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- Hunt: Showdown
Nestled in the remote Concourse Hall at the prestigious, hallowed, jam-packed LA Convention Center during E3 is Crytek’s latest endeavor; Hunt: Showdown. After years of developing science-fiction power fantasies, the team working on Showdown are looking back for inspiration. Literally. Set around the Victorian Era, Hunt:Showdown is about fighting fantastical creatures in an otherwise very grounded setting. Don’t expect steampunk-inspired clothing or weaponry here; as one of the developers put it, the look of the game is all about “Dirt, mud and blood.”
Initial descriptions of the game make it sound like Evolve, another multiplayer-centric shooter that had players competing to take down a big bad. In Hunt,however, five teams of two bounty hunters are on a search for an unknown-but-most-assuredly-terrifying creature. Clues scattered throughout the map will point players to their intended destination (or as I like to call it, doomstination). Once the creature is found, whether it is by accident or the Sherlock Holmesian resourcefulness of the player, a team must fight and banish the creature to Hell. Banishing a creature to Hell opens up the escape route, but also serves as a beacon to other players. The banishing team must hastily switch to defense mode, holding down the fort while the banishing ritual finishes. Once the ritual is finished, and the fine loot collected, it is a mad dash to the escape route. In one piece, hopefully.
While the other teams do present a threat, attacking them early is unwise. During our hands-off presentation, we watched as a team of two avoided several encounters with opposing teams, letting their encounters with the various AI opponents do their dirty work for them.
Another reason to avoid these conflicts early on is that the game incorporates perma-death. Players are responsible for recruiting a stable of hunters, each with their own strengths and attributes (think classes). While dying does not mean you lose everything, that character will forever be gone. The developers did not go into detail, but they wanted to emphasize that they were building a “high risk, high reward” system around the core gameplay. Thankfully, playing as a team of two allows for reviving fallen teammates during a match, meaning those terrified by the prospect of losing anything permanently can blame their friend if they anything goes wrong.
With the risk of perma-death and the amount of preparation that occurs during the course of a multiplayer session, matches are not short endeavors. Crytek cited an average match lasting about 20-40 minutes in length. During the presentation, they cited games like DayZ and other survival sandbox games as a basis of inspiration. While I saw no evidence of crafting components, scouring the map for resources like ammo and weapons was important. After all, they were preparing to fight a giant spider.
At the beginning of the match, what the creature is and its whereabouts are unknown. Finding clues will open a temporary window into the viewpoint of the target, allowing teams to check their surroundings and look for key visual cues. If a set of three clues are found, the creature’s hideout is placed permanently on the map. During our presentation, we watched as the team prepared for battle with the now-known giant spider by scouring the swampy marsh for weapons and ammo.
Even though the footage shown was considered pre-alpha, the mood was clearly defined in its visuals. A thick layer of fog permeated the entirety of the swamp, a full moon giving just enough light to see the barn where the spider made its nest. Several times the team encountered groups of zombies, each one more horrifying than the next. Bodies split apart, bowels hanging out from an open wound. The sense of dread was palpable.
Once the banishing began, the spider quickly dispatched with the proper application of fire (personally, that’s how I take care of them at home), it was not long before opposing teams made their way to the barn. A quick switch of the generator flooded the surrounding farm with light, allowing the team to spot their enemies and use the remaining zombies as an effective distraction. Of course, our hallowed heroes made it safely to the exit point, but the developer emphasized that play-testing revealed a roughly 60 percent death rate.
A solid premise was shown in Hunt:Showdown, but it remains to be seen if it will have the legs to keep itself from being another Evolve. For now, my nightmares will firmly remain in the realm of Electronic Entertainment Expos.