A gaming session to remember

The other day my mates, Dark and Elric, and I played Hunt: Showdown in the evening, as we regularly do. However, what was initially planned as “just a couple rounds” turned into a full four hours of hilarious shenanigans the likes of which only few games can provide.

I’ve talked about the variety and unpredictability inherent to the game’s main mode, Bounty Hunt, before, and during this session we had lots of that. But that wasn’t even half of the fun, as we additionally stumbled into various situations that would not have seemed out of place in any silly slapstick movie. This was well above and beyond what you’d normally expect to experience when playing a shooter, and I don’t think I’ve had this much fun since we used to blow each other to bits with proximity mines in Blood a long time ago. Yeah, we were easy to please back then.

Of course stuff like this falls into the category You Had To Be There more often than not, so you might not find this as hilarious as I do. Just like the guy at the watercooler who won’t shut up about whatever it is that doesn’t interest you in the slightest I’ll tell you about it anyway.

Awww…missed the triplet by just two yards or so

Things started out relatively calm. These guys just kept running into our line of sight one by one, trying to revive each other. You’d think that at least the third one would have learned from his buddies’ mistakes, but apparently not.

There’s a reason for me bringing an axe to a firefight by the way. Before we started Dark wondered why I still hadn’t unlocked the throwing axe. As it turned out picking up and using one of the axes lying around in the game doesn’t reward usage-XP for the combat axe, a certain amount of which is a prequisite for unlocking the thrown variant. So instead of a secondary gun I brought the stock combat axe to the fight.

Actually, as any XP your teammates earn when using a weapon that you have also equipped award you with an equal amount of XP, we all had one to speed up the process. Yes, we were a trio of axe murderers, prowling through the bayou of Louisiana.

The catch is that you can only equip either one large and one small weapon or two medium ones, and since an axe is a medium weapon we were a bit outgunned in the…well…gun department. Not that we’d let that stop us.

Many more funny tombstone inscriptions can be found on this graveyard

Here we had just scouted out a compound, a church with surrounding graveyard, without finding anything interesting and were about to leave, when I spotted another hunter just outside the premises. I called her out on Discord, adding a general description as we always do, so we all know what to look out for. This person kinda looked like a nun (I think the skin is called Hail Mary), so I said that. Maybe she just wanted to go to church, but we weren’t in a particularly pious mood.

We always try to fan out a bit – staying too close together is usually a recipe for disaster – so it happened that I ran down a little slope towards a waist-high brick wall on my own, when another hunter came into my sight, sprinting from right to left on the other side of that wall. Without thinking I immediately aimed my revolver and fired a shot. Unfortunately my aim isn’t all that great most of the time, but lo and behold, I hit his head right away and down he went.

I had just finished laughing out loud to celebrate my glorious kill when I thought I heard Dark suddenly shout “Aahh, the nun has killed me with an axe!!”. She obviously wasn’t just going to church after all. I swiveled around to locate my downed friend (you can see teammates through walls, dead or alive). He wasn’t far away at all, I just had to jump over said brick wall, which I did, axe at the ready, only to find them both, him and the nun, lying dead right next to each other.

Because what actually transpired is this (seen from Dark’s perspective):

So he’d actually met the nun and her buddy head on. Fortunately the latter cowardly turned and made a run for it as soon as Dark pulled out his axe, only to promptly appear in my line of sight and eat that headshot I talked about earlier (it’s my laughter you hear right after the guy dies just out of frame). So my axe-wielding maniacal friend has clearly earned an assist for this kill of mine, well done! After that it’s actually Dark who kills the nun with his axe, but she gets a shot off at the last millisecond and downs him too. A proper double-kill, albeit involuntarily.

I promptly revived Dark and the three of us went on with our business. To be honest, I can’t remember whether we actually survived that round or not, but it was glorious either way. [Edit: Elric informs me that we indeed won that round most gloriously.]

This is what a mission summary looks like when you did quite well yet didn’t survive

The next one happened when Elric and I rummaged around a compound mainly consisting of a large wooden barn and some smaller sheds surrounding it, while Dark was on the lookout from a nearby sniper tower.

I can’t recall how the fight began, all I know is that hunters appeared and Elric was downed, which left me more or less on my own in the compound, as Dark’s line of sight was pretty restricted by various buildings and objects. I tried to be sneaky and get a jump on them, but since they had superior numbers chances weren’t looking great. Then I heard the hasty footsteps of at least two hunters – they had detected me.

