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The Hunter is a realistic experience that brings the pastoral straight to your screen.  Combined efforts from Avalanche Studios and Emote Games have successfully captured a stunning paradise.  Fused with an assortment of sounds and a sand box style of play, you’ll feel as though you’re living in a poem from John Milton.

Players depend on a wide variety of tools, including the renowned Hunter Mate, to stalk and harvest their prey.  Aside from the weapons, gamers will have to use their own intuition, deception and natural abilities if they want to mantle a 12 point buck over the fireplace.  Move over Duck Hunt because hunting is not restricted to eight bit graphics any longer.

What captures the player right from the start is the realism within the game.  Players will begin by registering for an account through thehunter.com. This acts as a player’s domain where he or she will be able to accept missions, talk to other players, receive help, track progression and learn about a whole plethora of other goodies.  Also, this is the access point to the game.  From here players will choose from an assortment of clothes, weapons and tools.

Once the game begins, players will start from one of two areas and traverse through a vast area inspired by Washington’s forests.  Thousands of trees dominate the area, and it’s your duty to sift through the brush.  You’ll have to crawl through high weeds and find cover on open shores.  If you fail to do so then you’ll be wandering around aimlessly for hours on end following the random droppings and chasing after an endless trail of tracks left from the most elusive deer.

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Immediately, players will be lost in the beauty of the game.  This is where Avalanche Studios and Emote Games invest a vast majority of their product.  What is astonishing about it is the attention to detail.  For example, while looking around you’ll notice how the wind slightly forces the over abundance of trees to slightly sway to and fro much like a real forest.  When you walk through an open field on a sunny day you’ll notice the stir of butterflies moving all around you.  It’s the simple details like these that really bring the game to life.

Similarly, the The Hunter takes full advantage of sound, which really adds to the realism.  If there was a way to immerse gamers beyond a 20 inch screen and a couple of speakers then some players may actually mistake the environment for being a real forest.  The soft sounds of the wind and the distant squawks of birds easily absorb the player.  Because you’re always straining to hear the cooing of nearby deer, this becomes one of your strongest tools.  I like how developers implemented its use because generally sound is used as an immersion tool, but in this instance, developers have used sound as a means of interacting with the environment.  Sound alerts the hunter to a deer’s general vicinity, and therefore the player can get an idea of where to start searching.  Highly creative.

The game introduces a unique tool called the Hunter Mate.  This is probably your strongest weapon.  It picks up on sound, gives geographical location, recognizes land marks and identifies tracks, trails and animal calls that are unique to your prey.  Although its magical properties slightly take away from the realism, you’ll be thankful you have it.  Similarly, a red glow highlights a deer’s droppings and tracks.  Likewise, it takes away from the realism of the game a bit, but without it this game would be extremely difficult.

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Aside from the realism and the beauty, what stood out to me is the balance of tools and abilities.  In many other games, one of your weapons or skills will outweigh the use of your other items or abilities.  In this game, you’re forced to use everything.  For example, unless directed where to look, the scope’s sight is very limited.  Therefore, you’ll constantly be using your binoculars.  Similarly, depending on your prey you have to use a specific type of gun and ammo.

And although you’ll fall in love with the rifle, you can’t use it in every hunt.  You’ll have to use the Winchester and shotgun just as much.  Lastly, it’s a player’s natural ability to run everywhere, but if you run too much you’ll alert your prey to your presence.  You have to walk, crouch and prone just as much.  Although it is counter intuitive to use everything in the video game experience, it is essential to achieve the realism The Hunter is trying to ascend.

Although the game has much upside there are few plights I have with it.  I like how Avalanche Studios and Emote Games implemented a website that players interact with just as much as the game.  It is extremely innovating and something you would only find with independent titles.  It extends the boundaries of the gaming experience beyond screen, keyboard, mouse and speakers.  On the other hand, the website needs a lot of work.  The game is difficult in of itself, and the website provides vague guides on how to get the most out of the experience.  Similarly, when you want to play the game you have to portal through the website, which is not obvious to many players.  To start the game there is a small tab buried in ‘The Hunt’ page, so essentially you have to search around to find it.  The concept is great, but the website needs a major overhaul.

