Illfonic’s new asymmetrical multiplayer shooter Predator: Hunting Grounds throws five players into the jungle in a deadly struggle to survive. Four will take on the role of the Fireteam’s soldiers, while one hunts them down as the iconic Predator. The premise: if it bleeds, we can kill it.
The original movie was rich in 80’s action tropes and still holds up this day. Illfonic is no stranger to adapting licensed horror properties and spinning an engaging asymmetrical experience for players. In 2017, the studio released Friday the 13th: The Game, another asymmetrical game which saw camp counselors fight for their survival against Jason Voorhees. Predator: Hunting Grounds offers a nice dose of nostalgia, but often falters along the way.
Jumping into a match, players will choose whether to play on the Fireteam or play as the Predator. Currently, the games offer expected wait times to fill a match, as many new players are eager to step into the shoes of the Yautja who has made its way to Earth. If you’re looking to get into a match quickly, Fireteam is the best option, as Predator queues sometimes reach upwards of 10+ minutes.
Before the match begins, the Fireteam will be given a mission brief, outlining their objectives to complete during the match. Unlike Friday the 13th: The Game, where players only sought survival, Predator: Hunting Grounds fleshes the gameplay out. Each match encompasses a larger map filled with small outposts, ruins, and stretches of jungle brush to run through. As the Predator, your mission brief is simple: kill the Fireteam within the allotted time by any means necessary.
The missions themselves are forgettable. That’s not inherently bad, but all missions are just a means to set up a bloody exchange between players in the jungle. Boots in the mud, Fireteams will have to complete a series of tasks such as obtaining documents, locating artifacts, setting up relay transmissions, and so on. It all feels like busywork to keep the players occupied as the Predator plans its attack. If they survive long enough, the Fireteam will conclude their mission by attempting to get to the choppa and escape alive.
What sets Predator: Hunting Grounds apart from Friday the 13th: The Game and a lot of other 4v1 games, is that it’s not only PvP. There are also hostile guerilla soldiers on the map. Locked in PvPvE, both the Fireteam and Predator will have to fend off AI soldiers found in outposts.
Granted, they aren’t the most calculating AI soldiers out there. I’ve often found them running around aimlessly, which made them easy fodder. Their inclusion isn’t meant to serve as a direct challenge. They’re primarily there as a distraction for both Fireteam members and the Predator working towards their objectives.
Unlike Illfonic’s prior title, Predator: Hunting Grounds offers a first-person perspective when playing the fireteam role. At your disposal, you’ll find your standard fare of weapons including a primary weapon, secondary, and grenades. Health kits are available for a quick recovery after a run-in with Predator or hostiles.
The controls are a bit clunky compared to contemporary FPS games. While it never reached the point of frustration, a bit of extra polish could have gone a long way. Illfonic included a helpful ping system, though communicating with teammates over voice chat is more effective.
While playing as the Fireteam is actually fairly enjoyable, Predator: Hunting Grounds really excels at putting you in the shoes of the formidable foe. Here, you’ll leap and skulk through the brush in third-person, armed with all of Predator’s iconic weaponry. Climbing and jumping between trees while using heat vision functions to locate the Fireteam is immensely satisfying.
Keeping a safe distance, the Predator can fire its Plasmacaster for a devastating blow before cloaking itself and leaping into battle. Whereas the Fireteam soldiers move a bit slowly, the Predator is quick and vicious. Slashing opponents with its wrist blades, a Predator can kill Fireteam members and brutally rip their skulls out for trophies and XP.
To balance the odds, the Fireteam can cover themselves in mud to cloak themselves from heat vision. While the Predator does have thick skin, a coordinated attack can take them down. Even if a Predator is downed, the player can make a last-ditch effort by arming an internal bomb, creating a radius on the map and killing all who fail to escape. Risking losing the game, Fireteam players can attempt to disable the Predator bomb and extract its body for a massive XP boost. There are a lot of creative tools in Predator: Hunting Grounds.
Graphically, the game under-delivers with rough character models and assets. However, the atmosphere and music authentically capture the Predator spirit. Unfortunately, the game only takes place during the day, so it doesn’t hit the horror mark quite like Friday the 13th: The Game or Dead by Daylight. However, once you hear the unmistakable Predator clicking sounds in the distance, you are on high alert.
Thankfully, Illfonic included a unified leveling system. Experience gained by playing each side will unlock perks and a ton of customization options for both the Predator and Fireteam. As you level up, you’ll unlock new weapons. I quite enjoy the Predator’s projectile net, which captures and immobilizes an enemy. You’ll also unlock new cosmetics like outfits, weapons skins, and so on. Predator: Hunting Grounds does offer in-game loot boxes in the form of Field Lockers. As of now, the only way to unlock them is by using the currency collected during each match.
Ultimately, Predator: Hunting Grounds isn’t going to dynamically change the asymmetrical PvP genre. The lack of overall polish weighs it down from reaching its potential highs. However, it does offer enough replayability if you want to sink your teeth into a new 4v1 multiplayer game. The game is at its best with friends in a private match. This way you can coordinate attacks more effectively, rotate between who is Predator, and have a good laugh the entire time.
Whether or not Predator: Hunting Grounds has the legs and stickiness Friday the 13th: The Game had is yet to be seen. Illfonic’s prior title built a cult following after its launch. As it currently stands, there is only one mode available. With the standing partnership with Fox, it’ll be interesting to see where Predator: Hunting Grounds goes from here.
Predator: Hunting Grounds is available now on PlayStation 4, and on PC through the Epic Games Store.
A PlayStation 4 copy of Predator: Hunting Grounds was provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment Canada for review purposes.