To hell with stealth, I thought, time to go on the offensive. I wasn’t going to face multiple enemies head on though, that’s usually a surefire way to die. Instead I ran away from them, my plan being to make a full circle around the little cluster of buildings and get behind their backs.

There – a little shed with its door facing right towards me. I’ll take a shortcut through there and will be behind them in no time. I rip open the door, dash into the dark…and this is the sight awaiting me:

Actually not quite, when I pressed the screenshot-button I’d already killed one with my knife. Funnily enough you can see Dark’s blue silhouette far in the background too.

Imagine yourself entering a room only to find four zombies standing there, slowly (but actually not that slowly) turning towards you as they take notice of your presence. Yeah, exactly. I panicked.

After I’d instinctively taken out the first one I immediately realized that a) I didn’t have enough stamina to take them all on, and b) there were still some hunters after me who’d undoubtedly heard the ruckus I’d just made.

I dashed right through them towards the rear door, astonishingly without them so much as leaving a scratch on me. I crashed through the door, turned to the left and believed to be saved for at least a moment. There was no time to linger however.

Sure enough my luck ran out very soon. Just as Dark had said “Don’t die on me down there, mate” I turned another corner and got instantly perforated by a guy with a chain pistol and the Fanning trait, which is pretty much akin to auto-fire, and that was that. And you know what? I was grinning from ear to ear. I’d released so much adrenaline – those zombies in the shed almost gave me a heart attack – that I couldn’t have been angry even if I’d wanted to.

There were even more cool moments that evening, but these were my favourites.

It doesn’t happen often to come across a game that can create this kind of great memories. If such a game also has pretty much zero chance of nothing happening at all and doesn’t hold much potential for frustration either…that’s a very rare bird indeed.

Blaugust 2022 post count: 1

Hunt: Showdown is the shooter I didn’t know I’d been waiting for

For many years now a lot of gamers, myself included, have been lamenting a severe lack of new and original ideas in video games in general and competitive shooters in particular. For every new IP or game-mode that’s introduced to the genre we seem to get at least ten sequels, prequels, remakes or just blatant copies.

I mean, shit, last year’s ‘new’ Call of Duty, Vanguard, was in fact the series’ eighteenth episode! Battlefield 2042 was the twelfth BF – and the crappiest yet to boot. I’m not even going to count every hero shooter or battle royale that was unleashed upon us since these game-modes became flavour of the month (or rather decade, it feels like) following the massive successes of Overwatch and PUBG, respectively.

An argument often brought to the table by the genre’s or a particular franchise’s white knights is that we’re living in a time where pretty much everything’s been done before, so of course the best any new game can do is to reshuffle and refine what we already know.

Fortunately that’s not quite true though…

When I was paying a visit to a buddy of mine a couple of weeks ago he insisted that I finally take a look at his current favourite game, Hunt: Showdown. He’d told me about it before, but at the time I didn’t feel like diving into a new game (new to me, it’s from 2019). What’s more, I thought that I was done playing competitive shooters for good, one reason being that those I’ve played in the past, especially Overwatch, stressed me out far too much, but also because of the aforementioned staleness of the genre.

Yeah, about that? There’s absolutely nothing stale about this game, believe it or not. Well, ok, there are zombies in it, and it does have an optional battle royale mode, but bear with me here, because the game’s main mode, called Bounty Hunt, is so much more than that.

And rather pretty, too

Here’s the gist of it:

Up to twelve players, either solo or in teams of two or three, are randomly spawned on the outskirts of a map spanning one square kilometer. Hidden somewhere in this area are either one or two boss monsters. The goal is to find clues pointing to the bosses’ locations, then get to a boss alive, kill it, banish it back to hell and finally pick up one of the two bounties it drops. With that in your pocket you either leg it to one of the extraction points scattered around the map boundaries, or try your luck with the second boss too, if there is one, and then extract.

Although this sounds pretty straightforward it’s much, much more complex in reality.

Get lost, deadite, I’m trying to be sneaky here!

