Predator: Hunting Grounds Beta Recap – Who’s Hunting Who?
It was a busy weekend here at the DXP office. I had Resident Evil 3, Resident Evil Resistance, the new The Foundation DLC for Control, and I’m still trying to beat Nioh 2. Still, I wanted to get in at least a few rounds of Predator: Hunting Grounds while it was live. If you aren’t aware, developer Illfonic recently ran a free open-beta weekend for their upcoming asymmetrical shooter Predator: Hunting Grounds. The Predator franchise has always made great source material for multiplayer shooters, with the multiplayer components of the Aliens vs Predator titles being the best part. Plus, Illfonic has shown it can make great licensed content with Friday the 13th: The Game. So I was eager to see what the final product looked like. I set aside a couple of hours before bed to get in a few rounds. That turned into over a dozen rounds well into the twilight hours. While I’m not ready to give my final say on Predator: Hunting Grounds, here’s a few things I learned from my time in the beta.
1) It Feels Like Two Completely Different Games:
One of the most enjoyable parts of asymmetric multiplayer games is how varied the experience can be. Dead by Daylight is a great example. You’ve got the killer one side in first-person doing the hunting, and the survivors on the other side in third-person trying to fix generators and hide. Picking your killer gives you even more variety, which means the survivors have to adapt to the new challenge. However, no matter how different the two sides, it always feels like they are at least playing the same game. A game of cat and mouse maybe, but the killer knows that the survivors are trying to fix generators and the survivors know the killer is trying to kill them.
In Predator: Hunting Grounds, there is no connection between the Predator and the Fireteam before the Predator initiates. Playing as the Fireteam, you could easily mistake the game as a level in Payday. You’re given a brief mission overview, dropped into the jungle at one of four drop zones, and sent after a series of objective markers. These objectives are incredibly basic, and the NPC enemies they throw at you are laughably weak. They mostly serve as a distraction to pull focus away from looking around for the cloaked silhouette of the Predator. Or as a way to get you to make noise so that the Predator can track you. The game doesn’t really start until the Predator shows up.
From the Predator’s perspective, you’re dropped into the zone without any direction. You have no idea where the Fireteam is or what objectives they have to accomplish. Your first task is to find them. Since you don’t even know where they landed, this can take a few minutes. At your disposal are thermal vision, directional markers for sound, and a timed isolation scan that gives you a clearer indication of your targets. Once you do finally track them down, you’ll want to analyze your targets and pick your time to engage. The Predator is far more mobile than the Fireteam, running through treetops with ease. The Fireteam will have to stay on their toes and watch every angle to stay safe.
When the Predator does finally engage, you’ll quickly learn that…
2) The Predator Is Far From An Unstoppable Killing Machine:
I imagine it’s hard to make a balanced but accurate representation of a Predator. On the one hand, they are galaxy-spanning master huntsman that take out entire platoons of special forces for giggles. On the other hand, they sometimes get killed by Danny Glover in an embarrassing 1v1. For Predator: Hunting Grounds, Illfonic has decided to set the Predator’s power level at about 2.5 dudes. Since the Predator going up against 4 dudes, he/she’s going to have to be clever. You won’t be able to just run in and punch everything down. You’ll have to set traps, hit-and-run, and wait for the perfect moment to attack. You need to act like an actual hunter and not a movie monster of the week.
I say this all theoretically. In my 12-15 games, the Predator didn’t manage to win once. Even the game where half of my teammates left and it was a 2v1. And it wasn’t like the Fireteam barely scraped by. It wasn’t even close. Every round ended with the Predator dead and all humans alive. I’m not just flexing my mad shooter skills here either. In the few games I played the Predator, I got thoroughly rocked. You can usually knock down a couple of guys before you’re defeated, but they get back up easily enough. Do not go into Predator: Hunting Grounds expecting to live your buff alien power fantasy.
