- Release Date (NA): July 16, 2020
- Publisher: Nacon
- Developer: Neopica
- Genres: Hunting, Simulation
- Also For: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Petting Doggo Hunting Simulator, wow!
Ahhh hunting simulators, truly one of the best ways to experience the hunt: you don’t have to get up early, you don’t have to sit in a forest freezing your ass off, there are animals aplenty for you to stalk and hunt, and overall it’s just a real chill time!...at least, if you have the patience. Hunting Simulator 2 is exactly that: a hunting simulator and boy is the title a lot more accurate than I thought it would be. Hunting Simulator 2 is the sequel to the previous game from Neopica/Nacon, featuring over 160 weapons, 33 different animals, and 3 locations with over 6 square miles of various kinds of terrain to hunt in! Sounds exciting! But is it? Well, yes, but actually no. Hunting Simulator 2 isn’t like some of the more popular simulators: you’re not going to be tripping over animals every few feet, tracking requires absolute patience and attentiveness, and god forbid you don’t have the proper license or weapon type for the animal you’re hunting because fines exist in this game and they will ruin you. Yes, Hunting Simulator 2 takes the simulation aspect of hunting games and turns it up to 11, which is good in some cases but less so in others. But before we get into the meat of that, let’s go over the general mechanics of the game.
Hunting Simulator 2’s major gameplay mechanics are about what you expect: you head out into the wild, you hunt an animal, track it, claim it, and then choose to either sell it for cash or keep it as a trophy for your hunting lodge. Generally speaking, the major mechanics are just about the same as every other hunting game you've played. But, unlike most other hunting simulators, there are some changes and additions to the normal gameplay mechanics that both help and hinder Hunting Simulator 2. The first thing I’m going to mention is DOGGOS! You can finally go out hunting with your best bud, starring three different breeds that specialize in three main skills: retrieving (via three different labrador colors), tracking and flushing (via the beagle, which is your default starting companion), and pointing (via pointing doggo name I forget), all of which will be relatively helpful depending on what it is you’re hunting. Going after smaller game like rabbits, geese, or duck? Bring a retriever with you, and he’ll run out and collect the smaller animals that you successfully hunt. Looking to take on bigger game that are a bit tougher to take down? Bring your beagle with you, and he’ll help flush out the animals by barking and track them down via blood trails. Pointer dogs, on the other hand, do exactly that: They’ll point out game to you by silently pointing towards your prey, so you can (hopefully) get a good, clean, and silent kill. All doggos are capable of basic tracking, and have additional skills they can increase the more you hunt and the more you praise them. And, most importantly, you get to name your doggo, and pet him whenever you like. I named my beagle Sif, the Great Beagle Hunting Dog because look at that good girl/boy!
So what do you do with all that sweet cash you earn from your sweet animal hunts? Why, buy clothes, of course, the most important part of hunting!...well, besides the guns and the items and the licenses, I guess. Yes, if you ever wanted a hunting simulator+dress up game, then Hunting Simulator 2 is for you! There are supposedly some kind of stat difference between them, with each piece of clothing affecting either your visibility, or giving you some kind of advantage in different weather. In practice, however, I've never really experienced any kind of difference, I've worn different visibility rated clothing and found no real enhancement or hindrance in stealth, and in all my playtime I've never really seen any different weather beyond sunny. The more important purchases that you should be focusing on are licenses, which I will touch on below, and the various weapons and items available for purchase. Weapon-wise, you can choose from various different rifles, shotguns, assault rifles, and bow and arrows, all of which will feature different caliber ammunition that are better suited to hunting different kinds of game. Shotguns, for example, are generally restricted to hunting the various kinds of birds you'll find around each area, whereas bow and arrows/crossbows tend to work for nearly all kinds of game, although you'll sacrifice accuracy and range. Items included in Hunting Simulator 2 are pretty standard for hunting games--you'll find animal calls, scent attractants, scent killers, and range finders/binoculars, all of which work pretty much as you'd expect them to.
