Hunt Showdown impressions - 5 years on

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On February 22nd 2018, Hunt: Showdown exploded into the mainstream through Steam early access. Through incredibly positive reception and a loyal fanbase, it was almost immediately followed up with some truly wonderful-looking console ports that still endure today.

When I first managed to get my hand on a review code for Xbox One back in 2020, I was delighted at just how great the game looked and felt on a then-matured platform and it really felt as if the title was pushing the limits of the hardware. Today the game is packed with stunning DLC, including The Committed, The Beast Hunter, Bayou Wrath, Through the Bone Briar, The Kid and Cold Blooded: however, it is absolutely Crying out for its own "next-gen" upgrade, which in my opinion, is already at least 2 years overdue!

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Having originally played it on the Xbox One, I was now re-playing it on PS5 via PS4 compatibility and thoroughly enjoyed the locked 60 FPS aspect combined with, what I consider to be, a far superior controller, Sony's DualSense. The game feels intuitive, sleek and easy to pick up and play, and by all accounts, it really is a playable title once you understand the core concepts and have a good strategy in mind each time you encounter an enemy or another player.

The PvPvE aspect of the game is both a blessing and a curse when I constantly find myself hammering through the game as if its Call of Duty, locating all the clues and battling gigantic Boss foe without so much as even a sniff of another player: only to be downed by someone camping outside the boss battle and stealing my glory seconds before the hostile reaches zero health. It frustrated me, repeatedly, but forced me to change tactics, which paid off in the end!

In one game I actually loaded in and all the other players vanished, so I got to explore the entire map, find all the clues, and decimate everything on it in my own time, with no fear of being assassinated. It was clearly unintentional, but provided me with a marvellous lone-wolf adventure!

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(Left: realistic reflection. Right: tilted down a couple of degrees the reflections change entirely)​

The game looks fantastic on the surface with great geometry and a stunning amount of detail that give the environments a truly "hyper-realistic" edge. But as I mentioned in my 2018 review, the SRS (screen space reflections) are still overwhelmingly heinous. I don't quite understand why these haven't been dialled back or toned down in the bountiful number of updates there have been between 1.02 and 1.76.

I jumped into a body of water and was instantly reminded that the weapon in hand would be awkwardly reflected onto the entire surrounding reflective surface in a completely nonsensical way. It's almost uncomfortable to look at, with SRS tearing through the foliage with complete abandon for perspective.

Another oddity is when you're looking dead ahead across any amount of water: you have a completely different reflection to that which you see when you tilt your head back even just a few degrees.

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(A ghostly apparition of a crane in the reflections: spookily inaccurate)​

In one puddle I noted vegetation reflected, but I looked up and the reflection changed to that of a non-existent piece of crane-like machinery. The switch between screen space and pre-rendered reflections is unsightly and excessively obvious, the transition between them is as unsubtle as being hit in the face with an axe.

One could argue that it's not game-breaking, however, it is completely immersion-breaking. Walk up a ladder, which oddly requires you to press a button to use first, and any water viewed between the rungs gets botched reflections flitting through them. Strafing around an enemy who is up high in a water-saturated area of the map and, as mentioned before, the screen changes reflection method mid-flow and the resulting aesthetic is ruined even the spectator modes are action-packed, but sadly devoid of realism. This is all the more ironic given how great the "Cry" monikered engines usually display their historically incredible graphics.

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(Turning just a couple of degrees to the left and the stylistic foggy shroud completely vanishes)​

Hunt has some seriously thick acrid atmosphere behind it, and in building these environments with its layers of detritus and death the lighting is crucial in further enhancing the player's overall experience. Being stalked around a dimly lit basement with smashed shards of glass crunching underfoot, creepy chimes and chains clinking in the background, and a behemoth-sized blood-lusting killing machine storming after you is always exhilarating!

Along with the water issues, I still noticed quite a few internal lighting anomalies that stopped me in my tracks and made me wonder just what the heck was going on. For example: upon entering one cesspit of a dungeon, I was scouting around for ammunition and came across a dankly lit dungeon. Skulking around I searched each corner of that area and inexplicably the dingy foggy atmosphere vanished when I turned towards one wall, and then reappeared if I turned back to face it head-on.

This effect seems to carry the internal illumination, and when it vanished the entire personality of that environment altered into something less interesting and spooky, and more obvious and less oppressive. I don't know quite what is going on there but my immersion and focus were shattered at that moment.

To put it finely: the game looks perfectly fine outdoors when partaking in medium-range and CQB frays, though when you introduce aquatic areas, the spyglass or scope; the game really takes a tumble and looks dreadful by today's expectations.

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(Zooming in to distant detail looks like a muddy low LOD PS2 game)​

Would a ray-tracing-flavoured lick of paint go some way to fix this, probably, but at what cost? We already have rather nice smooth 60 FPS frame rates when played through a PS5, but if any of Crytec's currently active online games could benefit from ray tracing and enhanced lighting effects to plant it firmly on the current generation of consoles: it's this one. Whilst playability must prevail in an online game such as this, it simply has to keep up with the times to satiate stoic fans and newcomers alike.

The developers have already shown that the can flex their creative muscles on PC with unlocked framerates, improved resolutions and increased LOD, however the Cry Engine in use here (Cry Engine 5) still lacks ray tracing (which I believe is available in Cry Engine 5.7) and even PC players are still sounding off at the absurdity of the water "reflections" in their beloved game. Meanwhile, console gamers are also having to deal with shockingly slow loading times, dire mid to long-distance pop-in and frankly ghastly low LOD models when sniping at long distances.

Blast it with higher-resolution assets, thicker foliage, and revitalized water effects, and what a package this would be!

Hunt: Showdown remains a fantastic game from a playability aspect, don't get me wrong. The game packs in plenty of zombie-crushing, fire-trapping, and bounty-hunting action combined with some truly replayable modes and unlockable features that keep bringing you back time and time again to flesh out those hired hunters. However, from a technical aspect, it is in dire need of a generational overhaul if it is to REALLY succeed on the PS5 or Xbox Series X markets and bring in fresh new players who want their games to not only run superbly but look realistically faultless on their latest piece of hardware.

Come on Crytek: give us the update we are crying for!
 

AmandaRose

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Thank you for the extremely kind words :)
You are welcome. After my few rather terrible official gbatemp reviews a few years back I read absolutely everything you and the rest of the team post on here so as I can learn and improve myself. I really liked the way you wrote this one so just had to tell you:)
 
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