I predict this is going to be the case for a while after Predator: Hunting Grounds launches. I don’t think that the Predator is just horribly inferior. Playing it just takes some careful planning. And since you’re only the Predator 1/5 of the games on average, it’s going to take a long time to learn all the tricks. Meanwhile, playing as the Fireteam is basically just like playing any other shooter. It’s far easier to pick up. Since you’re statistically playing as the Fireteam 80% of the time, you’ll have far more practice fighting the Predator than playing as it.
But hey, maybe not everyone is SUPPOSED to kill each other every game. After all…
3) Winning Is A Matter Of Perspective:
There are a few ways to actually “win” a match of Predator: Hunting Grounds. For the Fireteam, there are three options. The first is to complete all of the objectives on the map and exfiltrate on a helicopter. This is incredibly easy but takes some time. I expect this option is only there to force the Predator to engage. Otherwise, it could be two hours of an invisible asshole taking shoulder cannon potshots until one side quits out of boredom. The other two ways the Fireteam can win come after they defeat the Predator. When the Predator is downed, they have only a brief window to blast its face clean off and kill it. If they do, they will have to defend the Predator’s body from some NPC attacks for a set period of time. Once the time runs out, they win and receive a bonus based on how little damage the NPCs did to the Predator’s body. If the Fireteam fails to cap the predator when it’s downed, the predator can activate its self-destruct device. The Fireteam will have to leg it out of the blast zone to win.
The Predator wins if he kills all of the Fireteam and collects their sweet skulls as trophies. This is done by holding the execute button over a downed Fireteam member. Enemies with a higher “threat” rating are worth more points. This means that the better one of the Fireteam members is doing, the more enticing their trophy. However, the predator can also “win” by catching the Fireteam in his self-destruct blast. It actually says after the game that you self destructed successfully. This leads to the confusing situation where both you and the surviving Fireteam members can actually “win.”
The only real conclusion I can come to is that the game isn’t really about winning. Each side has things they can do to net them points/experience. You can spend the points on cosmetics in the shop, while levels gate what kind of weapons and attachments you have. There are both weapon and character levels, so expect to do a hefty amount of grinding. The various methods of ending the game all grant you different amounts of points/experience. Collecting a pristine Predator body nets you the most if you’re the Fireteam. The Predator can get the most by allowing the Fireteam members to gain value by completing objectives and hunting them all down after that. Unless your opponent is/are incredibly inexperienced, both of these ideal scenarios are unlikely. Most games will likely land somewhere in the middle, with a few people escaping or the Predator blowing himself up. It feels a bit weird to have so many potential endings to your adventure, but it makes sense because…
4) The Atmosphere Is The Real Draw:
Despite all of Predator: Hunting Grounds problems, playing as the Fireteam was still incredibly tense. The first time you see the Predator’s three-dot laser drawing a bead in a match is genuinely exhilarating and terrifying. You’ll often hear the Predator’s iconic growl long before you see it. There were several moments I felt just like the cast of The Predator, firing wildly into the jungle and just hoping to hits something. When the Predator does rush you, landing the perfect parry or fending him off with quick blasts from a shotgun is incredibly satisfying. When you turn the tables and the Predator starts bleeding out, the mad rush to chase him down and end him for good had me on the edge of my seat. On the flip side, finding the humans and planning your attack makes you really feel like a hunter. Watching them go about their business, you have to get into their heads and figure out which member is the weak link. Causing them to let their guard down and picking off a straggler puts you right into the boots of the iconic alien.
I just wish I had a real experienced group to play it with. As I said before, the baseline skill requirement for each side is very skewed towards the Fireteam. I was shocked by just how easily we managed to take down the Predator each round. I see the potential in the final product. I just don’t feel like the extremely limited beta was enough time for people to learn the Predator role. It would have been much if the demo was open for a whole week. I’ll hopefully be proven right when the game drops April 24th for the PC and PS4. You can pre-order Predator: Hunting Grounds on the Epic Games Store for $40 by clicking here.