By EVAN MILLAR
If ever there was a series entirely suited for asymmetric multiplayer mayhem, it’s PREDATOR. An extraterrestrial hunter that stalks its human prey with keen intellect and hyper-advanced technology, it’s a novel villain concept that undoubtedly helped make the original film such a hit upon its release in 1987.
Having already faithfully brought Jason Voorhees back into the realm of gaming with 2017’s FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE GAME, developer IllFonic returns with another asymmetric offering of a similarly killer franchise. But despite a dutiful execution of its source material and frequently exhilarating gameplay, PREDATOR: HUNTING GROUNDS may have benefitted from a bit more time spent prepping back at base camp.
Assuming the role of up to four Fireteam members or the titular Predator itself, players wage war in various maps with rotating military objectives that extend beyond simply staying alive. These include taking photos of experimental drug and weapon caches, assassinating high-profile targets, or extracting intelligence data – all while the threat of having your spine ripped-out looms from the treetops.
Also populating these maps are NPCs who make completing objectives more difficult regardless of what side you find yourself playing. These range from more basic Guerrilla soldiers to heavily armoured guards more than capable of withstanding entire magazines of ammunition. But apart from these wandering warriors, not a whole lot of environmental variety exists in HUNTING GROUNDS’ limited selection of maps.
While FRIDAY THE 13TH gave players the choice of how they wanted to best Jason outside of combat, here that gameplay is translated to little more than walking up to boxes or computer screens and momentarily holding down a button. Matches in HUNTING GROUNDS are always intense, however, as this more structured set of cross-map objectives does in fact keep things moving much quicker than F13’s camp counsellors frolicking about just waiting to be slaughtered.
Although Fireteam gameplay is your fairly rudimentary post-CALL OF DUTY first-person shooter with selectable perks, weapon loadouts and cosmetic options, the Predator offers a more varied and strategic approach to combat. Similarly outfitted with loads of customization possibilities and sporting a third-person camera view, IllFonic does a wonderful job of bringing the iconic hunter’s movements and characteristics to life. Running and leaping from treetop to treetop feels good, and thanks to handy red markings that become visible on approach, it’s always easy to navigate efficiently while raining down death from above in tense combat moments.
You’ll feel appropriately powerful as the Predator, but HUNTING GROUNDS keeps things fairly balanced by utilizing weaknesses true to the series. Just as in the film, treading through shallow bodies of water will cause your cloaking device to glitch granting the Fireteam periods of temporary visibility for easy targeting. The Predator’s signature glow-stick green blood also leaves a traceable trail after damage is inflicted, and the auditory cue of the alien’s clacking mandibles lets opponents know you’re somewhere nearby. Visually, the Predator’s never looked better than it does here, although framerate can take significant dips when playing on the PS4.
Despite what’s here already being an impressive and accurate recreation of the first film’s mood, it’s a shame more objective and map diversity didn’t make it into the game’s launch. A few nighttime scenarios could have proven terrifyingly tense for Fireteam gameplay, for instance, and a change of scenery as seen in 1990’s PREDATOR 2 near-future Los Angeles may have spiced things up even further. Still, content like this may be coming down the pipeline through updates, and it’s more than understandable that IllFonic likely wanted to focus more on nailing the atmosphere of the original film.
Though any continued success will surely depend on the addition of content and minor refinements, this is a great realization of a franchise that’s had its fair share of dismal games throughout the years. With fast-paced, intense combat and authentic series elements fully intact, PREDATOR: HUNTING GROUNDS is an enjoyable trip back into the jungle. Just be sure to slather yourself up with plenty of mud before heading out, soldier.
Predator: Hunting Grounds is out now on PS4 and PC. Review code provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment Canada.