There I am, alone in the jungle. My squad of four soldiers are being tasked with destroying a pipeline that is being used as a weapon by a terror organization. Two of them attack the pipeline, while myself and the last soldier take up opposite ends of the area and handle crowd suppression. All is quiet, when suddenly a notification comes up; one of our men is down. I run over, medical supplies in hand, to revive him, as an explosion rips the air behind me. I get my ally up and turn around to see the other two dead on the ground, the Predator standing just behind them and rushing towards us.
Predator: Hunting Ground is a game built around moments of tension like this. An asymmetrical multiplayer shooter, the game splits lobbies of five players into two groups; four soldiers and one Predator, in a fight for survival in dense jungle environments. The game is a little rough around the edges at times, but Predator: Hunting Grounds ultimately offers a remarkably enjoyable multiplayer experience.
The game offers a brief tutorial, though only for the Predator. It’s…okay, introducing you to the basics of gameplay as the Predator, though it does leave out a couple of key mechanics, mostly a Target Isolation scanner which is essential to your hunt; we’ll talk more about that later, though. While the tutorial is a little lacking, gameplay as the Predator is actually a lot of fun, and impressively fluid and easy to control.
"The real fun of playing as the Predator, though, is the fluid movement controls, called Predkour in a groan inducing combination of the words predator and parkour."
The Predator is controlled from a third-person perspective, unlike the first-person soldiers, and is all about mobility and using your superior endurance and tools in smart and effective ways. You can turn yourself temporarily invisible, activate the Predator’s classic thermal vision, and activate the aforementioned target isolation scanner, which highlights the general location of the target players while in thermal vision.
The real fun of playing as the Predator, though, is the fluid movement controls, called Predkour in a groan inducing combination of the words predator and parkour. The mechanics are anything but groan inducing, however. Everything with your movement is tied to the X button, which allows you to climb trees and hop between different elevations, across the branches, and move from tree to tree. The whole thing is pretty easy to pick up, and very solid in its implementation; I rarely had the game send me in a direction I didn’t intend during parkour. The predator also has a powerful leap option, allowing you to jump great distances, which can be leveraged into a pretty powerful area-of-effect ground slam attack.
Despite this arsenal of tools at your disposal, however, playing as the Predator is actually pretty challenging. There’s the obvious fact that you’re alone against a squad of four other players, who know you’re out there, somewhere. But there’s also the mechanics themselves; most of your abilities, from your thermal vision to your ground slam, are tied to an energy meter that drains with every use of an ability.
It recharges, but fairly slowly. This requires you to be smart, no only in your approach against the other players, but also your approach to using your abilities. It’s certainly the most challenging part of the game, but that makes it the most rewarding as well. When everything finally clicks, and you get that perfect stealth kill, or finally wipe the enemy team for the very first time, it’s an incredibly satisfying feeling.
"The end result of this is a multiplayer experience that, despite looking fairly limited given its lack of other modes, is actually a refreshingly enjoyable experience."
Playing as the Predator is a blast, but impressively, so is playing as the soldiers. As a human, you are dropped on the map as part of a squad of four, and are actually given a full mission to accomplish, complete with AI soldiers that must be fought as part of the process. Each map has a different objective, and while they’re all variations on the same theme (such as hacking into a terminal and placing transponders to spy on enemy traffic), there’s enough variety in them to keep the maps, which admittedly all look and otherwise feel pretty similar, from getting stale.
And throughout your mission, the Predator player is out there, stalking you. It’s a nice twist on these kinds of asymmetrical games, which often have no other objective for the hunted players than simple survival. Here, you actually have a task to complete, with multiple objectives and plenty of enemies to fight. Victory doesn’t just come from outlasting the clock or killing the Predator; it can also come from actually completing your mission and successfully extracting. This serves to mix up matches really well, as even the same map can play out wildly differently based on how you approach the objective and which type of victory your team ultimately ends up chasing.
The end result of this is a multiplayer experience that, despite looking fairly limited given its lack of other modes, is actually a refreshingly enjoyable experience. I played dozens of matches as both Predator and as a soldier, and never once found myself feeling bored, or like I was repeating myself. The game capitalizes on the obvious fact that different players will take different approaches, and then cleverly supports that with a few key choices to add further variety, to create an experience with surprising longevity.
"Predator: Hunting Grounds is a lot of fun to play, and well worth the investment for those looking for an enjoyable, sometimes even a little nerve-wracking, multiplayer shooter."
The game certainly isn’t without its flaws, of course. The progression system is adequate, offering a decent selection of perks, equipment, and cosmetics that can be unlocked for both the Predator and soldiers through a combination levelling and an in-game currency (which thankfully isn’t too hard to acquire).
These are fine, and do add a bit of incentive if there is a particular item you want to grind for. In my experience, though, there just isn’t enough differentiation, particularly in the weapon unlocks; unless a gun is noticeably better than the rest of the options, which a couple of them are, unlocked weapons don’t feel drastically different than the starter ones. There are a couple of perks and items that also feel distinctly over or underpowered. Thankfully, they don’t really effect the balance of actual gameplay too much, but it is something worth mentioning.
Overall, Predator: Hunting Grounds is an unexpected success, one that puts a couple of fun twists on the asymmetrical shooter genre to create a game that’s an absolute blast to play. Crossplay opens up the player base immensely, and makes it easy to find a populated match; load times are a bit slow as of release, though the developers are aware of the problem, and things had improved by the end of my review.
Between solid controls, clever and enjoyable gameplay, and a plethora of things to earn for both character, there’s no shortage of entertainment to be had from this game. The game is only online; there’s no offline option of any kind, not even for private matches, so if you’re on Playstation and don’t have PS Plus, you’re out of luck. But otherwise, Predator: Hunting Grounds is a lot of fun to play, and well worth the investment for those looking for an enjoyable, sometimes even a little nerve-wracking, multiplayer shooter.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Strong gameplay as both soldier and Predator; fluid controls; playing the Predator is an absolute blast.
Lack of any sort of offline play is a bit disappointing; the tutorial leaves a bit to be desired