Here in the UK hunting is a mainly relegated to rich, overdressed snobs prancing around together on horses whilst they get their dogs to chase poor defenseless foxes around a field in the name of sport. It's not thrilling and it's nothing to be proud of and it definitely shouldn't be made into a video game. On the other side of the world across the pond, hunting seems to be a much more accepted normal but with much less tassels and pomf. In terms of hunting games I had only ever played one of the Cabela games back on the Xbox 360 but developer Nine Rocks Games and publisher THQ Nordic have let me try their brand new hunting game - Way of the Hunter.
Way of the Hunter features a story mode in which you play as River. River takes over the running of his grandfathers hunting lodge in a bid to regain its lost popularity. Whilst the story mode can drag at times with pointless driving sections where you drive to a point miles away only to have to do it again and again, you do have the option to forgo the story and just head off into the wild and hunt to your hearts content.
The game features a host of things that will immediately appeal to hunting game fans out there including:
Dozens of strikingly detailed animal species with realistic behavior models for a truly immersive hunting experience
Hunt like a pro with features that highlight animal signs, blood splatter analysis, and shot review with the rewindable bullet camera
Hunt your way through two unique and rich locations by car or by foot. Both the Pacific Northwest and Transylvania cover a terrain of 144 square km/55 square miles each
Use Hunter Sense to highlight important details and info, or disable it and customize your HUD for a hardcore experience
Complex Trophy system generates unique antlers and horns based on multiple factors like fitness and age
Sophisticated natural animal animations and reactions when sensing the players presence
24-hour day/night cycle with changing wind and weather
Realistic ballistics and bullet physics simulation
A broad selection of firearms and equipment, including licensed gear from Bushnell, Federal, Leupold, Primos, Remington and Steyr Arms
An in-game economy that lets you hunt game and sell the meat to purchase new gear, hunting passes, and taxidermy for your trophy stands
Intuitive photo mode for capturing and sharing your favorite moments
The gameplay itself was simple enough to get to grips with for me as a newcomer. There is alot of stealth-based gameplay in regards to the tracking and stalking of the animals but you can end up spending hours and seemingly being alone with no animals anywhere in site. Its even worse when you do finally find an animal and start to get anywhere remotely near to them, they somehow have some kind of sixth sense and no matter how stealthy you are they run off only for the long slog to be restarted again.
At least while you are trudging around for hours looking for animals you have an absolutely gorgeous environment to look at. The areas on offer are simply huge, with massive draw distances and detailed foliage. It really does look way better than any hunting game I have ever seen. The only downside is the game does suffer from pop in and textures not correctly loading at times, it's nothing major but every now and then you will notice a bush that's not loaded correctly or a frame rate drop.
If you enjoy the game have no fear! There is already a season pass available that will include two brand new DLC regions that are 64 square kilometers with new animals, weapons and skins. Also included with the season pass is the Hunter's Pack that includes a shotgun, paintjob for your car and a wooden carved statue for the lodge. The season pass is priced at £17.99 or you can grab it in the Elite Edition of the game.
Overall I found Way of the Hunter to be a decent enough hunting simulator. At times it's an absolutely stunning experience with gorgeous environments (The two maps are nice and varied with their own unique animals) featuring plenty of content to play through (including co-op). It's just a shame that it's so let down by graphical glitches, annoying pop ins and frustratingly difficult animal AI which can at times make the hunting seem impossible. I'm not the biggest fan of hunting in general, and being from this side of the big, blue, wet thing I can honestly say it isn't something that's as popular as in the states, but having said the story mode focuses on ethical hunting so that's a great positive. Hunting fans will really enjoy this release and people like me who may not be that big fans can still jump in and enjoy the views! Total Score: 6.5/10
Way of the Hunter was released onto the Xbox store on 16/08/2022 and is playable on Xbox Series X/S. The game is priced at £34.99 and can be purchased HERE. A copy of the game was provided for this review - a big thanks for that!