I sat quietly in the trees, listening to the sounds of conflict unfolding in the distance. Admittedly, I didn’t move for 30 seconds or so because I foolishly skipped the tutorial, but once I figured out how to make use of the hunter’s staple gadgets and gear, I pressed forward.
Moving smoothly through tree limbs and leaping great distances with a mere press of a button was seamless and made me feel like the ultimate predator. With this confidence, I moved closer to my targets, figuring they wouldn’t stand up to my more advanced tech. The squadron was bunched up into a group of three, back-to-back picking off non-essential targets in some jungle camp. They had their own goal, but I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t care. I just knew I had to take them down, rip their spines from their fleshy carcass and mount them on my wall as trophies.
When the firefight died down, I grew excited. Were they worn down and left on edge from their persistent human enemies? Maybe even exhausted of much of their ammunition and supplies. Whatever their condition was, I opted to take a risk. Cloaked and with the mercenaries highlighted on my screen, I readied the shoulder cannon. To my chagrin, its red sight was as clear as day and they spotted it almost instantly. The panic shot I took hit a tree in the distance, and before I could turn tail and hide, I caught glimpses of my neon green blood splattering the foliage around me.
Clearly, I wasn’t the invincible hunter I had hoped to be.
Though my tech was an upgrade from their assault rifles and handguns, they had safety in numbers. I had the trees and a limited power supply that could only keep me cloaked for so long. With my infrared vision activated, my time hidden within the wilds was cut down even more. I knew I would have to work quickly and my best bet would be to wait for them to separate.
Thankfully, whatever mission they were on gave me that opportunity. Before I could track their heat signatures, I heard the familiar sounds of exchanging gunfire. With them distracted, I moved in, watching patiently as they slowly drifted apart. Finally, the moment came for me to engage.
One soldier had strayed just a little too far as his comrades pushed back against attackers on opposite edges of the installation. I leapt from the trees, ready to pounce on top of my isolated target. Slamming an energized fist to the ground, I staggered him, but only temporarily. My blades connected once or twice before he was able to start pumping shotgun rounds into my exposed stomach.
His slugs seemed far more effective than my frantic melee strikes, and it wasn’t long before lead peppered the jungles surrounding me from afar. A trail of neon blood followed behind, indicating my failure. Forced to retreat again, I contemplated what combination of gadgets and stealth would give me the edge. As I tended to my wounds and healed with Predator’s signature medkit, I soon realized my prey weren’t going to let me go that easily.
A grenade landed near my feet, frightening me up the nearest trunk to the branches above. It wasn’t enough to escape their sights. The Predator howled as bullets pierced his flesh from all angles, sending bright green all over. I knew I had to run, but couldn’t have them thinking they had won the battle. Without aiming, I let loose a bolt from my shoulder cannon. It was a lucky hit, but the blue ball of energy struck one of them head-on. He was hurt, but not down, and I was dangerously low on energy.
Clicking on my stealth with what charge I had left, I moved away from my aggressors. They had difficulties following me through the trees, allowing me the opening to circle back behind. When they thought I had gone deeper into the dense jungle to recover, their attention shifted back to the objective. I followed, far enough behind to avoid being seen, but close enough to launch an assault at the opportune moment.
Then, it happened. A swarm of warm bodies started to move in on the trio of soldiers. This was it.
This was going to be my last chance.
Healed up and fully charged, I moved in using the trees. One soldier had hunkered down in a nearby outpost and was using the window to pick off incoming assailants. He was my first kill. I quietly returned to the ground, near invisible to the naked eye. With his pals preoccupied, I crept into the building and launched a barrage of swipes with my wrist blade. He was already hurt, likely from my earlier frantic cannon blast.
When he fell, I had hoped to claim my trophy, but his squad was turned on to his situation. They sandwiched me in the building, forcing me to blindly swipe my way through. I connected a few blows, but it didn’t matter. Their focused fire chipped away too much of my health and, as I ran, they helped the fallen soldier to his feet. Everything I had accomplished was reversed, leaving me with little hope for a clear victory
I heard the whir of a helicopter approaching. My time was up. It was either mount a successful blitz now or let my quarry escape to safety. So I acted. From one branch, I released a well-placed bolt from my cannon, downing my previous target again. I moved to another set of branches to avoid being spotted and, as the remaining two moved in to help, I jumped from my perch and landed right behind them.
My wrist blades focused on one while the other pumped assault rifle rounds into my back. Just as I had scored a second kill, my own health depleted. With only two options left, I chose the most drastic. I opted to kill us all.
When he realized the figures on my wrist was counting down to a certain doom, the lone soldier tried to make a run for it. To my pleasure, he was unsuccessful. Nobody won. Not me, the disgraced Predator. Not the squadron of armed mercenaries. All that remained was the charred forest that had served as my cover.
Predator: Hunting Grounds offers both sides the chance to feel like the ultimate hunter. My first run as the Predator came with some roadblocks, but they didn’t frustrate. Instead, they left me wanting to get better. I pondered what I could do better to isolate and kill my trio of targets so I wouldn’t have to resort to the stalemate detonation.
IllFonic’s attempt at a multiplayer game set in the Predator universe feels like it’s going in the right direction, though its melee components felt ineffective and difficult to control. The Predator’s other gadgets, such as the Net Gun I tinkered with after reaching a certain level, show promise for a more powerful and tactile hunter. Then again, with every upgrade the Predator receives, his human counterparts are going to be just as well-equipped.
Predator: Hunting Ground is likely going to be a divisive game, much like IllFonic’s Friday the 13th: The Video Game. However, there is so much more promise that the finished product won’t have to rely so heavily on love and respect of the franchise it’s based on to draw in a sizable playerbase.
Hunting Ground is slated for an April 24, 2020 release date for the PS4 and PC.