The year is 1987 and a new movie featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger has launched us all into a universe where we are not the hunters, but the hunted. A merciless enemy, dubbed a Predator, has come to Earth searching for a challenging hunt. Now we have the opportunity to take on the intergalactic traveler as a member of an elite Spec Ops team as you accomplish your mission in the Jungles of the South. This is Predator: Hunting Grounds (PHG). A title that was developed by IllFonic and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, Predator: Hunting Grounds gives us a small taste of what it would have been like to be in the movie with the “real thing” with mixed results.
One of the myriad reasons to check out the Predator universe for myself was the overwhelming sense of nostalgia from my time watching the movies. This is reinforced due to the iconic sound design, namely the music. Additionally, visually the Predator itself looks and feels as though it’s right off the silver screen.There is nothing like reliving the first time you heard the clicking sounds and then saw the three red lasers just before the loud bang from the plasma turret. That same anticipation is felt here - something I’ve not felt in a game yet.
You’re tasked with infiltrating a South American base in the jungle, and from there you’re missions are randomized whenever you hop back into Predator: Hunting Grounds. You may be burning supply caches, or planting a beacon in a weed farm, or searching for money in a hut. There are AI combatants you must deal with - though they themselves aren’t very smart. More often than not they will usually funnel themselves onto the battlefield for you to easily dispose of, setting up the rest of the showdown. After that you have only one other mission, survive. The Predator will be looking for you as soon as the fight begins and this is where you will have some issues to worry about.
Combat as the Predator is a mix of long-range, hand-to-hand, and moving around the map using your ‘Predkour’. Being able to move swiftly through the canopy will assist you in getting the drop on the spec ops soldiers, however, the weapons they have are enough to take you down and quickly. At lower levels even the basic rifle can do a lot of damage to the Predator, and it can be very difficult to overcome when you’re pitted four against one. While your plasma cannon can do a fair bit of damage itself, your enemies drop to the ground like we see in battle royale games like PlayerUnkown’s Battlegrounds - which if you don’t make the final kill on whoever you knock down they will get picked back up by their teammates, and starting this frustrating dance of death all over again. So it’s in your best interest to take out whomever you see quickly and efficiently or it can be easy to be overrun.
Customizations are available for your weapons and characters through leveling up and loot boxes. Leveling up your character is achieved through killing the AI, the Predator, and the completion of your mission parameters. As far as the loot boxes are concerned, you earn points from your matches and you can put them towards buying new boxes. Leveling up also affords you one box per level that can be opened at any time to reveal new skins for your character or items.
Running through the woods, evading the Predator, killing the guerilla fighters, and finding the items needed to complete your mission felt a bit basic, though I still did have some fun. Hearing the noises of the alien made me remember what it was like to hear those noises for the first time as a kid. Predator: Hunting Grounds, as I stated, preys on nostalgia - and it was something I routinely felt during my playthroughs. The first time I saw Arnie taking it to the alien to the last time when he took off his mask, everything felt so real. PHG strives to make you feel like you are in this movie universe without as much as a single-player campaign. Unfortunately, Predator: Hunting Grounds doesn’t offer much in story - instead relying on putting you in the combat either as or against the Predator itself to make your fun.
Overall, Predator: Hunting Grounds hits only on a few cylinderswhile leaving you wanting more than is currently available in the title. A universe such as this one should be shown the proper respect, instead it relys too heavily on our nostalgia with the movie franchise to entice players into taking control of an iconic film character to sell itself. And while it’s sound design is fantastic, and the combat itself can be fun for a while, it just doesn’t do enough to keep my attention for too long, making me long for a single-player campaign to bolster my fun.
Full Disclosure: A Copy of this title was provided by Sony PR for the purposes of this review.