Hunting games have always been a hard sell for me. They have the tendency to lean too heavily towards realism at the expense of fun, or too much towards arcade-like at the expense of challenge. I wasn’t sure that there was a modern hunting game that I could lose hours in. Hunting Simulator 2 and Open Country were both ultimately disappointing. I recently had the chance to try out theHunter: Call of the Wild, and I’m mad at myself for not playing it sooner.
theHunter: Call of the Wild is a first person hunting game. You can explore various beautiful outdoor environments, see beautiful animals, and shoot them. Each task you perform, or animal you successfully bag nets you currency and experience gain that you can use to buy better equipment and improve your skills, respectively. theHunter: Call of the Wild has been around for a few years now, which means it has a ton of content—and while most of it is locked behind DLC, there is a lot to check out in the base game. For this review, I spent most of my time in theHunter’s latest DLC, Rancho del Arroyo and put it through its paces. And I have to say: it’s easily my favorite hunting game.
If a game wants to claim to be a hunting “simulator” it has to have satisfying gun mechanics. That’s definitely the case in theHunter: Call of the Wild. Shooting feels satisfying, but difficult. There’s a weapon sway mechanic that artificially creates a need to wrestle your reticle, but it can be reduced with perks. Actually shooting the guns and bows feels good, and likewise challenging. Long distance shooting still suffers from video game long distance syndrome. Sighting targets over a couple hundred of meters is treated like you’re shooting targets at an astronomically far distance. Not only that, it seems like the level geometry isn’t at full detail when you zoom in with rifle scopes or binoculars. Long distance hunting suffers a bit for it, but it’s manageable.
Animal behavior also plays a huge role in hunting games. theHunter: Call of the Wild is probably the most realistic I’ve encountered in a hunting game. Animals flee when you make too much noise, or when they get a whiff of you. There are calls to lure them out, and sprays to mask your scent. Animals will cry out warnings if you catch their attention, warning nearby animals. You can track them via droppings and tracks and look for animals at locations they might frequently visit like water holes or feeding grounds. If you kill too many animals in a location, they’ll start to avoid that area—a mechanic that forces you to find new spots to hunt, which is sometimes a challenge.
As a hunter, you have a few abilities that help you track animals—almost to a superhuman degree. You’re given the ability to see tracks, blood stains, and animal droppings through foliage. Your hearing is so advanced you can definitively gauge animal direction and type. If you want, you can turn these settings off to give yourself fewer crutches, making the hunting more “realistic” and thus, harder.
Even despite its realistic animal behavior, sometimes animals acted in ways I wouldn’t expect. Sometimes a deer I’m tracking would just stop moving. Other times, animals get caught on terrain or trees—stuck running, but not moving. In the dozen or so hours I played, this happened a handful of times—a surprising amount, unfortunately.
theHunter: Call of the Wild has a massive amount of content. While there’s a good amount of content in the base game, most is locked behind its 21 paid DLCs. This might be off-putting to those coming into it fresh, especially with so much locked behind paywalls.
Despite the paid barrier to entry, theHunter: Call of the Wild has many large, gorgeous areas where you can hunt game. While each represents a specific geographic region, there is usually a good amount of variation within each of the large open areas. There are also lots of things to find—outposts to claim, and houses to unlock—these houses are bases that allow you to change gear, resupply, and fast travel. Fast travel is essential to getting around, since these maps are huge.
I spent most of my time hunting in the new Rancho del Arroyo reserve. This arid landscape is rife with various small game, but there aren’t too many large animals to hunt. With its various trees and shrubs, it can be a challenge to track animals—especially since the ground is mostly sand and rock, and bad at masking sound. Rancho del Arroyo is absolutely gorgeous though, with stunning sound design that is extremely immersive. While most of the hunting reserves in theHunter: Call of the Wild come with a main questline with various side quests, it seems as though Rancho del Arroyo only has a main questline, and it’s a little sparse. This didn’t affect me too much, however, as I spent most of my time exploring the large reserve.
theHunter: Call of the Wild is one of the best hunting games I’ve played, period. Unfortunately, it suffers from some buggy behavior that knocks it down a little bit. It’s too bad, because it’s a gorgeous game with satisfying shooting mechanics and animals that actually require skill and patience to hunt. While I’ve spent most of my time in the newest DLC, Rancho del Arroyo, I’m definitely going to go back and check out the other reserves that theHunter: Call of the Wild has to offer.
A theHunter: Call of the Wild key for Steam was provided to us for this review.
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