I’ve been a fan of Crytek’s video game offerings every since they burst onto the scene in 2004 with the ambitious and impressive Far Cry, a game that boasted impressive AI and vast, colorful maps famous for giving the player a wealth of options and choices, as well as a graphical fidelity that pushed modern systems to their limit—both things that would become a staple of their games moving forward. Selling off the Far Cry license to another publisher, Crytek then went on to create 2007’s Crysis, a game that built upon the foundation of designs laid in Far Cry while simultaneously spawning the meme “But will it run Crysis?” due to the game’s incredibly demanding system requirements. But despite those astronomical requirements—so high that computing groups around the world, from NASA to China, began using the game as a benchmark for testing the newest and most powerful computers—Crysis was an impressive game at its core, boasting advanced AI, physics, a draw distance most games couldn’t even match a tenth of, and open gameplay brought about by player abilities that led to a wide range of playstyles and tactics.
Then it all went downhill. Emboldened by the sales of Crysis, Crytek got ahead of itself. Determined to bring their titles to console, the studio slimmed down the sequels to Crysis, creating games that didn’t so much push the envelope as they did constrict it. Dropping the linear maps, advanced AI, and most of the gameplay options led to games that could release on the vastly weaker hardware of consoles … but also that weren’t nearly as fun to play. Crytek, counting on the graphical fidelity of their engine to sell engine licenses as well as games, also woke the sleeping giant of Epic. As Epic’s Unreal Engine began making serious strides to both price itself competitively and catch up with Crytek’s own CryEngine, Crytek found that they’d overreached themselves, and faced cutbacks, closing of projects, and other issues. And, for a time, the studio became fairly silent.
Now, having spent the last few years relatively silent save for market deals and behind-the-scenes operations that really aren’t so exciting to the general public, Crytek is back, and they’re finally letting their new project see the light of day. The dismal, dark, moody light of day that steeps Hunt: Showdown from top to bottom.
I actually wanted to talk about this project a few months back, and even drafted an early version of this post about a month ago, but at the time, there still wasn’t too much to do but show the initial videos. Which … weren’t the best. Crytek was still being pretty quiet about things, and the early videos were early. Crud, even the latest one is; the game isn’t even in Alpha yet as I understand it. But even then, what’s on display does look appealing. And dangerous.
Why am I talking about it, then, if it’s not even out? Despite my love of games, I don’t talk about them much on the site, because this is a blog about books and writing for the most part. But I want to talk about Hunt: Showdown anyway, because it’s definitely going to have an appeal for a certain subset of readers. Why?
Because this game definitely reminds me of a fun and over-the-top book series, Monster Hunter International. Crud, if the game were set in the modern era rather than the dingy 1890s world it uses, Crytek could probably just iron out a license agreement with MHI‘s creator and create a pretty sick tie-in. But as is, some of the high points Crytek is hitting with Showdown definitely remind me of MHI. The game sets the player up as a hunter of monsters, with the goal of entering dangerous zones where outbreaks have occurred and fighting their way through the horrors unleashed there with period weapons to find the creature at the core of it all. Upon killing that creature and banishing it back to its realm, the hunters must then grab proof of their bounty and safely leave the area, allowing them to collect the bounty on the monster’s head (or eyes, arms, whatever if they don’t have a head), then use that money to purchase new guns and equipment so that they can better survive the next bounty, or take on tougher ones.
If you’ve read MHI, you’re probably nodding your head at the bits that sound similar here. You’re a monster hunter, you get bounties for hunting monsters. Not exactly the most unique idea (it was done before MHI, and it’ll continue to be done after it), but an idea that’s still ripe for a lot of fun. And granted, Showdown does mix it up a bit. For starters, if you die—you’re dead. That’s it. Your hunter is lost, all their gear gone for good. Your base organization may have some savings of some kind to help outfit your next hunter, but Crytek has been quiet about this, so we don’t have many details.
In addition, you’re not the only hunter looking for the bounty. Showdown is multiplayer, which means that you’ll be competing with other hunters to get the bounty first. Who may be better armed than you. Or have better equipment. And may be willing to shoot you as well as the monsters to get their hands on the bounty. Based on the video, a lot of them are willing to shoot you to get their hands on the bounty, though to be fair, it’s hard to judge willingness to fire in a permadeath system in an Alpha build where none of the players are that worried about losing what they’ve got.
But all of this adds up to a pretty compelling game, at least in my view. Oh, and don’t worry about being forced into unwinnable situations. According to an early demo of the game, players can walk back to the edge of the map and abandon a bounty at any time. Feeling outmatched? Discretion is the better part of valor, my friend. Walk away, and find a better bounty. Or make a final, glorious charge. It’s up to you.
Anyway, you can check out IGN’s hands-on experience with the game in the video below. Me? This is one I’ll be keeping an eye on. I enjoy Correia’s Monster Hunter books, cheesy as they are, and the idea of being an 1890s monster hunter, skulking through dark places with bolt-action rifles, early shotguns, and knives to try and take down a giant spider or two definitely sounds fun.
Here’s IGN’s hands-on. I’m getting back to work!