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If you asked me back in 2017 how I would feel about IllFonic – who helmed 2017’s Friday The 13th: The Game – working on a new asymmetrical multiplayer game for console release, I probably would have shrugged and reasonably voiced my concerns. Add a convincingly spicy wording of ‘Predator’ into the mix and my intrigue would start to undeniably build, trying to quickly piece together and toy with the idea of a beloved cult icon murdering humans once again for our gaming pleasure. Fast forward to the present and IllFonic have given us Predator: Hunting Grounds, the newest asymmetrical survival experience to sink our teeth into. But even with all the promise of John McTiernan’s iconic cult action flick influence behind it, the question remains, is it actually any good?
The general concept of Predator: Hunting Grounds is as simple as asymmetrical multiplayer games get pitting a small group of human characters (four to be exact) against the hulking Predator and a horde of A.I. baddies to distract you from watching those tree branches like some obsessive lunatic. You either complete your objectives and escape, kill the Predator hunting you or it inevitably kills you. It’s that simple and thankfully it works extremely well in comparison to IllFonic’s previously lacklustre entry, Friday The 13th: The Video Game.
Assuming the role of a Fireteam member drops you into the jungle with a number of objectives to complete and (hopefully) escape. As a Fireteam member you’ll duke it out in first person while another player hunts you in 3rd person as the iconic jungle stalker. This gameplay contrast between the two differing classes offers some initial fun and keeps things somewhat fresh early on as you will find yourself alternating between human and Predator. On paper, Predator: Hunting Grounds is off to a tremendous start but don’t hold your breath for long as much like IllFonic’s Friday The 13th: The Video Game, Predator: Hunting Grounds suffers from a couple of the same issues that lacklustre slashing experience did.
With Friday The 13th: The Video Game, the biggest issue lays in it’s poor servers and wait times and that has once again been repeated in Predator: Hunting Grounds. The desire to play as a Predator can have you staring at a less than impressive waiting queue for anywhere up to ten minutes at a time (sometimes even longer). Just like in Friday The 13th: The Video Game with Jason Voorhees, the majority of players want to play as the Predator and rightfully so. Unfortunately, IllFonic have slapped a price on it and that price is hours of waiting times in lobbies for experiences that usually never make it by the five minute mark with every individual game lobby. Playing as a Fireteam member is almost instant and makes excruciating wait times to play as the Predator a severe chore more than anything else. It’s depressingly disappointing because everything else on display here has promise.
Gameplay wise, Predator: Hunting Grounds is surprisingly solid. IllFonic have made the FPS gameplay of the Fireteam members fluid even if the A.I. enemies you encounter all possess the IQ levels of potatoes and act more as a distraction than a challenge in an attempt to achieve your next objective. It’s fun though as IllFonic have clearly took inspiration from recent shooters like Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare and Far Cry 5. However, playing as the Predator is far more enjoyable and rewarding as IllFonic have really improved the menace factor that was missing from Friday The 13th: The Video Game.
As the Predator, you will use ‘Predkour’ (yes, your eyes aren’t tricking you) to traverse this labyrinthine jungle and you possess an array of abilities and gadgets from the classic 1987 action flick that will send your tingling nostalgia senses into geek overload. The aim is to hunt and collect human trophies for your, well, trophy cabinet I guess all the while earning currency to spend on upgrading your Predator and Fireteam members’ appearances and inventory. There have been fewer moments in recent gaming memory that have possessed such fulfillment than annihilating an entire Fireteam and collecting their skulls for your display purposes after every individual kill. This is what makes this a true Predator video game and for the most part, an enjoyable experience.
Even among all of that, once again IllFonic drops the ball with a lack of any other game modes or general variety as most of the objectives in game are pretty much always the same throughout. You have one or two maps that offer different locations with differing objectives but it never strays too far from the bare bones approach that plagues Predator: Hunting Ground’s single game mode. Understandably, IllFonic are aware of this and have promised future game modes, new DLC content and a much needed evolution for this new asymmetrical experience.
Private matches with friends seem to be the way to go as Predator: Hunting Grounds was made for interaction between players in an attempt to outwit the clutches of their hunter but this all relies on your friends picking up Predator: Hunting Grounds and buying into it’s minimal game modes and lack of variety. Not an easy feat to achieve given it’s slightly overpriced forty euro expenditure mark.
In closing, I have no doubts that once IllFonic begins working on more game modes and new experiences within this (currently) tiny universe, Predator: Hunting Grounds will evolve into an extremely impressive and infectiously addictive gaming experience that many more will flood to but at the moment, Predator: Hunting Grounds just isn’t much. Dreadfully overlong queue times to play as the Predator result in fast paced, premature experiences that need a massive re-haul. Playing as a Fireteam member is fun and convenient but deep down, we all want to don the mask and hunt humans for sport. Still, Predator: Hunting Grounds has massive potential behind it’s many issues, just don’t go rushing to buy it any time soon.