Predator: Hunting Grounds is an immersive asymmetrical shooter set in remote areas, where the Predator stalks the most challenging prey. Play as a member of an elite Fireteam and complete paramilitary operations before the Predator finds you. Or, play as the Predator to hunt the most worthy prey, choosing from your vast array of deadly alien tech to collect your trophies, one by one.
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Reviewed on: PS4 (Pro unit)
Also available for: PC
Lead Designer: Jordan Mathewson
Lead Level Designer: Hunter Peyron
Lead Programmer: Lucas Pederson
Writers: Jared Gerritzen, Chris Means, Jordan Mathewson
Booting up Predator: Hunting Grounds you’re hit with the nostalgic theme music created by Alan Silvestri for the original 1987 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. As a fan of the Predator film and following franchise, this is an automatic tickle of the fanboy bone and although there will be more tickles, ultimately nothing is super-satisfying about playing developer IllFonic’s asymmetric multiplayer game.
The concept of Predator: Hunting Grounds is similar to that of IllFonic’s previous game, Friday The 13th: The Game, and similar multiplayer games including Evolve and Dead by Daylight as well as the most recent, Resident Evil: Resistance. All of these involve similar gameplay elements where you play as either a powered-up monster/person or a group of under-powered humans and attempt to survive and or kill the other player.
You can play as either the Predator itself or as one of four on a fireteam sent into a jungle location to take on a series of objectives similar to the plot of the first film.
Playing as the fireteam takes place in a first-person-shooter view and for the most part, it’s typical FPS stuff. Although it can become increasingly annoying to be playing as special operatives that can’t climb over anything, and don’t happen to carry bolt cutters.
You drop into the jungle and are given an initial objective that involves hacking a computer, or taking out a target. All of these human enemies you’ll encounter are computer-controlled and will shoot at you and the Predator equally. What follows after your first objective is usually one or two follow up tasks which will involve pressing square on several objects, and then waiting as you defend against waves of AI enemies. You also have the possibility of a random bonus objective that can result in extra XP if you make it out alive. The finale to whatever mix of rather mundane objective-based gameplay you take on is you having to “get to the chopper!” and make your escape.
When playing as a fireteam member you have access to two guns and three pouched items like grenades or healing items. The guns feel fine with a capital F. Shotguns I did find to have a nice kick and they’re a decent pick-up in a game where the enemy AI is happy to run around a corner and stand directly in front of you.
In a lot of ways it feels like the AI on these human enemies was purposely left stupid so they don’t become too much a hassle and challenge when you’re having to deal with the Predator as well – but they’re really dumb. Beyond dumb at times. I’ve killed an enemy from the back and then his friends turned around to simply state “everyone be on the lookout, I think somebody’s here.”
Eventually, the Predator does show up of course and how long or soon it does will mostly depend on how the person playing as the Predator decides to play.
Playing as the Predator you’ll be on the hunt straight away. There’s no reason not to. You can go harass the AI enemies if you choose, but there’s no advantage to it. I wish that there was something else for the Predator to do though. In Evolve the monster could farm fodder to level up and get stronger or attempt to kill the other players when they were also weaker. This game really feels like it needs a similar structure.
The Predator plays in a third-person view and it’s a very different game to the fireteam stuff. It can be really slow or fast-paced but ultimately it never feels like you have enough tools at your disposal to truly feel as powerful and an apex hunter as the Predator is in the films. You are left objection less. While the fireteam have the mundane objectives to keep them moving, the Predator has nothing other than the hunt.
Climbing into the trees the Predator will move with swift speed and ease from one branch and tree to another with a simple push of the analog stick. It feels nice and lets you make your way around the jungle with ease. Turning on heat-vision you can track your prey in combination with listening for sounds, which you’ll soon hear as the fireteam always ends up shooting pretty quickly each match with little options for stealth.
When you find your prey, if you’re attempting to play the game ‘properly’ you’ll stalk and wait for one of the team to break off and quickly assassinate them before retreating into the trees. Unfortunately, if the team is smart enough and never break formation you’re left with little options. You can shoot a laser cannon down from the tree’s but it’s easy to doge. You can jump down and spam the melee button in an attempt to take out the entire squad in one quick movement, but it’s not likely as the Predator will die very quickly under fire from three-to-four of the fireteam. As you level up you do unlock more options like a net for the Predator to trap enemies in, but none of them felt like they truly change the way you can play the game.
That’s not to say all games are bad. I’ve had some truly exciting matches where my team played well together and the Predator was attempting to lure and pick us off. They slowly depleted our supplies using random laser fire from above and went in for kills when AI enemies showed up and distracted us. In the final fire-fight, as we were making our way to the call in the helicopter and escape, the Predator managed to take out everyone but myself. In my final act of courage, I stood my ground and unloaded my final clips from both weapons and managed to drop the alien hunter to the ground. However, the Predator, just like in the movies, had one final trick – a chance to activate its wrist bomb. Just like in the original film the Predator begins manically laughing as a timer ticks down in the background. You have two options at this point: attempt to run outside the blast zone and survive, or try and stop the bomb. Choosing to stop the bomb is more beneficial when it comes to rewards after completing the match, but also the more exhilarating. Grabbing the Predator’s wrist you’ll see a symbol at the bottom in the Predators language and above a series of symbols, you can cycle through. You have to quickly try and match five-in-a-row in a simple yet, high-pressure puzzle. If you fail, everyone goes up in one huge blast and the game ends. If you succeed you are tasked with a new objective of protecting the body from AI enemies coming to claim it until your helicopter turns up to collect it, at which point the match ends.
There’s several different win or lose conditions including the two I just mentioned. The most basic for the fireteam is completing their objectives and escaping on the helicopter. Capturing the Predator is another, or killing it. Surviving the blast from its bomb will also end the match, but it’s weird because I’ve had this happen before even completing the first objective.
Unsurprisingly you may be shocked to learn the Predator really only has one win condition. Kill em all.
You can either queue up to play as the fireteam, the Predator or select no preference. The wait time for the fireteam has usually been under thirty seconds in my experience, whereas the Predator is nothing short of 4 minutes. Unsurprisingly everyone wants to play the Predator. I don’t mind the wait time, but at the moment there are severe matchmaking issues where I’ve sat in an estimated lobby wait time of thirty seconds for ten minutes before being booted to the main menu as it failed to connect to the match it found. I don’t want to wait for four minutes, for it to fail to connect me to the match.
A lot of jank can ruin the experience currently which is disappointing. I’ve had missing sound effects from guns, texture pop-in issues and random bugs including AI enemies clipping into walls. None of that is experience ruining, but the frame-rate drop is unacceptable. At times it dropped well below 20FPS and feels super-sluggish to play. It’s most noticeable when playing as the fireteam, of course, as you attempt to pop off headshots on the stationary enemies parked in the distance but the feeling of moving your scope is like pushing through mud.
All up there’s three maps at launch but they feel very much like the same place with just a different main location in the middle. A forest with a construction site. A forest with a pipe works running up the middle. A forest with a small water area in the middle of the map. There’s also no other modes, or difficulty options other than queuing up to either play as the Predator or the Fireteam. A hard mode for those wanting to play super-serious would probably be appreciated.