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Review: theHunter: Call of the Wild

Table of Contents

Quick Info

Gore & Brutality Magic Sex Civility Religious Objections
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Additional Notes
This game offers Achievements (or similar awards)!

Summary of major issues
As this is a hunting simulation, you'll be shooting various game and there's some blood involved. When collecting your kill, you'll be presented with a detailed, x-ray breakdown of how you killed the animal.

Screenshots

[view screenshot]
And like that, Bambi's an orphan

[view screenshot]
BOOM.
Headshot!

[view screenshot]
80% of the gameplay is pictured above

General Information

Genre:Sports / First Person Shooter ESRB Rating:T - Teen (13+)
License:Commercial My Rating:Teenagers (13+)
Played on:Thaddeus
Available from: Gamer's Gate, Humble Store, Steam
Save System:Most things, like places you've found, experience you've gained, money spent, or bullets remaining, are saved automatically. However, when you resume the game later, you'll always start at the last outpost you visited. Any animals you were tracking will also have disappeared.

There is no way to pause this game.

Game Overview

I'm going to be honest and upfront here: I'm not a hunter. When I go out into the wild and shoot deer or other animals, it's with my Nikon D5100. Thus, it's fair to say that I'm not part of the audience this game is catering towards, so I'm not really going to be the best judge regarding this title. The most I can do is report about the stuff I encountered while playing it.

As you can guess from the title, theHunter: Call of the Wild is a game about hunting. To be more specific, it's about trophy hunting; various species of deer are the main targets, though you can also hunt a number of other species like moose, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, and bears. However, don't think you're going to wander around and just shoot random critters. This game attempts to be more realistic than that.

Most of the time, you're going to need to study your intended prey to learn where they go to drink, eat, and rest at different times of the day. These areas are called "need zones", and once you find them, they'll be marked on your map for future reference. One of the easier ways to find these locations is to scout around for animal tracks, and once you've located a track, just follow it until you either spot the animal or come across something else interesting. To help you out, there's always a pile of poop at the midpoint of every long track. Examining the feces will tell you more about the animal that left it -- in particular, this is how you know if the animal is actually still around or not. Tracks remain for a long time, so finding old droppings means that you're looking at a very old track, and whatever made it is probably far away by now. On the other hand, if the road apples are fresh, then there's a possibility that your target is in a nearby bush, watching you as you stick your face against its excrement.

Of course, this is only part of the gameplay. This is something of a stealth game, so you're going to need to be aware of how much noise you're making and how visible you are. Being still helps you hide, and if you can find a spot in some foliage, you'll be hidden even more. But, there is a downside to hiding in plants though: the more plants you're around, the more noise you make when you move. If you're spotted, animals will run away and you'll need to track them down again.

An alternative to stalking prey is lure hunting. To do this, find a nice spot, hide yourself as much as you can, and then use one or more lures to attract the attention of local animals. Once they get close enough, ready your weapon and aim carefully. This tends to work surprisingly well, as you can often get spooked animals to come back a few moments later. The only drawback is that you need to match your lures to the species you're trying to attract. For example, the antler rattler does a really good job of drawing the attention of fallow deer, but it doesn't really work with anything else.

After you've successfully killed something, you need to go collect your trophy (ie, the body). This is a simple matter of walking over and picking it up, but once you do, you're presented with a nifty x-ray vision report of what you did to the animal, such as which organs were damaged by the bullets. This screen also tallies up your score for the kill, including various bonuses for things like killing the animal quickly or using the proper equipment to fell it.

And that's the basic game. There are missions to complete and a little story that goes along with them, but for the most part, you're on your own in a huge world teeming with things to hunt, objects to collect, and places to explore. Personally, I found the tracking mechanic somewhat boring, and I didn't really care for killing the virtual animals. I'd rather shoot zombies, demons, or something else instead. But, it's clear to me that this game is pretty popular among its intended audience, so YMMV.