One of the next changes is the way tracking works. In most previous hunting simulation games when you find a track you choose to follow, it’s usually pointed out to you in some obvious way. Some games just use bright, highlighted tracks and general information on things like the age of the tracks or direction the animal was heading, others will occasionally just point out the animal directly to you. But this isn’t necessarily the case with Hunting Simulator 2. Animal tracks, instead of being highlighted in a very obvious way, are simply dark and hard to see. You do get to know the general age of the track, you can see which direction they go, and they do flash, but it’s a barely visible grey color that you’d be lucky to spot at the best of times unless you’re just staring at ground 24/7. Following these tracks by yourself will be nigh impossible for a few different reasons, the major one being the ungodly amount of foliage that will cover up these tracks. If you’re on PC, I would strongly recommend you turn Foliage to low just so you can actually see what you’re doing. The other reason it’s impossible to track is likely because the developers intend for you to take your doggo out hunting with you every time instead of going out yourself, as they’re able to stay on the trail infinitely better than you ever will (even if they do have to stop every once and a while to refresh the scent). This isn’t necessarily a bad way to implement tracking in a realistic hunting simulator, but this is a video game, and it’s a bit discouraging when I have to resort to what is basically “easy mode tracking” if I wanted to hunt any kind of animal.
Another rather odd choice is the lack of missions/specific targets/goals in the game. There’s no campaign, no real challenges, no super-secret “rare animal” you can find or hunt (that I’ve seen, anyway). You just choose a weapon, choose a location, and hunt whatever it is you want to hunt. In the beginning this ends up being fine, the open-endedness will give you time to best figure out how to go about hunting, but the more you play the less accomplished you’ll feel. After bagging four or five different animals, I started to lose interest as it’s really just the same thing over and over again with no real deviation: You find a track, follow it, take your shot, bag it, and go. There’s nothing really driving you to continue hunting beyond your own interest in hunting, and even then you’ll probably grow bored after the first few hours of just slowly walking/sitting around in a video game doing not much of anything. Hunting Simulator 2 would really benefit from some kind of campaign, something that actually goes through and teaches you how/when you should use items, how best to track and hunt certain animals, where and what to aim for, how to stay silent and stealthy when going after skittish prey. But no, you’re given a quick tutorial in the beginning and thrown into the meat of the game for you to figure everything out on your own.
But perhaps the most infuriating addition, in my opinion, are the FINES. Don’t have a license for the animal you shot? FINE. Hunt an animal more times than your license allows? FINE. Don’t have the correct caliber weapon to hunt the animal you have a license for? FINE. Shoot an animal more than twice because it just won’t goddamn go down (LOOKING AT YOU, BISON-MC-6-SHOTS-WITH-A-.338)? FINE. Shoot the female species of specific animals? FINE. Now I get that these kinds of things are absolutely fine-able and bad practice in the real world, and I absolutely agree that you obviously shouldn’t go out shooting itty bitty rabbits with a high caliber hunting rifle and you shouldn’t go needlessly blasting away 100 times at a poor deer...but making you buy licenses to hunt?? That have a limited number of allowable hunts before you have to buy another goddamn license??? IN A VIDEO GAME?? (And to be clear, this is all with in-game money, not real money. No microtransactions here! Yay!) Again, I get the realism aspect and all that, but this is supposed to be a video game. I shouldn’t have to spend my hard-earned money on a license so I can hunt a cougar one time. It’s like the devs saw the way mobile games work and decided “Hey, that’d go great in our hunting game!” But it doesn’t. It only exists to give you the motivation that’s missing from something like a normal campaign, as noted above, and quite frankly it’s an awful mechanic. I ended up using Cheat Engine to give myself enough cash to buy all the licenses for each location outright, because earning money is so slow (I barely earned $1k in a three-hour hunting session, which isn't even enough to grab a new weapon) that doing it in a legitimate manner would honestly take dozens and dozens of hours, especially with three different locations that you have to buy separate licenses for.
Speaking of locations, you'll get three main areas with Hunting Simulator 2: Colorado, Texas, and "Europe," with each location featuring two different biomes. Colorado features a large forest area and a grassland area, Texas includes a desert plains area and a rocky plateau, and "Europe" includes marshlands and another forest. Each location is home to a different variety of animals, although for the most part they're really quite similar given there are only 33 animal species to share between the six locations. Graphically speaking, all the levels look pretty great, being based on the Unreal Engine 4...at least, up close anyways, as if you decide to scout out more than 500 meters in-game the textures basically go from "great!" to "1998!" real quick. But, since you're probably not going to be searching 500 meters out of your way to find an animal, this isn't going to distract you too much, as the rest of the time you'll be looking at beautiful trees and...plants, mostly.
- Nice selection of dogs you can PET.
- A good selection of weapons.
- Nice array of animals and locations.
- Having limited licenses in a video game is silly.
- Fines should be lessened, or less punishing.