Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
theHunter: Call of the Wild totes itself as offering “the most immersive hunting experience ever created” and while it has more than its share of charm, to label it as such is a bit steep. Whether you are trekking through the American Pacific Northwest at the Layton Lake District hunting reserve, or you are slumming through the Hirschfelden Hunting Reserve, a digital re-representation of German farmlands, theHunter: Call of the Wild is fun at first, but devolves into a mind-numbing walk through the 50-square mile, Apex-generated environment that tends to drive you to bored wandering. It sure is pretty though.
I grew up around hunting, regularly accompanying my dad from about the age of 11 to 18 (even shot my first deer when I was 16), so the idea that hunting can, to a young man, be kind of boring is not lost on me. However there is a certain something about sitting in the blind from sun-up to sun-down that is serene and even now I look back on those times with my dad fondly. theHunter: Call of the Wild seems to miss out on a lot of that something special and often feels bland; even a charging black bear cannot seem to liven things up here.
The primary things that developer Expansive Worlds got right here are both the environment design and the audio. To start, Expansive Worlds used the Apex engine to generate the two reserves, Layton Lake District and Hirschfelden reserve, and wandering through the massive world is an excellent thing. In fact I spent nearly no time actually hunting and more just walking through the wilderness, taking in the sights and marveling at the stunning sunsets or moonlight as it flits through trees and mingles with the light fog of evening.
The ambient audio design is among the best in gaming; the sheer number of sounds assaulting your ears in the most wonderful of fashions is astounding. From birds chirping to the strange keening of insects to the distant yelps of a coyote or the rushing winds while you are high in the passes all perfectly set the table for an intense walk through the twisting plains, rolling hills, dense forests, and cultivated farmlands of the two available resorts. The rain is awesome … I just wish it had snow / actual seasons; though the rain is pretty and effective at concealing your movement, it is pretty drab. A snow/winter phase would give plenty of variation to the gorgeous, if monotonous environments.
A pity it is all lost on lackluster hunting. Bullet drop at least, is fairly realistic, as well as the ballistics for each of the various rounds for the Shotguns, Rifles, or Pistols. Bows are neat, but not my particular cup of tea as the range is only about 40-45m and the stand-hunting/blind-hunting is broken, so I largely stayed away from them. What I found incredibly frustrating was how long it takes to shoulder a weapon to aim down sights … it literally takes forever, which is a cryin’ shame because I know it takes me less than 5-10 seconds to pull a firearm to my shoulder. I have more missed opportunities due to the fact it takes three weeks and a trip over the creek to go from holding your binoculars to shouldering your weapon. Pulling up a shotgun to aim down sights is laughable at best; whether that is intentional or if it is a bug, I do not know, but I do know it is frustrating.
That is not the only technical hiccup I have seen with the game, as clipping is woefully apparent if you ever decide to go prone in an attempt to reduce the laughably exaggerated muzzle-sway (seriously, the sway is so, so bad). In addition to the clipping, your minimap will randomly go bonkers, especially if you are traveling back and forth between the two hunting reserves and those are second and third best next to the random deaths. More than once, in a single player game (multiplayer on Xbox is horrible…) I would be walking along a perfectly serviceable path or road or set of train tracks and the screen would go red and I would die. No explanation. Just death.
I tried very hard to like theHunter: Call of the Wild but the lack of any real game (just over a dozen animals, spread between two locations), easily exploited then broken feeding / resting areas, and a weird and often useless progression track for “leveling” your hunter leave you bored and often wondering what you are even doing in the game. An off-handed multiplayer experience showed a group of 5 or 6 gamers running off to solo whatever area they wanted, wrap theHunter: Call of the Wild in a relatively bland blanket that is best experienced via solo play. The gorgeous environments and stellar audio give it a few redeeming qualities, but leave it far from being “the most immersive hunting experience ever created.”Score: 6.5 / 10