Tools are multiple-use items that will always need to be used and should always be taken in with you. For Hunt: Showdown only two tools that have been confirmed so far: an electric torch and a standard first-aid kit. Both items are exactly what they say on the tin. Each player can take three of these re-usable items into a game. There are obviously more to be added but this is what we know so far.
Exactly what you think it is: A portable, electrically powered lamp. Be careful though, you won’t always need it to see where you’re going and it can be seen a mile off by other players. Hunt: Showdown’s website has this to say: “The Electric Lamp will never be necessary to see, but it can be helpful—or harmful—depending on when and how you use it”. From that piece of information, Crytek might allow this torch to be used to partially blind enemies.
First Aid Kit
First-aid kits are featured in every single survival game that we can think of. Playing “Iron Man Mode” in a game like this just doesn’t sound appealing. It restores one bar of health, giving you the ability to stay in the fight longer. Useable on yourself or a teammate, both of you should have this on you before venturing into a demon-infested swamp.
What We Know: Consumables
No self-respecting hunter would ever consider going into a fight without a selection of throwable and deployable, single-use tools of their trade. Unless of course, they have a death wish. Crytek are allowing three consumables per player to be taken into eatch match. Choose wisely, and, use them wisely. Deploying them in the wrong situation could kill you as quickly as help you.
These are the 19th Century version of flares. They can be used to block someone’s view of what you’re doing, or used to distract a group of enemies to allow you access to the objective. You can also use them to draw groups of enemies away from your current position. Or even bring in a hoard of enemies on your opponents before they have time to realize what’s going on.
There’s no way to look at this and not think it’s a crude version of a nail bomb. It’s a grenade wrapped in concertina wire (basically razor wire). We can see it now, severed limbs and gizzards flying everywhere with each explosion.
Another name for a molotov cocktail. Burning enemies will scream. Which could be either useful or detrimental, depending on the situation. Set a hostile player on fire and you basically have a massive, flaming, screaming distraction. Engulf NPC enemies in hellfire however and you risk drawing too much attention to your location. Think before you throw.
What We Think
There’s almost no polite way to put this, we think this game will be fucking awesome. NPC enemies are not going to be the only thing you need to worry about. The environment is immersive and incredibly detailed, even in the current pre-alpha build that the gameplay videos are drawn from. It seems that they are pouring a lot of time and effort into incredible attention to detail. Few things make us happier than a game developer making sure that its game is simply well made, well designed, and has a good level of replayability. If Crytek’s previous exploits are anything to go by, this is shaping up to be one hell of a game.
The game also supports a highly intuitive AI system that has advanced player detection abilities. Their adaptive AI controlled enemies will change their methods of operation to your actions. Meaning you will need to adjust your gameplay style on the fly to counter the AI’s new tactics.
On top of the adaptive AI system, Crytek is known for their hyper-realistic graphics. Comparing this to games like Crysis 2, and it’s no wonder who is making this game. From what we can see in the video of the level shown, the graphics look incredibly realistic, to put it lightly. Just look at the screenshots below, the water, the moonlight, the fire, they all look like you could reach out and pluck them from the screen.
This game could quite easily break the mold in true Crytek style. The fact that the game runs as four-player PVPVE means that you can never really be sure of what you’ll be getting yourself in for. Some games you might get teammates that want to work together for the common good. While in others you might end up in a four-way brawl just to get to the demon you’re hunting. Of course, this means that the game could end up being really toxic.
Imagine for a moment if you will: You’re solo queueing and end up in a game with a premade group of 3 and they spend the entire time just ignoring demons and griefing you. Worse still, they let you track the demon you want to kill and then gank you during the banishing phase of the mission.
This is the sort of problem in other games of a similar ilk. In Left for Dead 2, it’s easy to end up in lobbies with players that were just trolling. In Warhammer End Times: Vermintide, you will consistently find lobbies that have people with low-level characters effectively looking for a boost despite knowing nothing about the games mechanics.
We love that Crytek are staying true to the period with its weapon choices. The confirmed guns are based on weapons that existed back in the latter half of the 19th Century. From what we see in the gameplay reveal and the Dev Diary, the guns handle realistically as well. None of this Nerf-gun recoil. In the video below, you can see the burst-fire or automatic weapon kicking like a donkey on steroids. It seems to be a weapon that would be hard to control using a controller but would reward a skilled hand. Properly simulated recoil can really change the way a game plays.
Aiming down the sights is something that is standard fare in shooters of all genres these days. Popular in most shooters, I think that this mechanic adds yet another layer to the immersion. Raise the gun to aim down sight and you lose half of your field of view, meaning you must be careful about what shots to take and when.
You can take in one two-handed and one single-handed weapon. Although it’s not exactly the first game to limit your loadout in this way, it is still a good decision to make. It remains to be seen what other options we’re going to get for that slot of weapon. If you watch the video closely, there is something that looks like a Colt or Smith and Wesson .45 revolver, an automatic/burst-fire rifle and what appears to be a lumber axe. We’re excited to see more details about them. Because carrying an axe into the swamp just sounds better than a poxy needle.