Pros

Many types of game to hunt
The exact species that can be found in an area varies from reserve to reserve, but as a general rule there are deer, larger game like moose, and some smaller game like red fox or jackrabbits in each area. Many of the species travel in groups, and with a bit of luck, you can track a few of them down.


Four reserves to explore
By default, you have two reserves to explore. These are the Hirschfelden and Layton Lake District, which are located in Germany and America respectively. Two more reserves are available as DLC, and offer another two gigantic maps to explore. Aside from the aforementioned "need zones", each area also contains other things to see, such as lookout posts, buildable blinds, landmarks, outposts, and points of interest. Importantly, outposts are used as fast travel locations and starting points, so try to find them as quickly as possible.


Four weapon types
When non-hunters think of hunting, we tend to picture gruff dudes with rifles. While this is one of the choices (and a generally good option all around), there are three other types of firearm you can wield -- ie, pistols, shotguns, and crossbows. But remember: regardless of your preferred weapon, you need to use the right weapon for each kind of prey or you'll be penalized for it.


Steam achievements
There are a whopping 122 achievements to earn in this game. Many of these revolve around doing something a large number of times, but there are also achievements for tricky things like downing an animal from 200+ meters. Earning all of them is going to take a lot of time and effort.


Multiplayer friendly
Why hunt alone when you can bring some friends? Up to eight players can hunt together in a single massive game. Just don't be the jerk that drives the ATVs everywhere.


Cons

High learning curve
And how. This game doesn't play like your typical first person shooter, so if you think you're familiar with shooting games, you're in for a big surprise. You're not going to just start the game and instantly be able to roleplay as Daniel Boone or Davey Crockett. The tutorials are helpful, but there's a huge gap between knowing how to play and being able to play well. Plus, at the beginning of a new game you're going to be spending most of your time just learning the layouts of the various reserves, so don't expect to see much of anything for some time.


Some of the DLC probably should've been part of the main game
This isn't a cheap game, and it feels like a bit of a rip off to have to buy a DLC package to use the ATVs. This is especially true when you're just getting started, as simply getting around the map will require a huge amount of time if you're on foot. Of course, you can't hunt while using the ATV (they are far, far too loud) but you can use them to find outposts, which in turn let you fast travel across the map.


Periodic crashes
I don't normally have issues with games crashing, but this game did so a number of times. Crashes were more common when I was wandering around near water, such as lakesides or by one of the rivers. At one point I actually encountered a BSOD; I haven't seen one of those in a very long time. Fortunately, there is an automatic reporting feature that will hopefully allow the developers to create patches for these issues.


Concerns and Issues

Blood and bodily injuries
Hunting is about killing things, so yeah, there's a good amount of blood to be found in this game. When you shoot an animal, the amount of damage you did is reflected in the size of the initial blood splatter that forms on the ground nearby. If the wound wasn't instantly fatal, the animal will try to get away from you, and in addition to their normal tracks (and manure), there will be a blood trail you can follow.

It's also kind of gross, but injuries are also depicted somewhat realistically. For example, a broken jaw will just dangle there, and if your shot crippled the animal, then they'll limp as they move. Note that bad shots like this are discouraged: you get fewer points (and thus less of a reward) for letting the animal suffer.


You're not exactly safe either
Animals can attack you, though it rarely happens. However, you can also hurt yourself in a number of ways. For example, like a lot of things in this game, it's realistic about fall damage. Don't try jumping down a cliff. If you take enough damage, you'll actually fall over dead and need to respawn at the nearest outpost.


Hunting in general
A lot of people have moral issues with hunting. This game doesn't pull its punches, as it makes no attempt to disguise or hide the fact that you've killed something. The closest it comes to sugarcoating the idea is to use the term "harvesting" to refer to collecting the animal's carcass. As this is immediately followed up with a detailed report of what you did to the animal, it's not pretending to hide anything.