Predator: Hunting Grounds, developed by Illfonic and led by CEO Charles Brungardt and CCO Jared Gerritzen, became the subject of many due to its gameplay concept when its trailer first released. Pitting an elite group of 4 soldiers generically known as the fireteam against a hunting machine, Predator: Hunting Grounds became available to members of the press care of PlayStation Asia during Tokyo Game Show 2019 and here are some of our impressions from the pre-alpha demo.
Predator: Hunting Grounds is an asymmetrical multiplayer game. In other words, its 4v1 where you get to play either as part of the fireteam or as the lone Predator. If you’ve ever played Dead by Daylight or Friday the 13th, then you get the idea behind this game, just reskinned to fit the IP.
The premise of the game is simple. As the fire team, there are a couple of ways to win the game – you kill the Predator or you get to the choppa (at least for the mission that got to play). Getting to the chopper entails finishing up the mission, which has certain objectives. Some will require you to plant bombs or disrupt communications or hack through the network, very basic stuff. The faster you can finish your current objective, the faster you can get to the landing zone and consequently the hell out of the place.
Why do you want out, you ask? Well, the Predator is out and about and it wants blood. Using the same technology and weapons as from the original movie such as the Plasma Caster and its signature cloaking device, the name of the game is simple, kill everyone in sight. Controlling the Predator is massively fun as you cloak through the forest and jump atop treetops, planning your next move and swooping in for the kill. It is also fast and agile, so it’s fairly easy for it to get in and out of engagements when it needs to.
Visually, the game could use some work. Granted that this was a pre-alpha build, some polish could still be done but I’m not counting on an overhaul. The environment looks a wee bit bland and generic, and the character models really don’t do anything to excite me. While the Predator itself is rendered beautifully, everything else feels like it didn’t receive the same amount of thought and care.
Before the game begins, members of the fireteam can choose their weapons loadout and role in the team, with role being a very loose term referring to what type of weapon you’ll be using. Using a shotgun? Then you’re the CQB specialist. Using a rifle? Assault is your forte. This is basically telling us that there is no role queue of any sort, also no limit as to how many members choose the same loadout every game. The burden falls on Illfonic to properly balance the weapons and make sure that each weapon has a good use case.
From the looks of it, there aren’t too many things to fiddle around with but Illfonic has assured us that more weapons, features, and game modes will be added by the time the game goes live. The fireteam will also be choosing from several landing spots to start the mission in, but only God knows why you’ll want to split up while something is hunting you. Coordination is key. You’ll want to stick with the other members of the team. Moving out on your own is a sure fire way to die, but keeping too close together and you might not be able to cover enough ground fast enough to finish your mission.
As you drop down to the environment, you’ll easily be greeted by minimal but effective UI, showing a minimap, fireteam member health, and ammo among others. Another thing that will also greet you are enemy NPC’s. These are basically just filler enemies designed to confuse you (and the Predator) from doing your objectives. They are non factors in combat, at least from what I tried. They inflict minimal damage and their AI is not the smartest. They also appear out of nowhere! Next thing you know, you’ve got a guy beside you trying to blow your face up. I can imagine that a huge amount of polish is still needed for this aspect of the game so I’ll be a bit forgiving and give them the benefit of the doubt.
An interesting mechanic that the fireteam can employ to avoid being spotted is to cover themselves up with mud from certain mud spots in the map. This will allow them to mask their body temperature thus giving them an edge over the heat seeking vision of the Predator. I didn’t get to personally try this but the thought of it is something I really liked.
As the Predator, you’ll want to divide the fireteam and conquer. You’re fast and powerful, but you’re not bulletproof. In fact, if you rush head on into the whole fireteam, chances are you’ll not make it out alive. You’ll need to make use of your environment and your cloaking ability to confuse opponents to gain the advantage. Luckily, some of the mission objectives will require the team to split up, giving you a chance to swoop in for the kill. It’s a test of patience, and it’s a game you’ll want to play if you want to succeed as the hunter.
Depleting the fireteam’s HP knocks them down but you’ll have to execute them to take them out of the match, or else they’ll just be revived by the rest of the team. The Predator’s trademark execution is intact in the game, ripping out the skull and spine, a welcome sight to see if you are a fan of the films.
A game session averages about anywhere from 10-15 minutes based on our trial. It’s a good length, something not too long to get antsy about but also not too short to make it feel underwhelming. My problem about this is that since this is a multiplayer only game, I wonder if this is enough to sustain a community post launch. Illfonic needs to have a very solid post launch plan for the game and hopefully we get to hear from them soon.
Overall, the game still needs a lot of work. Design wise, the concept is pretty solid especially using the Predator IP for the game but there are quite a number of things that hinder it from being a great title. It’s good to keep an eye out for updates on this as the months count down to a 2020 release but in it’s current form, Illfonic have a lot of work on their hands.
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