NYCC 2019 HANDS-ON: Predator Hunting Grounds Gameplay Impressions

Recently, Playstation and developer IllFonic showcased Predator: Hunting Grounds at NY Comic Con with a playable demo. But is the game, in its current state, a step in the right direction for the series?

In 2017, developer IllFonic broke onto the licensed video game scene with a crowd-funded "Friday The 13th" game. The multiplayer-only affair, which pitted between 4-7 players as teenage survivors against an extra player playing as Jason Voorhees, was a flawed but enjoyable experience that gave fans plenty of free content over the next several months. The developer, of course, listened to the fans' feedback and, in turn, fixed any bugs that were present. To be honest, it was one of the most sincere instances of dedication to a project I've seen, especially compared to how certain "Triple-A" developers treat some of their games at times. However, due to the ongoing legal troubles plaguing the Friday the 13th franchise right now, the company has been unable to make any new content for the game, despite being able to at least still keep its servers running as of this article’s posting. 2 years later, the Colorado-based group has now returned bigger and better than ever. Under supervision from Sony's Playstation division and with experience under their belt, IlFonic is now hard at work on yet another licensed game. This time, it's the (inititally) PS4-exclusive "Predator: Hunting Grounds". which was showcased with a playable demo at New York Comic Con recently for the masses to try ahead of its release next year. Question is, have IlFonic used their experience from "Friday The 13th: The Game" to craft a far-supirior game after their romp at Crystal Lake, or is the game so far yet another red mark on the Predator series' reputation after last year's divisive at best "The Predator"?

 

Much like "Friday The 13th: The Game", "Predator: Hunting Grounds" will be a multiplayer-only experience. However, there's a ton of differences this time around. The player tally has now been focused down to a simpler 4 vs. 1 only experience, with 4 players serving as a "fire team", i.e. a squad of trained mercenary soldiers not unlike Dutch's group from the original "Predator" movie from the 80s, sent in via helicopter to take care of mission objectives on each map and make it out alive. This was the team I was on when I played the demo on the show floor at NYCC. The 5th player, of course, will be playing the titular Predator alien hunter tasked with stalking the other 4 players and eliminating them. The match ends if the Predator successfully takes out all 4 soldiers or if the fire squad either kills the Predator or at least one of them escapes on the helicopter at the end of their objectives.

 

The most notable difference from IlFonic's last game is how each group of players have different play-styles to them. The fire team's gameplay is basically a first person shooter, with different weapons for each type of solder in your group (you can choose from 4 character types: Assault, CQC, Sharpshooter or Scout, at the set-up if you're on this particular team). The soldiers can also sprint for a certain amount of time until your sprint meter's empty and then have to wait a second until it quickly refills. Thankfully, unlike "Friday The 13th: The Game", there's no fear mechanic to cripple your sprint meter once things start going south, so all you need to worry about is being alert once the Predator makes his presence known eventually. Fortunately, fire team members have a slight advantage, thanks to being able to pin-point the Predator's location by aiming and clicking R3 on any member's controller so the other 3 soldiers can see where on the mini-map you've last seen him. There are also AI-controled enemies not dissimilar to the guerilla soldiers Dutch and company faced early on in the original "Predator" movie, but they're aren't too much trouble to handle, since the ever-present threat of the Predator lurking in the jungle is your main concern on top of your team's objectives.

 

Speaking of which, the Predator's gameplay, meanwhile, is entirely in third-person. While I wasn't able to see much of his gameplay style, what I glimpsed was a more tactical, stealth-based endeavor that will make you reliant on traversing the treetops after your prey and then moving in for the kill when you need to. And for fans of the movies, yes, this bad-boy has most of his famous gadgets and features: cloaking technology, infra-red heat vision, plasma casters, bladed melee claws, finishing blows where he claims soldiers' skulls as trophies (these is your main method of finishing off fire team members lest they get revived by their teammates) and even a health injector not unlike the healing device used in "Predator 2". One match before mine even had the Predator take out the surviving players out with the infamous self-destruct bomb like the end of the original movie as a last-minute win, so for those on the fire team, be careful of this trap if you've think you've won!

 

To make a long story short, my match ended with my fire team just BARELY winning with one last guy escaping. I was the second-to-last player killed, but I played a big part in getting most of the objectives done. As a token for each winning team in every match, we got free t-shirts for our efforts! The experience was wonderful and I thank IllFonic and PlayStation for the opportunity. Overall, Predator: Hunting Grounds is, so far, an excellent multiplayer experience and I strongly recommend fans of the movies to keep a close eye on this one! Illfonic's outdone themselves so far and I wish them the best of luck for the rest of development. I also expect many a quote from the original movie to be uttered during matches once this thing's finished and released.

 

Predator: Hunting Grounds will be released on PS4 and PC on April 24, 2020.

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