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I promised a more detailed look at the new game Way of the Hunter a couple of weeks back and now I’ve had time to experience the game a bit more, here it is. Any review of this game is bound to include references to other hunting games as they provide a yardstick to judge what is good and what is not. I will try to keep them to a minimum.

When the game released it caused a stir and it is still doing so. It really seems to be a curate’s egg of a game and I think some of that comes down to odd design decisions that were made in the run up to release. Even before beginning to play a couple of these become apparent. Firstly, there was no ability to change the mapping of keys in the game. Being able to change the key-mapping is important for PC players using mouse and keyboard – especially for players who are lefthanded. Although I noticed that one, it didn’t actually affect my play as the mappings worked ok for me. Less obvious to me but clearly important to other players was the lack of an ability to alter the field of view. The default view in the game is 70 degrees and this works quite well for me in giving a good approximation of what I would see though my eye’s IRL. But for other players this was a major issue. A third oddity was the lack of a ‘new game’ option. I like to do a quick test run in a game first before starting my real game save. Sometimes, when a game has a major change, I like to have the ability to restart afresh too. I had to go into the ‘hidden’ files on my drive and delete the save folder manually to achieve this. A final odd choice was to launch with only rifles and shotguns. Many players have wondered ‘where are the pistols and bows?’ At release, in addition to the issues listed above, many players experienced performance problems. There were also animals that spawned right next to you and blood trails that disappeared. I could go on, but you get the picture. The devs worked to fix things quickly. The initial fixes were delivered 9 days after release and inevitably introduced some more issues. Performance was badly hit in forested areas with some players saying the game was now unplayable. There was a lot of anger with accusations that the players were being used as beta testers. It all got quite emotive! The irony is that many of the issues experienced seem to be part and parcel of hunting games – there was a bit of a ‘The Hunter: Call of the Wild’ deja vu about it to me 😉 A second tranche of fixes repaired most things although there are still some anomalies to be ironed out. Now I’ve covered the teething troubles, and this game isn’t yet 100%, let’s take a look at the gameplay.

The game begins with an introductory cut scene that leads straight into a series of tutorials designed to teach the basic elements of game play. As part of this you are given a gun referred to simply as Grandpa’s old rifle. You have to work through the tutorials in order to unlock the other weapons…

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…the first of which, the Remington 783, is used in the final part of the tutorial and unlocks the rest. Note that the rifles are all licensed by the real-world manufacturers. The same is true of a lot of other items in the game – this deer caller for example…

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After completing the tutorials, you are free to play as you like. Perhaps, go off and do some hunting? 😉 However, there is a background story with missions to complete and also some jobs to do for other characters in the game. It is definitely worth doing these as part of your play. The developers have put some real effort into the background tale and even provided animated comic strips that you collect as you progress…

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…These tell you about your history along with that of some of the other characters in the game. It really is a great way to build a background and, I think, surpasses the story missions in other hunting games although one or two of the tales are vaguely similar. The game really pushes the values of ethical hunting and wild meat production through the storylines, so it can be quite educational too. Something that makes doing the story tasks and jobs well worthwhile is the areas which require a permit to hunt – each permit costs 4500…

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…but you can get them for free and earn some cash along the way by doing jobs for the characters in the game.

How realistic is the hunting? Well, you’d need a real-world hunter to answer that and the ones that post on YouTube seem to think that the behaviour of the deer is very realistic on the higher levels. Let me quickly explain the levels: There are 3 that provide some support in the form of a thing called Hunter Sense and a top level that provides no assistance at all. The first 3 levels with Hunter Sense range from very relaxed animals at the lowest level to very easily spooked animals at the highest level. Hunter Sense gives the player enhanced tracking and hearing abilities. The top level is, I understand, easily spooked animals like level 3 but without the aid of Hunter Sense. The game automatically starts you on level 2 – Adventurer – and until you complete all the tutorials, you can’t do anything about it. Then, when you want to change it, you’ll find it hidden in the terrain menu where you choose what map to play – Another odd design choice! Interestingly, if you delete your save to start again the game will remember the level you were playing on and will, for example, start you on level 3 (Hunter) to do your tutorials over again – weird!!! Just some advice that I think is generally agreed – If you are a seasoned Call of the Wild player then you should probably start Way of the Hunter on the ‘Hunter’ level because you already have all the skills necessary to play well at that level. I can report that the deer are very skittish at that level – you will need to approach with guile and probably crawl to get closer in a lot of cases – something I haven’t really ever done in Call of the Wild. The White Tail and Elk are probably most easily scared of the deer I have met so far. Once you have spooked a group of animals you will struggle to get close again as they seem to remain on a heightened state of awareness even when they appear calm. Also, some animals are very secretive, more so than in other hunting games – I’ve found Black Bear prints and scat, but I have yet to see one! Not all the animals behave quite as I would expect either – Pheasants will calmly walk around despite you being clearly visible to them! In my experience, most Pheasant’s that see you from the other side of a large field will quickly hop through the nearest hedge to hide 😉

There’s a lot more I could write but this post has already become overly long. I will try to cover some more of the mechanics of the shooting side of the game and talk about the developer’s intentions for the future in another post soon.

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Showing respect to the fallen.