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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.

I have used this ‘Birdshot’ title for a few years to post about my hunting experiences in The Hunter: Call of the Wild. I like to think I have used it wisely and well to explain and advertise a game that has issues with the community outside of its players – In my own experience Driving trucks is not the same as shooting Deer…One is unlikely to spook anyone while the other can result in an angry reaction. So, before I go any further… In real life I do not intentionally kill any form of wildlife. If I go hunting, it’s with a camera and my most controversial subjects are humans going about their daily lives. It never fails to amaze me that shooting Humans or Zombies in a computer game is ok but Deer is not?.. There may be a values issue out there but I don’t think that it’s my issue. Ok – Needed to get that off my chest because there is a new hunting game out on PC, PS5 and XBox.

Last week a new kid on the block arrived. Until now, in my opinion, there have only been 2 options for gamers looking for serious simulations of hunting – one’s that make you really work for your kills, don’t reward failure and provide realistic graphics as a framework. That was The Hunter – an online free to play game – and The Hunter: Call of the Wild – the paid application – both from Expansive Worlds. Although made by the same developers, they are very different. Real world hunters, mainly from the US, view the web based game as being more true to the real world hunting experience. I found it ‘clunky’ as a computer gamer and that’s probably why ‘Call of the Wild’ came into being – an attempt to make the genre more accessible to non-hunters while also bringing in some additional money to fund further development.

The new arrival is called Way of the Hunter and comes from Nine Rocks Games via publisher THQ Nordic. It’s definitely going to provide a real challenger to Call of the Wild despite having some issues at launch. It has some excellent scenery – here’s some examples…

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But, additionally, it is already drawing praise from the same hunting community on YouTube that have always stood behind The Hunter as being the most accurate game out there – the animals behaviour in this game is very realistic. I can’t use real world personal experience to verify that but let me tell you an in-game anecdote from hunting a little earlier this week. I was crouch-walking up a grassy bank when I heard a deer bleat ahead. It was a warning and I new I was detected by scent. I crept up to the top of the bank and saw a small gathering of Mule Deer looking straight at me. Then, the males first, they slowly made ‘nasty smell around here’ motions with their heads and peeled off to walk majestically down the hill away from me. I could have taken a shot at the last doe, but it didn’t feel right. I let her go and set about planning my end around manoeuvre to get a fresh shooting position. That moment in time felt so real for me and that’s something this game seems to be delivering.

There’s a lot more that I would need to cover to give a potential player a good view of what this game is about, so I think I will need another Birdshot post soon to explain the gameplay. However, I do think it would be remiss of me not to tell that there is a storyline within the game that emphasises ethical hunting. The game as a whole explains the right ways to hunt including why correct management of a deer herd is important to ensure a good gene pool. I can’t say that I’ve seen that in a game before and hopefully the message of ethical hunting will be passed on.

Details of what’s good and bad about this game to follow soon 😎

In my closeout post for last year I suggested that I would be resetting my The Hunter – Call of the Wild profile and starting out again. I have now done that and set out on the trail anew with a couple of ideas of how I want to progress. I have decided that I will be using mainly the weapons that are free to me courtesy of the DLC’s I have bought plus those guns that are given free to everyone. The exceptions will be those that I need to purchase for certain tasks, ie the Coachmate 45-70 which I will need to complete one of Doc’s challenges in Layton Lakes. Another exception will be the Docent .223 which I will need for Fox and Coyote while reducing the weight I need to carry.

Although I will be using equipment that is not available to all beginners (depending on whether they own the basic game or a bundle including some of the DLC’s), Some of what I will be talking about will be beneficial to those who may have decided to give the game a try and are looking for advice. So let’s start there.

When you kick off, it’s normal to choose either Layton Lakes or Hirschfelden. If you bought a bundle and have other reserves available to you like Medved Taiga and Vurhonga Savannah, you can start there instead but I would suggest against that. Both have very challenging missions presented early on that require equipment and skills that the absolute beginner does not have.

I usually start in Hirschfelden. In each of the original reserves, the first mission is designed to give you your first kill with a small deer that is just standing around waiting for you to shoot it. You’re given some basic weapons – The .243 rifle, a 12 gauge shotgun and the .357 handgun. Also in your pack are three lures – Roe Deer, Bleat and JackRabbit callers (the latter being designed to call Fox and Coyote). You also get basic binoculars. My usual plan of action when starting (I’ve done it a few times for a variety of reasons) is to use a caller to bring the deer to me and then shoot it side on at close range with the shotgun. This will normally result in a quick kill.

