This is my experience with theHunter Call of the Wild. A title that finds you wandering through an open plain surrounded by towering, autumnal trees, and you’re waiting patiently for your sights to hold steady over the left lung of a lone deer, waiting for the wind to reduce, finger on the trigger, then BAM. The bullet leaves your glossy rifle, travels through the air and the wind carries it from the lung to the neck. You still get a hit, the deer jolts in agony, and runs away into the forest. Time to get tracking and claim your trophy.
theHunter Call of the Wild is a huge open-world game created by developer, Expansive Worlds and publisher, Avalanche Studios. It was launched in February 2017, with the previous title The Hunter that was released in 2009 by developer, Emote Games and also published by Avalanche Studios. Eventually the publisher gained full rights to the title and formed Expansive Worlds to continue development of the title. This led to the 2015 spin-off title, “theHunter Primal” and the first title to use the “theHunter” section in the title.
theHunter Call of the Wild is the latest release in the series, and I’m playing it seven months after release, with some free DLC packs being available to install, but also, this piece features the ATV SABER 4×4 DLC pack which costs just under £3. I’ll touch on the ATV a bit later, let’s get into the game though, so put on your best walking boots and we’ll get trekking through.
You’re faced with the choice of two worlds to hunt amongst in theHunter Call of the Wild, Layton Lake District is one, and Hirschfelden Hunting Reserve is the other. Both have their own characteristics, with the Lake District seemingly coming across as more mountainous and gloomy, and Hirschfelden being a vast, beautiful sprawling woods. They’re both about 50 square miles and populated with a wide range of wildlife to tuck a lovely shiny bullet into. You take control of a not-very-customisable character, who in single-player mode is tasked with missions to hunt and harvest certain creatures, take pictures of other creatures, discover lookout points, and claim outposts dotted around the huge maps. The missions can take a fairly long time depending on how you approach it, obviously you need to have the element of surprise, so stealth is usually always a requirement as animals will flee from you if you make noise within a mile from them. Although, saying that, on numerous occasions I’ve sprinted to an area to find myself no more than 9 feet from a deer who hasn’t heard or seen me.
There are various weapons in theHunter Call of the Wild to eventually purchase after levelling up your character and their weapon levels, allowing you to go on the hunt with a rifle, shotgun, bow, or handgun. Ammo, and sights can be purchased for these, and the more successful hunts you go on, the more the selected weapons category increases. You purchase these from outposts around the map, which for some reason have to be “claimed”, which from a realism approach doesn’t make sense as you’re in reserves, but I guess the game needs it to give you a skill points boost during hunting downtime.
When it comes to hunting digital wildlife, you see most animals leaving tracks on the floor, indicated by pulsating cyan highlights, when near you can inspect said track, which will either tell you the freshness of the overly pooped poo, or which direction the tracks head off, and at what pace. Tracking times can vary, which really puts the thrill of the hunt into you, with some quick tracking sessions leading to excitement on finding the prey so soon, and the longer tracking sessions becoming more tedious, but suspenseful due to becoming more engrossed in your prey, and not wanting to lose it by making a mistake like moving too quickly. There are some animals that don’t seem to leave tracks, such as rabbits, and so far, I haven’t been able to shoot any birds down, but I’m not sure if I’m just a terrible aim or if the wind keeps carrying my bullet. Another thing to mention would be the harvesting your successful hunt. Basically, you head over to the corpse and hit E to harvest it, which brings up an ugly HUD detailing where you shot the creature, which shot was the most damaging, and other fancy stats, such as weapons used.
There’s a multiplayer mode, which for me really changes theHunter Call of the Wild. Throughout single-player you’re on your own, just you and nature. When a friend gets involved it becomes a much more stronger title, you both get to work together finding the right track, being tactical with lures and open spaces, and making jokes about poop. It also makes those tedious hunts more bearable, and considering the game seems to be a glitchy mess, which I’ll get into shortly, it seems to run smoothly Online, with hardly any lag, and I was able to host a match without any struggle in the easy to setup menu.
