When I was younger, I played a good amount of hunting games, but I never really got into them. There’s something about their pacing that I couldn’t appreciate. Now that I’m older, I enjoy a slow burn and the ability to approach gameplay the way I prefer. It turns out that hunting games are pretty good for that slow burn style gameplay.
Hunting Simulator 2 is a first person game that is all about tracking and hunting various animals—from waterfowl to grizzly bears. You can do this with various rifles, shotguns, and bows across six areas, two each in Colorado, Texas, and Europe. And you can bring along a canine companion to help in your hunt, as there are three breeds of dog, each with their own abilities.
There is no story, and no real objectives—just you, your gun, your dog, and the hunt. At your super fancy hunting lodge you can test out guns at the shooting range, and buy new equipment like guns, dogs, and. importantly: hunting licenses. There are different licenses for the thirty three different animals you can hunt over the three regions. There are different licenses for different regions, but other than that, it’s your choice what to hunt, where, and when.
Despite its name, Hunting Simulator 2 is more of an arcade hunting experience. It feels like there was an attempt made at realism. Wind has an effect on scent—supposedly. Animals run if they hear you, and you can track them using their droppings, tracks, or various other signs of their recent (or not-so-recent) activity. Your dog helps you out some with the tracking. But when it comes to actual realism, Hunting Simulator 2 feels like a loose approximation. Even the ballistic system—shooting the guns and scoring hits—feels simple, and when my twitch first person shooter instincts took over to kill a few consecutive rams, I realized that this doesn’t quite match up with reality.
Having a hunting dog companion is a big selling point for Hunting Simulator 2. You can choose between a scent hound, retriever, and pointer—Beagle, Labrador, and German Shorthaired Pointer. Each of the three dog breeds has a use, whether it’s sniffing out prey or retrieving small game. If you tell your dog they are doing a good job, they will start to bond with you and become better at their job. Despite their initial usefulness, I found myself eschewing the tracking functions of the dog, and used a lab as a game retriever only. Once I learned the game’s systems, I found I was faster at tracking than my animal companion.
Hunting Simulator 2 does a lot to penalize you financially for a mistake. If you take too many shots, for example, you are fined for unethical treatment of animals. Though, realistically, I feel like shooting an animal and leaving it wounded when you can finish it off would be less ethical. And you are penalized for not bagging every animal you shot—even the ones that clip through the ground upon death, which happened often when I was shooting ducks and geese near rocks.
I’ve never hunted in real life, and anything I know about hunting is from playing video games on the subject, or just listening to people who did hunt. I appreciate that foreknowledge, because Hunting Simulator 2’s tutorial is lacking in a lot of information. It teaches you the extreme basics, introduces your animal companion, and lets you play in its world at your own pace and peril. It’s possible to make enough mistakes to run out of money and be dependent on your ‘free’ licens, an infinite license that you choose with no knowledge of its true nature until after you choose it.
While Hunting Simulator 2 may be lacking in the realism department, it does have a good number of toys to play with. There are loads of rifles, shotguns, and bows to choose from. Though most of the 160 different weapons count the multiple different calibers that is available for each rifle. They’re not really different guns, just different bullet sizes. There are also a good number of other items to help you with success—calls, sprays, scent masks, its. But in my experience, most of the masks and wind guides feel unnecessary in this not-really-a-sim world.
I never played the first Hunting Simulator game, but it looks like they removed multiplayer in the sequel. Sadly, there’s no co-op in Hunting Simulator 2, nor have I found any indication that they will be adding it. On the up side, it also looks like they removed tedious requirements of the original—like needing to make a certain number of kills with weapons to progress. Everything in Hunting Simulator 2 is available from the start—if you have the money for it.
Everything in Hunting Simulator 2 is dependent on money. Selling animals is where you net most of your income, and quick, efficient hunters can make a fortune in a short amount of time. Money isn’t the only goal to have in Hunting Simulator 2, as you can fill your hunting lodge with trophies, and the various items and firearms you acquire through your hunting trips. But as far as long term, Hunting Simulator 2 doesn’t have a ton of content. It might keep you occupied for tens of hours, but without a deep simulation, finding and killing every animal might not be such a daunting task.
The different maps and regions of Hunting Simulator 2 are a mixed bag. While they’re all pretty, there are only a few that I enjoy hunting in. One of the European maps is dominated by a giant lake, which makes it a chore to traverse, and the Colorado meadow is uninteresting and sparse. But exploring these maps yields different structures that can help in your hunt, like stands and tree stands, or campsites, which allow you to fast travel.
Hunting Simulator 2 isn’t a perfect game, but I found myself wrapped up in it for hours at a time. Despite its lack of true realism, its approximation of hunting really hit the spot—but those seeking a truer to life hunting experience may be disappointed. Having a hunting dog adds to it, but they have limited usefulness beyond being a tool to fetch downed smaller prey. Despite my criticisms, I found myself having a lot of fun with Hunting Simulator 2, and if you can look past its loose realism, it’s a pretty fun hunting game.
Hunting Simulator 2 is available soon on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
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