Predator: Hunting Grounds Is Less Janky & More Fun 2 Years Later

Predator: Hunting Grounds Is Less Janky & More Fun 2 Years Later

Predator: Hunting Grounds was one ugly motherfucker when it launched in April 2020. Matchmaking took an eternity, its balance was off, the promised cross-play invites were nonexistent, and the game looked bad and ran poorly, especially on a base PlayStation 4. Whereas Dutch caked himself under layers of mud to hide from the Predator in the first film, Hunting Grounds caked itself under layers of glitches and an unpolished presentation to hide away from its potential audience; only one of which is a smart strategy. But the game didn’t fall prey to its shortcomings, as it’s in a better state two years later and worth looking into just before Illfonic’s next title based on an ‘80s movie franchise comes out.

Illfonic spent months ironing out some of the small kinks in Hunting Grounds and the many patches it rolled out have gradually gotten the game in a more acceptable place. Matchmaking doesn’t take forever anymore, even for those in the crowded Predator pool. Cross-play invites work fluidly and let players link up from anywhere with little to no hassle. And while it is hard to speak on its performance on PS4, Illfonic has optimized the game more for PS5, allowing users to run the game at 60 frames per second. The smoother and more consistent frame rate pairs well with the improved visuals that no longer sometimes looked like they were ripped out of a PS2 game.

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Balance tweaks, new maps, more gear, and cameos from Marshawn Lynch and Arnold Schwarzenegger have also all played their role in improving the multiplayer game and can’t be understated; the array of slick new masks, weapons, and skins gave the game a tail that only got longer over time. But addressing these systemic issues that sit underneath the cosmetics was more important, as all the costumes in the world can’t make a bad game good. And that core experience is worth saving since it is still different today and why Hunting Grounds works two years later. 

Predator: Hunting Grounds Is Less Janky & More Fun 2 Years Later

Playing as the human soldiers looks like a standard first-person shooter affair, which gels nicely with the in-game explanation that they are on a standard mission. But that mission is flipped on its head when the Predator gets involved. The unexpected variable of an advanced, human-controller beast means that these missions never play out similarly. Sometimes there are ridiculously talented hunters that have four bloodied spines on their belt in just a few minutes and other times there are those who are clearly on their first or second hunt. 

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Regardless of their skill, there’s a layer of tension that presides over the match before the Predator shows up that is quickly ratcheted up by when it does finally burst onto the scene. Chaos ensues as players have to suddenly contend with a dodgy alien monster that’s leaping among the branches, something only made more terrifying by the thunderous thump of its footsteps and menacing clicks and growls that precede its attacks. 

That feeling of being hunted isn’t typically found in the online multiplayer space, especially in shooters. Whereas games like Dead by Daylight pit multiple survivors against one killer, it’s not a shooter and skews more toward traditional horror, as evidenced by its many, many horror movie crossovers. Hunt: Showdown is a first-person shooter, and a hardcore one at that, but its presentation is more focused on stealth and methodical play. Predator: Hunting Grounds fuses those two worlds of being the predator firing away at the dim A.I. and being the prey to the Predator, resulting in a unique experience with different styles that it constantly bounces between.

Predator: Hunting Grounds Is Less Janky & More Fun 2 Years Later

The Predator is still the main draw since hunting hapless humans is thrilling in a way few multiplayer games are. Watching someone fall into a trap or, better yet, foolishly splinter off from the group is satisfying since it lets players live out the fantasy of being the Predator. Stalking and outsmarting other players isn’t as prevalent in the online space and fits so well with the Predator franchise. It’s able to use its license well and results in an original experience that gives fans get an authentic game and players something that hasn’t been done to death. The honesty and originality is a key part of why playing as the Predator is still exciting.

While Illfonic has undoubtedly addressed many of the technical mishaps that plagued its launch, it’s still got more than its fair share of that launch-era sludge. The Predator still can fling off in random directions during a leap, fail to grab a tree trunk from the ground for no reason, and inexplicably can’t attach to a tree while in midair. Dumb, caveman tactics are too strong. Progression locks too many necessary gameplay tools behind high levels. Matches can be extremely lopsided. There’s no A.I. Predator to practice against, which is only part of the game’s staggeringly bad tutorial that refuses to teach its mechanics, gear, and weapons to the player. And these larger issues sit on top of the uncountable amount of small, quality-of-life changes the game is begging for.

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Illfonic won’t fix those problems and it’s disheartening that they’re still there two years later. Those shortcomings put a hamper on a decent game that deserved a great one, meaning it’s still somewhat of an ugly motherfucker. But Predator: Hunting Grounds has gotten just enough support to mostly overcome its rough outer layer thanks to its prey and predator gameplay that’s truly different from almost anything else out there and is worth a second look. Illfonic said it learned a lot from Hunting Grounds and applied that knowledge to Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, which looks to be a much smoother asymmetrical multiplayer experience. And while busting ghosts has its own appeal, it’s hard to compete with stalking in the jungle and playing a high-stakes version of cat-and-mouse with a deadly, ugly alien built for hunting.


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