I’m partial to a bit of ‘virtual hunting’ and while satisfied during the Xbox 360 days, nothing that has released on the Xbox One really hit the spot for me. That is until now. theHunter: Call of the Wild is an open world hunting / exploration game that has rpg elements. It features two maps, one set in Europe (Hirschfelden), the other set in the Pacific Northwest (Layton Lake District).
Starting out you select your avatar, this is a set of pre-made skins where you simply select the gender and skin colour of your character. You then select which map you want to start on, not a big decision to make as you can switch between both maps with ease at any time. Once you load into a map you’ll be met by a voice over from the ranger and given a brief tutorial on hunting, finding outposts and lookout points. You’ll then be introduced to missions, these feature a wide variety of main and side missions where you you’ll be tasked with taking pictures of certain animals, helping to track down sick Bison and even following the tracks of lost people. to name just a few.
Missions don’t have to be completed to level up in the game, you can pretty much do what you want from the get go. If you want to just walk from one end of the map to the other, picking up points of interest along the way, knock yourself out. Obviously completing missions will reward more XP, but they’re not simple 5 minute missions. I’m personally at a point on the Hirschfelden missions where I have to harvest a gold rated red deer, this is no mean feat. I’ve spent a few hours on tracking red deer to no avail, yet I’m not compelled to complete it to carry on, I can just go off and hunt other random animals, complete some of the side missions, or as mentioned above just go for a wander, soaking up the beautiful visuals on offer.
I can even change map at the drop of a hat if I fancy a change of scenery, as mentioned above, changing maps is fairly simple. Hit the view button to bring up the world map, press the X button and choose the other map, job done. Both maps offer a fairly different feeling too, for me Hirschfelden has a much more closed in feel, while Layton Lake District feels a lot more open. There are of course different animals to encounter most notably Bears and Moose in Layton Lake District.
Going on to the gameplay, theHunter: CotW is by far the best hunting sim experience. it’s not a case of killing an animal every 2 seconds as they run across the screen. you’ll be luck to get two kills in 30 minutes. There’s lots of elements to consider while tracking down your next trophy. Much like you would expect in real life, the animals move around either individually or in packs/herds. depending on the time of day they’ll either be at their feeding grounds, favoured drinking lake, resting spot or somewhere travelling in between. Studying a known area for a specific animal can result in finding out where these particular spots are. you’ll come across plat patches of grass, or large areas of footprints. Examining these will provide you with a spot on the map known as a ‘need spot’ these will point out areas where animals will likely be feeding, sleeping etc. and also give a time stamp. The more of these you discover the more likely it is you’ll be able to track down what you’re looking for.
You can of course find animal tracks around the world and follow them, although sometimes you’ll be going for a while before finding the animal you were tracking. Droppings are your biggest clue to the distance between yourself and the animal, as these give you a ‘freshness’ reading when inspecting from ‘very old’ to ‘just now’. Don’t expect to be able to run and gun through the wilderness either, as there’s other elements to take into account while hunting. These being your visibility, noise and wind direction. If your running directly at an animal snapping twigs and branches while up wind the animal is going to bolt way before you even see it. You need to take your time, moving slowly and around the animal’s location if you’re up wind. You can also use lures to attract animals, these are scent sprays and callers, again don’t expect to be in the middle of nowhere with no animals around for a few hundred meters blasting away on a deer bleat caller and expect hundreds to turn up. You need to be within ear shot and using the correct caller to entice animals to come.
I mentioned Outposts and Lookout points above, these are locations that you visit and unlock within each map, Lookout points reveal points of interest, from new outposts to landmarks. Visiting new landmarks and points of interest not only provide you with some new lore to read via the codex, but also vital XP to help you unlock new weapons and gear. Outposts serve a couple of purposes; a fast travel point, store to purchase new weapons ammo etc. and a place to rest. Resting enables you to recover from fall damage and damage sustained from attacking animals, not just predatory attacks but also stampedes, (spooking that herd of 25 red deer is still fresh in my mind), and finally resting to set the time to whatever you desire.
The games isn’t without flaws though, I have encountered a couple of bugs, and issues. One specific bug was while visiting a certain lookout point the game would close. I restarted a new game a few times to confirm this wasn’t a one-off occurrence, while the lookout point would save as being visited, it’s more of an annoyance to have to reload the game once it crashes. there’s also some minor framerate issues that seem to crop up while travelling on the ATV, again only minor drops but they’re there.
Singleplayer can feel a little isolated, but thankfully you can open up a multiplayer game for up to 8 people. This changes the gameplay slightly as instead of Missions to complete you are offered multiplayer competitions, with the objective to be the first to complete the competition, be it spot 5 animals, or hit an animal from 200 m away as examples.
The biggest plus for theHunter: CotW are its visuals, to keep it simple they’re just stunning. While only in 900p on Xbox One and PS4 there’s so much detail to admire. Trees swaying in the wind, leaves falling off trees and blowing away with the wind, grass and other low level bushes and plants flatten under foot of animals as well as the player, the shafts of sunlight coming through the trees, I could go on and on. I just hope it gets the enhancements via Xbox One X. The audio is spot on too, while you shouldn’t expect much more than the sounds of nature, it’s almost as if you are outside, without actually going outside (who does that anyway?). take all these elements and put them together and theHunter Call of the Wild is by far the most immersive hunting simulator You’ll play.
Now I’m off to bag that gold rated red deer…