Ok, That’s normally. Animals being contrary, don’t always respond to calls! This time my sacrificial Roe Deer stood firm at the bottom of the hill with her nose in the air and ignored me. Which at least gives me the opportunity to demonstrate the deficiencies of the .243 rifle when using soft point amunition (which you get a lot of in your starting pack and is always available for free)…

…Low powered soft point amunition doesn’t have the ability to penetrate muscle. You can see that the shot was on target to probably hit the animal’s heart and one of the lungs but the bullet just can’t get through the muscle at the front of the chest. The result is the deer runs off for a moderate distance before succumbing to blood loss and I loose some XP and cash. So, the first advice for any beginner is try to shoot all your early animals from close range and the side until you unlock access to Polymer Tipped amunition. Even then, side-on shots are generally a safer option as you have a larger target to hit with less muscle and bone in the way!

I made my way through the rest of the introductory missions to the first outpost. Often you will pick up another kill or two on the way there to boost your finances but on this occasion, no other animals crossed my path which limited my options – the weapons I was going to add might be free but the amunition certainly isn’t! Here’s my first loadout…

I have retained the .243 with its soft point ammo because it is still an effective option for Fox. My main rifle is the Solokhin which uses 7.62mm rounds. These are also soft point but any similarity with the .243 ends there. The 7.62mm is a military round and has plenty of power to give you the penetration needed. I’ve also got the Koter bow which is a very effective close range weapon. Finally, I have the Muertos .45 pistol – significantly more capable than the 357 because it has Hard Cast ammunition rather than soft point.

Hunting for Deer by the lake near the Rathenfeldt outpost gives an opportunity for enjoy the view through the binoculars as the Fallow come down to drink (usually mid-morning)…

…and that’s what I’m waiting for…

…a male Fallow has joined them. Another lesson for any beginner in this game – patience is a virtue. The male animal of most species is usually worth more in cash and xp than the female because of the trophy factor of those horns, so it’s worth the wait to see if a better animal appears. Let’s see how the 7.62 ammo does from a similar angle to our .243 shot…

…This time the bullet has penetrated the muscle at the front of the chest and hit the lung. The animal went down very quickly, which is what we want 🙂

I also did some hunting with the bow earlier, bringing down a female Fallow…

…One of the advantages of bow hunting is that it is almost silent. Being unsure what had happened, the other females wandered back allowing me to shoot another. Another example of being patient paying dividends – don’t be in too much of a hurry to claim your kill or you may miss the opportunity of a follow-up! Until recently, the hunting pressure created by using a bow was the same as any of the noisier weapons but the developers have listened to the community and now using a bow creates much less ‘pressure’ than a rifle as shown by this map…

…The bright pink is my Fallow Deer male rifle kill while the dark shading to the left is where I had bow kills 🙂 I wonder if a similar modification will be made for using an air rifle – might be too complicated to implement as it sits somewhere between the bow and a normal rifle for noise.

Finally, if you quickly check back to my loadout, you’ll see Scent Eliminator down the bottom – another thing that you get given when you start. I don’t use it – just haven’t got around to replacing it with the much more useful first aid kit! However, it serves to provide a reason to show this early hunter’s profile and talk about frightening animals…

…The way most animals are scared away is through sound. Noise is unavoidable when hunting but you can minimise it by crouching while moving through the undergrowth. So, if you’re going somewhere in a hurry – walk along the road or track – it makes less noise than walking through the undergrowth and therefore scares fewer animals 🙂 You’ll notice that no animals have been scared by my scent – that’s partly because I do try to keep myself downwind of animals that I’m hunting and partly because the animals become aware of a presence through scent but it is not usually the deciding factor in them fleeing. Although I have experimented with the Scent Eliminator in the past and believe it does reduce the chances of an animal detecting you, it’s marginal. You can probably throw it in the bin for all the good it might do and save some weight 😉

I’ll be back with another Birdshot in the future. No animals were harmed during the making of this post. Now I’m off to feed the birds in the garden 🙂