First of all, the maps are full of stuff trying to kill you. Zombies of different flavours, hellhounds, hives (which send swarms of poisonous insects after you) and other hellish creatures lurk the compounds, which is what the various settlements, farms or factories where clues or the bosses themselves can be hidden are called.

These monsters absolutely can kill you, make no mistake, but their main purpose is to slow you down and, most importantly, to make you cause a ruckus. You see, sound in this game is your biggest asset and your worst enemy at the same time. The larger firearms can be heard from all across the map (literally), and since enemy players are the real threat you want to make as little noise as possible at all times. Playing with a good pair of headphones is pretty much mandatory, and it’s totally worth it not only from a tactical perspective. The sound is so good in this game!

The Butcher awaits…good thing I found this axe!

The bosses are not that hard to defeat once you know their weaknesses, but it takes a while, and you really don’t want other players to get the jump on you while you’re busy squatting in a corner, bandaging yourself after a nasty boss attack. Once you’ve finished the bugger it gets even more hairy, because you then need to ‘banish’ it. Starting that process only requires the push of a button, but it takes three minutes and twenty seconds to finish, and only then the coveted bounties drop. What’s more, during that time all players can see on their maps where exactly the boss died, and how far the banishment has already progressed.

Should you survive this phase you can then pick up one of the bounties, which will have two very important consequences. One, your approximate position is now shown to all players by an icon flashing every few seconds on the map, and two, your ‘dark sight’, which is normally used to locate clues and bosses, gains the ability to also show enemy players near you, but only for five seconds total, so you need to use it wisely.

Blue means clue, red means dead (i.e. enemy players).

If you manage to extract with a bounty you get the most rewards, obviously, and you will kinda have ‘won’ the map – although there can be more than one winner or winning team, as there are always either two or four bounties to claim, depending on whether the map has one or two bosses, and each player can only carry one bounty per boss. Extracting without a bounty still nets you some XP and currency, and if you managed to snag, say, a better weapon than what you had in the beginning you get to keep it.

What makes all of this so exciting is that you don’t just respawn a couple of seconds later if you get downed. In fact, if you went in solo then that’s it, the round’s over for you. While in a team your mates can revive you, provided they don’t share your fate while trying. If they’re successful you get up again, but with very low health, so you should take cover immediately and hope you still have a bandage on hand. You’ll also lose a bit of your maximum health each time, which can only be replenished when you or someone from your team initiates a boss banishment and you’re in the vicinity.

Oh yeah, and there’s also this. Ain’t as bad as it sounds though.

Of course there are many more details I haven’t talked about yet, for example how progression works, what kinds of weapons there are and so on. I will save those things for another time though, as I’d rather elaborate a bit more on why I feel this game is so special and innovative.

First of all, it’s nailbitingly (Is that a word? It is now!) thrilling, and in a really good way. Remember me saying competitive shooters stress me out? Yeah, always did, but for some reason this one doesn’t. I think the big difference is that when I played those other games I always went in with the expectation (or at least a strong desire) to win, and it often made me angry when I didn’t. Whereas when I play Hunt I always go in fully expecting to die, so I don’t fret when it happens, and when I do ‘win’ I’m all the happier for it. Sometimes the game giveth, sometimes it taketh away, that’s just the way it goes.

Another unique aspect is that players can choose pretty freely how they want to approach any given match. I’d never seen this in a shooter until now, at least not on this level. Don’t fancy boss fights? Just wait for other players to do it for you and attack them during the banishment phase. Or you initiate the banishment, but then leave instead of holing up, so you won’t be where others will surely expect you to be. Or you wait until others pick up the bounties and ambush them on the way to extraction (beware of their dark sight though!). Or use the sound of gunfire as orientation and get in on the action when two other teams fight each other, possibly being the last player standing.

Speaking of which, unless you really are the last remaining player on the map you’ll never know for certain how many others are left, so most rounds stay exciting until the very end.

It’s quite picturesque…except for the smell of smoldering flesh of course

So yeah, for me Hunt: Showdown really was a revelation of sorts. It’s probably not a game I’ll ever play each and every day for hours on end (if only because playing shooters for too long unfortunately makes me sick to my stomach), but it’s so exciting, innovative and exceptionally well designed – more on that next time – that I can safely say it is, in my opinion, by far the best competitive shooter you can play right now.

It is Buy2Play, but like most games on Steam it’s discounted more often than not. Highly recommended.