I found myself wrapped up in an odd imposition with theHunter: Call of the Wild. My only previous experience with the series was theHunter: Primal, a rough around the edges dino-hunting game from a few years back. theHunter: Call of the Wild is much the same thing, except you’re not hunting dinosaurs but rather deer, bears, and all sorts of other wildlife.
The key difference between the two is that I always felt at threat in Primal. Dropped on an island with practically nothing to defend myself, it was always a pure battle for survival. Stumble onto a pack of velociraptors and you were dead meat. In theHunter: Call of the Wild, I am the apex predator. I’m shooting a stag between the eyes for shits and giggles. It’s an uncomfortable experience for me I’m not going to lie. Killing an animal for entertainment doesn’t sit well with me, yet I’m perfectly okay with uproariously laughing as I plug someone in the balls in Sniper Elite 4. The human mind is a curious thing.
Which is a bit of a pity because theHunter: Call of the Wild is an absolutely glorious nature simulator. It looks fantastic, no doubt about it, and certainly a notch or two above Primal. It feels like a living, breathing world inhabited by living, breathing creatures. The landscape you explore is absolutely huge, stretching for miles in any direction and split up into several distinct areas.. The fauna inhabits it naturally, moving to streams to drink, or taking cover in wide open spaces to prevent predators getting the drop. There’s a dynamic weather system and full day/night cycle, all ensuring every hunt you go is never quite the same, even if does essentially boil down to repeating the same task. Night hunts in particular are quite visually arresting. You can go out lamping and just make out the silhouettes of boars scurrying across fields, making for some of the trickiest shots in the game.
Contrary to what I experienced in Primal, there’s also a decent progression system to be found in Call of the Wild. You’re given missions to go out and hunt certain creatures using specific tools (such as a caller) which helps freshen things up. As you complete more tasks you get experience which can unlock new perks or weapons, giving a greater edge on some of the harder hunts.
The basic gist of what you’ll be doing once you’re out there is first of all trekking to the general area where you think you can find the animal you’re after. Once here the tracking process begins. You can look for footprints, examine dung or listen out for the snap of a twig. Obviously this is two-way street so you can’t just go blundering through the undergrowth like Rambo. They can hear and even smell you if you’re downwind.
Eventually you should find your prey (although sometimes you can go a whole day without getting a sniff) and the real point of theHunter begins. Each of the guns has a satisfying crack and there’s a certain grim thrill to be found in steadily lining up the perfect shot. You’ll need to take into account all the usual doodads like wind direction, or position and distance from the target. Make a single mistake a game’s basically up. The prey scatters and you’re back to square one again. Should you hit an animal it’s either a lethal shot, a bleed out, or they can even get away wounded. Wounded animals will attempt to scurry off and potentially bleed out. You’re then tasked with following the blood trail in order to find the animal, where it’s either dead or waiting to be put out of its misery. Then you can chop its head off and put it on a wall.
It’s a fascinating experience. When it works. theHunter: Call of the Wild is absolutely littered with bugs you see. If you’d told me it was in Early Access I’d probably believe you. Sometimes menu buttons don’t respond, animals can glitch out, and occasionally it just crashes completely. None of these were particularly game breaking but then prove a point of frustration. Hopefully these are things which can be sorted out because they detract from what is otherwise a slick game.
I can’t help but feel I’d love theHunter: Call of the Wild if they swapped out the high calibre rifles for a telescopic lens camera. It could’ve been Pokemon Snap for a new era. But alas, it falls back on that age old video game trope of putting a bullet between the eyes of anything that moves.
If hunting is your bag then theHunter is a game which could very much tick all the right boxes for you. Compared to the competition I’ve experienced this is right there at the top of the pile, and it’s a game which is only going to grow as Expansive Worlds continues to layer it with more content.