Predator: Hunting Grounds provides solid ground for asymmetric multiplayer action, with a license that screams potential, but it doesn't always hit the mark. Some half baked ideas and presentation issues sully an otherwise enjoyable experience.
Everything is stacked up on paper for this to be a winner; a great team with a tangible pedigree, a criminally underutilised license that has languished in the gaming space for quite some time, and a pervading sense that folks are hungry for alternative takes on multiplayer.
Battle Royale is all well and good, but that's becoming a rapidly saturated market that many would argue has already reached critical mass. Therefore, games like this are poised to offer something unique, and in many ways, Hunting Grounds is a "well duh" moment that makes a world of sense.
To be clear, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with the concept. It's the elements surrounding it, and the manner with which they have been implemented, that remains somewhat underwhelming. Four players squad up to take down a fifth player, who controls the Predator. Leaping between trees and scanning for heat signatures feels authentic and crucially, fun.
A well coordinated team can mash up the Predator without too much fuss, but when engaged one on one, they don't stand much of a chance. Balance feels good for the most part, especially considering there's precedence in the movies for the Predator to break off, heal, and later return to the fray.
Things start to grate when you realise that three maps, and a handful of randomised (but essentially repetitive) objectives are all you're getting on Day 1. The whole thing feels light on the ground; no single player, PvE, or even alternative game modes are included, which shines an unfortunate light on a package offering slim pickings to those looking for a viable, longer term meta.
In the heat of the moment, playing as either side, there's definitely fun to be had. The sound design evokes the creepier aspects of the film franchise, and forming up with a real world friendly crew for a private skirmish is certainly a highlight. But again, the devil is in the details. Shooting feels sluggish and needlessly weighted, while the Predator's close range attacks often devolve into panicked flapping (from both participants).
Hunting Grounds works best when it gets out of its own way. Whenever it throws moronic A.I. in your direction, or you get stuck on a piece of geometry, the eye rolls occur thick and fast. But when you're left to your own devices, stalking your prey as the Predator, or sweeping the treeline as the Fireteam, there's flashes of genuine brilliance.
Unfortunately, it always feels as though it's only getting things half right. Cross play support between PS4 and PC! Matchmaking times are dismal. Cosmetic Loot boxes purchased with in game currency earned through gameplay! Some offer duplicate items, and you can only open one at a time. Authentic character models and classic Predator designs! But the environmental textures look like a last gen title. Improved frame rate performance when compared to the beta! It's still not consistent enough when it counts.
So it's with a heavy sigh that we can report an overriding sense of uneven duality that places Predator: Hunting Grounds in a curious spot. In the face of numerous issues, we still enjoyed playing. But without significant work to remedy the lack of content, and address technical and matchmaking hiccups, it's a far cry from being a must have recommendation.
The budget price, and core premise, are worth investigating, but you might not want to make a dash for the chopper just yet.
Predator: Hunting Grounds is available now, for PS4, and PC.
Played using a retail copy purchased by the reviewer.