theHunter: Call of the Wild is the first game if its kind that I’ve played so there’s very little that I can compare this to. The game is described as the most immersive hunting experience ever created, allowing players to take to an open world that’s teeming with life. Before we even get started let me say that this activity isn’t for the faint of heart, nor is it for those that lack a great deal of patience. theHunter: Call of the Wild requires time, perseverance and skill, and there’s no middle ground within that will hold your hand as you journey through this recreation of the activity it adopts. It truly is an authentic take on real-life hunting, meaning that if you ever had a problem taking down a deer and skinning it in Red Dead Redemption, theHunter: Call of the Wild probably isn’t for you.
The game plays out in a first person perspective in which you’re dropped off on one of two huge open world reserves that you get to select from the main menu. The reserves are based in Europe – Hirschfelden, the other is Pacific Northwest – Layton Lake District. I hate to start out a review with such negativity, but outside of the vast, varying and somewhat well detailed environments, the wildlife will often be the least of your concern. I began my experience on the Layton Lake District reserve, and within moments of play I had already identified several bugs (not your garden variety kind) that hindered the game. You start out in a small enclosed area as someone on the comms is guiding you through the initial phases of play, which serves as a tutorial to feed you the basics of the game. When you’re done there you’re pretty much free to go and do as you please. It’s right here where the aforementioned issues began to persist.
I immediately stumbled upon a bear that was stood on its hind legs with its back to me, a very easy kill to claim to say the least. I didn’t even lay down, I aimed my sniper rifle and I took the shot. The loud thumping sound of this shot echoed for what felt like an eternity, and as you may have guessed, wildlife scattered from my nearby position. I witnessed several deers gallivanting in every direction that wasn’t towards my location. I spent the next hour trying to sneak up on one of those deers, but for every bush I stroked or twig I stood on, the deer was alerted and ran away as fast as its legs could carry it. I needed a vantage point, somewhere way up high that I could lay down and patiently wait for a deer to casually stumble into my scope’s crosshair. I made my way up a cliff-side and perched myself on top, moments later I fell through the map.
That’s fine, occasional issues like this are to be expected when it comes to open world games. Fortunately there was a heap of high cliffs that I could take to in close proximity to each other, so I’ll just avoid the one I fell through and everything will be okay, right? Wrong! It seems as though four out of five of these cliff tops either has you falling through the map or you’ll oddly sink into the ground and get stuck, with nothing to keep you company but the view of the map’s bedrock. It’s massively frustrating and largely disconnects you from the otherwise well developed experience, one that aims to immerse you nonetheless. I would love to say that this problem was isolated to those groups of cliffs on that one reserve, but it’s not. I encountered this problem in several locations across both of the reserves, and it’s certainly something that the developers need to address asap if they aim to completely engage their user-base with their activity.
There’s also some issues present when you go prone and slowly move in any direction, again in both reserves. What happens here is that your character merges with the map, often resulting in your head being submerged by the ground and again exposing the bedrock and limiting your view of the terrain and wildlife that you’re trying to observe. This problem is far less persistent than the above issue, and only seems to make itself apparent when you’re crawling through long grass and uneven ground. It’s a shame really because despite some minor frame-rate drops and a band of texture issues, the two massive reserves are well designed and full of detail. I was often mesmerised to the point of distraction, and the sound of each map is just as commendable. The noises footsteps make differ greatly depending on where you are and everything from water trickling from your boots to the bushes and branches snapping and cracking as you move through the environments all sound unique and genuine. The same can of course be said about the wildlife as well as the weather conditions. There’s no denying that the devs have put in a tremendous amount of effort to ensure that theHunter: Call of the Wild is as close to the real thing as possible.