It does suffer from various glitches though, such as Stuart, the big thumb here at Thumb Culture finding himself suddenly flying away several yards in front of himself, myself weirdly glitching through a little tower, then they tower saying we couldn’t go in because max capacity had been reached. You can also shoot a deer right in the face and it’ll still be able to run away for 1.81m before collapsing dead. Occasionally the characters item models fail to load, and the ATV’s don’t seem to show damage despite the bar showing otherwise.
The ATV SABRE DLC basically introduces one ATV to theHunter Call of the Wild in three colours, and allows you to travel the map a lot quicker than sprinting everywhere. While it’s a good idea, and while it comes across as very slidy and hard to control, the fact that you need to pay just under £3 for a feature that should have been introduced upon launch bothers me. The world is huge, and yet you’re expected to wander around it on foot, which while it’s super gorgeous, it really doesn’t spur you on to explore it all by foot because of how daunting the thought is. You can watch a video of Thumb Culture’s very own, Stuart and myself on the hunt for a bear here.
The realism of theHunter Call of the Wild certainly shows almost instantly, with a heartbeat indicator to determine how relaxed you are, thus affecting your steadiness when aiming down the sight. The quicker you move, or the more foliage you move through, the more noise you make, drawing attention to yourself and scaring away the prey. The rain and wind affecting ranged shots, with wind being shown either through a green indicator in the bottom right, or by watching the surrounding particles that float through the map and using them as a guide to how strong the wind is. The grass, branches, bushes, and flowers all move in relation to you moving through them, although some flowers just look like they’re a 2D piece of cloth when you go through them slow enough to notice
theHunter Call of the Wild is incredibly pretty, and surrounds you with randomised, dynamic weather. The thing is though, it feels like the weather passes too quickly between one another. One moment you can be in a downfall of rain, but then two minutes later the rain passes. The fog is incredible, and I’m a sucker for fog, but it really creates an atmosphere that finds you forgetting you’re hunting and instead marvelling at the surrounding. The rain doesn’t feel incredibly realistic as there appears to be no floor or water impacts from raindrops, so really the rain is just falling through the world. However, your clothes to become wet and shiny!
Another thing I noticed was that despite having the graphics set to Ultra, the textures, and foliage in the distance vanish and the world becomes a bit like a crap painting. In honesty, while I respect that this is more than likely happening due to the world being so large, so only loading textures within a certain radius seems sensible, that fact it happens only a few yards away in a game where you use scopes is a bit surprising. The game does come with the occasional graphical bugs, such as plants moving in the wrong direction when you push through them, some loading times on textures take a fair while, and during Online gameplay, when gaining an outpost, you can see the other players, but your body vanishes. Seemed a bit weird. Water isn’t particularly wonderful either with reflections becoming stretched and buggy.
The game does rely heavily on sound work, and it succeeds in this area. While animal noises in the distance can seem oddly loud considering how far away you are before tracking them, they are wonderfully captured and the noise becomes a prominent noise in your mind, with you eventually distinguishing between noises. The gentle wind flutters past, the crunching of the grass, the splashing of the water, the echo of your gunshot, even the echo of your friends gunshot from miles away…all fantastically captured, all amazingly immersive. I honestly can’t fault the audio. Oh wait, the voiceovers are a bit loud, and very startling, especially if they suddenly cut in during a lengthly period of silence. Thank goodness there’s volume sliders.
It’s a great game with enough procedural generation going on in various aspects, such as animal locations, weather, and the like, and the experience is always going to be different and require different approaches, especially when you start getting other weapons involved. The multiplayer system could be improved by allowing players to customise their characters a bit more than they currently can, and it would be nice if other players could see your waypoints rather than just following the leader. You gain trophies throughout, but they seem forgotten about, a trophy room at a safehouse would be amazing to have included.
A very solid game with a great deal of thought and passion that’s gone into it and gleams through like the warm sun rays peeking through the tree leaves. While improvements would make the game even more enjoyable, there’s no denying that playing it alone or with a few friends isn’t fun enough. The thrill of the hunt is captured marvellously through this title, and I’ve found myself returning again, and again, to hunt digital wildlife.
I’m going to give this title a Silver award with a 7/10
Disclaimer: We received a game code to complete our review