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The game requires much patience and time.  Again, this delivers an enjoyable and realistic experience, which is highly innovating, but many players who want to delve straight into the action will be turned off to the lack of motivation.  The developers place a lot of emphasis on the player to learn and read about how to play the game, which can be a huge turn off to the typical gamer.  Someone who is not willing to go that extra mile will immediately miss out on what this game truly has to offer.  This is an amazing game for someone who is looking for a realistic experience, but for someone who is looking to enjoy a game will find it lagging.

Overall, as a free downloadable game, The Hunter delivers one of the most realistic experiences out there.  Although it is not for everyone, it will have a lasting appeal to many.  If you are the realism enthusiast then this is a must have in your collection.  Also, if you want to take your hunt to the next level then there is a whole arsenal of weapons and equipment for purchase and subscribers.  This will allow access to some of the game’s greatest beasts.

Ultimately, The Hunter is a masterful fusion of picturesque scenery, elegant sound, well balanced game play and long lasting appeal rolled into one of the most believable experiences the PC has to offer.

Rating Category
6.0 Presentation
The graphics earn a proper score of 9.5 on their own, but the website brings it way down. The website is an important piece to the game. It does not reflect the visual quality of the game and it’s hard to navigate. Poorly made guide to help beginners get started.
How does our scoring system work?
8.0 Gameplay
The gameplay is difficult, but not to the point where it’s discouraging. When you hunt down your first buck their is a huge sense of accomplishment.
9.0 Sound
The use of sound is creative, and I love how players use it to interact with the environments.
9.5 Longevity
If you’re a realism gaming enthusiast then it will last you a lifetime.
7.8 Overall
The fantastic graphics and the sound are top notch, but at times, players can go for hours without seeing a deer or turkey.
  1. avatar David Burela

    I’m definitely going to give this game a try!

  2. I’ve never been too interested in hunting games, but this looks too real to pass up. Perhaps in the future vegetarians can take solace in knowing more hunters will immerse themselves in experiences such as this?

  3. It really is a fantastic game, its very easy to get lost in it with some headphones on.

  4. Wow, the graphics are incredible! I’m definitely going to check this out.

  5. I’ve only come across a few hunting games I actually like..
    This may be one of them.

  6. How Gran Turismo brought realism to the racing genre, this is exactly what this game does for the hunting genre.

  7. God, why do hunting games suck sooo hard.. Ok here’s my formula for a kick ass hunting game:
    -Use the Oblivion game engine (add “sent” factor to wind)
    -Have a “the deadliest game” mode (human hunting = win)
    -Have a rainbow six or cross fire variety of weapons (50+ should do it, I would enjoy hunting deer with an RPG-7 or gatlin gun)
    -Time trials (hundreds of animals, 60 secs, unlimited ammo)

    Come out with a hunting game like that and I’ll throw down my $50

  8. @komplex
    I love The Most Dangerous Game reference. Human hunting=win indeed!

  9. Wow, graphics are really pretty

    @ Komplex, Yeah thats pretty much the best idea ever.

  10. avatar SA Simpson

    Wow!!! Very Realistic! Excellent Review!!
    One would believe they r hunting in Tennessee or Kentucky~ Big Game is addicting!!

  11. avatar Anonymous

    A few things I’d like to add.
    a.) This is about realism. Not seeing a deer or turkey for 15 minutes? I’m sorry, but that is nature.
    b.) The website has had an overhaul
    c.) regular updates and insights in the development.
    d.) a fantastic community.

  12. avatar J. Donner

    “players can go for hours without seeing a deer or turkey”

    That’s simply not true. If you don’t see one for hours, then you’re obviously doing things that scare the animals, after which they run off and often you won’t even see them running off if they’re far away or if trees and bushes are blocking your view. To prove that I’m right, check some of the statistics of long time players, you’ll see that can easily achieve kills in 10-20 min on average, but that’s “kills”, the actual time between SEEING an animal is even shorter.

  13. avatar SwampKrunk

    It uses the Avalanche engine used on Just Cause. There is scent factor in the game.

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