Whether you’re a hardcore Yautja aficionado or just a lover of Arnie’s big biceps, it’s safe to say that John McTiernan’s beloved 1987 classic was a game-changer. From iconic quips (what the hell is a sexual Tyrannosaurus!?) to legendary cinematic one-on-ones (can we all just agree that Billy is the unsung hero of the entire gang?), Predator had it all.
It’s admirable, then, that Illfonic – the same studio who brought us 2017’s janky-but-fun Friday The 13th: The Game – recognized how uber cool the original 80’s sci-fi action flick was, and bravely sought to recapture the magic, look and feel of that specific film in their new title, Predator: Hunting Grounds.
While elements of their latest asymmetric multiplayer game do occasionally come together to provide some authentic hunt-‘em-up action, there are just way too many deep-seated problems that overshadow the entire experience for me to give any sort of wholehearted recommendation. I know. Bummer, right?
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What makes it all the more painful is that – as an elevator pitch – Predator: Hunting Grounds does boast a really cool premise: Four armed marines take on one predator in a no-holds-barred fight to the death. What could possibly go wrong, then? Well, quite a lot apparently. But before I get to the myriad problems that hound the game like a Yautja hunts its victims, let’s look at the positives.
Most importantly, when everything clicks and the teamwork is making the dream work, Predator: Hunting Grounds can offer some sporadic glimmers of no-frills entertainment. If you have some buddies to play with and you’re a fan of the license, then you’ll likely be able to see past some of the title’s major shortcomings. However, similar to a cloaked Yautja hopping through the jungle canopies above, you’ll have to look pretty damn hard to see the fun stuff.
Speaking of which, I’ve got to give a shoutout to actually playing as the Predator. While it can be frenetic fun working together with your Fireteam in your bid to make the hunted become the hunter, playing as the titular sci-fi monster will likely be the most entertaining aspect. From its impressive plethora of killer gadgets to its dexterous agility to its brutal trophy kills, Illfonic pretty much nailed the blood-drenched role of the Predator – phew!
Picking off unsuspecting prey one by one armed with your wrist blades, plasma cannons, and net gun – to name but a few – can be just as much anarchic fun as it sounds. Unfortunately, these rare bright spots are small mercies in the grand scheme of things as there’s just such an extensive laundry list of issues that bring the experience crashing down.
To start with, at launch, Predator: Hunting Grounds is cursed with insanely long matchmaking wait times. My first online session, for example, took just over ten minutes of waiting to start, and that was with the four-man Fireteam. Playing as the Predator would’ve taken around two or three times as long. Obviously, this didn’t help the game make its best first impression. Tediously long matchmaking wait times like these will likely render the community unsustainable in the long run.
Thankfully, a couple of days after launch, Illfonic did deploy a patch, and the in-lobby wait times do seem to have been slightly alleviated. Hopefully the issue can be something the Washington-based studio can work on with future updates (more on this later).
Another point of contention is the overall lack of meaningful content. When you boil it down, Predator: Hunting Grounds only consists of one mode, three maps, and one single-player tutorial level (which can be beaten in about ten minutes). And at launch, that’s it.
Much like the skulls of the Predator’s victims, there’s just not much meat on these bones, which is a damn shame. Compared to something like Rebellion’s underrated Aliens Vs. Predator from 2010, which launched with seven multiplayer modes, a single-player campaign for three distinct species, as well as an offline survival mode, Illfonic’s latest effort comes up embarrassingly short.
Adding insult to injury is a general lack of polish in the gameplay department. For instance, the moment-to-moment gunplay is quite stiff and takes a lot of getting used to. Additionally, the enemy AI of the guerrilla grunts is dumber than a big ol’ bag of rocks. Elsewhere, the leveling and progression system is largely by the numbers and consists of the usual unlocks that you’d find in a majority of other first-person shooters on the market. Interestingly, however, one of the nicer touches is the ability to “muddy up” during the action, gifting you a camo bonus against the extraterrestrial hunter. Sure, it’s a small thing, but it’s a noticeably unique mechanic that’s welcome all the same.
The aforementioned lack of polish also impacts the game’s performance. From visual bugs, audio glitches, to an inconsistent framerate, there are a lot of rough aspects that undermine the whole experience every step of the way. Oh, and that’s before mentioning the loot boxes. While they mostly consist of frivolous cosmetic items and can only be bought with in-game currency, it’s worth noting their inclusion.
When all is said and done though, even with its many issues, it’s a testament to the strength of the license that there’s still fun to be had in Predator: Hunting Grounds. If Illfonic continues to support the game as much as they did with Friday The 13th: The Game – which also launched poorly but slowly evolved into a decent experience after a ton of patches and support – then I’d happily update this review in the future. But I can only review what I have in my hands now, and at launch, Predator: Hunting Grounds‘ fun is fleeting, and ultimately, the novelty sadly wears off way too soon.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Sony Interactive Entertainment.
Similar to a cloaked Yautja hopping through the jungle canopies above, you’ll have to look pretty damn hard to see the fun in Predator: Hunting Grounds.