This is where we think the game is being overly generous here. Taking three of this category of items into a game feels like it’s a bit “safe”. Can you imagine for one second, carrying a long weapon, a short weapon and a melee weapon through a swap? Add onto that three tools and three consumables and you’ll probably look more like a pack-horse than a gritty Chuck Norris meets Clint Eastwood wannabe.
Seriously though, three tools? Granted, they’ve only released information on a lamp and first aid kit but we think they would’ve been better off saying something along the lines of one tool and 2 consumables. Perhaps the game will just be that difficult, but it remains to be seen if this is too little, or too much.
This is another one where we think Crytek are being far too generous. You’re seriously going to let us take molotov cocktails, nail bombs, and flares? The fuck do we need flares for if we have molotov cocktails? Sure, flares might still burn in water through some form of black magic, but FIRE! Though taking a small gunpowder barrel wrapped in razor wire with us sounds delightful.
It seems likely they’ll change this amount of carryable consumables through future balancing. Probably along the lines of 5 flares, 3 molotovs and 1 razor-wire-pipe-bomb-thing. Might be that they will place them randomly and only have them available as pickups. We’ll see, but the last idea sounds more hectic, and we think adds to the tension of the levels.
What We Want
In the words of Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff”: You don’t really know why, but you want to justify, ripping someone’s head off”. There are a few things that concern us about this game, most of them are already listed above. Let me start from what we consider the most disconcerting:
This is arguably the most important point for Crytek to implement properly. Take the scenario mentioned above; If you’re queueing solo, there are a whole load of things that can – and regularly do – go wrong. It would be nice to see them restrict groups of three to their own unique session, or not at all. This would avoid the solo-queueing players being ganked and griefed. It would mean that groups of three can’t abuse a vote-kick system and don’t get the chance to abuse the system.
Anyone who’s had experience of any matchmaking system for finding online games has undoubtedly entered games where their teammates are trash, toxic and just downright shitty. Then there’s also a potential language barrier to address. Alongside the restrictions on parties of specifically three, matchmaking should be done on a skill AND location basis. To avoid this would leave the language barrier as a potential stumbling block.
The host should also automatically become the person with the best connection and the most open NAT type (a measure of how easy or hard it is for other players to relay information to and from your system). Laggy games will drive people mad, just look at For Honor as a good example on how NOT to do it. It’s either this, or give us dedicated servers so everyone is on an equal playing field.
Absolutely imperative in every single game where PvP combat is a thing. There are already probably sad souls living in their mum’s basements coding aimlock bots already. It really wouldn’t be surprising.
Crytek would be best advised to either use Punkbuster or some other third-party anti-cheat system that’s already available simply because of the arms race developers of this software type are locked in. No anti-cheat software is perfect, but there needs to be a system in place. Whilst on the subject, there need to be lifetime account bans for anyone caught cheating. Putting into place a reporting system is also essential, nothing worse than some asshat spinning in circles shooting everyone in the face.
Crytek might want to consider something like Valve’s “Overwatch” system that is present in Counterstrike: Global Offensive. This gives players that are in good standing the ability to download and watch clips of suspicious behavior and decide a verdict based on their own experience. It gives the community a sense that they matter and have the power to make a change for the better.
More Restricting Outfitting
They’ve hit the nail on the head with the guns but it seems you’re going to be able to take too much into each game. Three tools and three consumables just seems like far too much. One tool and two consumables would be much more balanced.
A potentially more dynamic solution is something like this: You have three slots, one must be used for a tool, one must be used for a consumable but the third is open to either. Something like that will make people think carefully about what they take into the swamp.
Melee Weapon Options
It would be really cool to see them introduce something like a sledgehammer that takes your sidearm slot or something. It would introduce an option for players to go toe to toe with the tougher enemies. Even a backhoe or sword would suffice, and wouldn’t be out of place considering the time period. Just something a bit meatier than the prison shank would be nice.
Pre-set, Interactable Traps
Wandering through a swamp and suddenly hear a “click” behind to before you shoot up into the trees like a bungee jump in reverse. Even something that you can lure enemies into that immobilizes or damages them. Trip wires, bear traps, snares and camouflaged holes are all viable. I’m sure that Crytek can come up with some more interesting ones if they haven’t already.
Being able to equip bear traps in the consumables slot would be a bonus and enable you to protect your back or the flanks. Considering there is always the possibility of other players popping up at the most inopportune moments, something like this just needs to be included.
More than anything we just really hope that this game lives up to its promises. It’s been a while since Crytek’s last substantial game, and that one didn’t fare too well. We want to love this game and wile-away hours of our lives hunting zombies, demons, and other players. And truth be told, we’re already on the hype train. The potential scope for different game modes, enemies, weapons, traps, explosives, and encounters with this game is mind-blowingly massive.
We’re glad that there’s no confirmed release date yet as it gives Crytek plenty of time to get the game sorted out. So many pitfalls are just there waiting for you that rushing games like this means that there’ll be no one playing after 3 months. It would be a crying shame for Crytek to fall short of the mark.
Here’s hoping that the released footage doesn’t contain all of the best bits of the gameplay.