theHunter: Call of the Wild is very sandbox, being that you start out with nothing more than a smartphone, a rifle, some animal calls, a headlamp, and a pair of binoculars. You’re free from any restraint and can go in any direction that your curiosity takes you, hell you can even stop off and take a few pictures if you want to. As you complete quests and activities, you’ll earn XP that will go towards unlocking new perks and abilities. You can indeed purchase better equipment too, such as rifles, bows, ammo, sprays, lures and so on and so forth. There’s also the option to obtain a quad which makes it easier and quicker to get from A to B, with the downside that it’s loud noises will scatter nearby wildlife. Your phone doubles up as a tracking device, and enables you to navigate an area as well as swiftly locate highlighted tracks, so this is a tool that you’ll want to quickly get to grips with early on in the game if you want to succeed and aim for the big game.
Outposts are casually littered across each reserve, as well as points of interest. These POIs will either gift you with a bundle of XP, swiftly craft a miniature outpost for you to hunker down in or unlock a large portion of the map, which charts nearby landmarks and other POIs. There’s certainly more than enough reasons to explore each reserve, and you’re amply rewarded for doing so in return. Hunting on the other hand is much more strict in its concept, meaning that you’ll need to dedicate all of your attention to the surroundings if you plan to successfully track down an animal and take it as a trophy. There are several different types of animal for you to pursue, but that’s not to say that there’s large portions of wildlife aimlessly pondering the environment, ready for you to pick off. Not by a long shot, pardon the pun.
In my first two hours of play I had shot merely five bullets from my rifle, make of that what you will. The wildlife is scattered and thanks to how well structured the AI is, they will see you coming a mile away if you’re not extremely careful. They’re very aware of their surroundings and they’ll give each other a warning call if you get sighted just once. Really, there’s zero room for error. Several times did I lose a herd of deers just because one stray either heard the rustling of leaves or a gentle footstep from what seemed to be a mile away. If you’re a solid sniper and you’ve got good aim, you may just be skilled enough to take a shot and hope for the best, but due to how each animal runs this can be a tough task to take a chance on. It’s not hard to track them down again under these circumstances, but the animals do tend to run fairly far away to give themselves enough distance before feeling safe again.
You’ll be able to track prints, animal droppings, and (if you hit one of them) blood. Once you examine any of those, tracks left by that singular animal will be highlighted in blue and will point in the general direction of the next track. Your phone will also help to track down the animal, but even with these tools at your disposal it’s very easy to lose a track. You’re required to look for clues and really concentrate on your surroundings to keep on top of what you’re tracking, which can at times be a mammoth chore. Animals that you clip will leave a blood trail that you can gain extra details from, which proves to come in handy for tracking it down. Once you claim a trophy you’re given a screen that will detail the hit, and you’ll be rewarded accordingly based on various factors, but I found even the weakest of handouts to be quite generous. Good job really, especially when you take into account that a simple deer can take an hour to take out if the shit hits the fan. In addition to the single player experience, there’s the inclusion of multiplayer. This is spread across competitive and cooperative for up to eight players in total. I cant say which mode I enjoyed the most because both are massively engaging and thoroughly entertaining, but if you were hoping to play with or against a buddy, the option is there.
theHunter: Call of the Wild is a decent game that houses some fantastic concepts and mechanics. Sadly this is somewhat let down by issues such as falling through the map or being submerged by sections of the map when going prone. Other titbits include animals freezing on the spot – becoming invincible as a result, and a few instances of crashing to home screen. The devs really need to get these issues addressed as soon as possible, because for a game that relies so heavily on your attention and focus, it’s disheartening to fall victim to moments of poor design. With those problems to the side, theHunter: Call of the Wild gets so much right. The tracking is top notch, the AI and wildlife behaviour is sensational and challenging, there’s so much to see and do on both of the vast and open reserves, furthermore there’s a great deal to unlock and work towards. Throw in coop and competitive multiplayer for up to eight players, and this is certainly a game that’s worth your time and attention. It may be a little rough around the edges but I can easily see this game standing the tests of time, so long as support and added content is continued.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.