A rough beast indeed, Hunt: Showdown, slouching toward the daylight after a couple of years in Early Access. A genre chimera, blurring survival horror with boss rush shooter and battle royale, not quite one thing, not quite another. At a glance you might confuse it with Far Cry 2 – there’s the same malarial background hum, the same flammable brown palette – but in motion it’s closer to PUBG, shunning the clear ground, ears pricked for proximity chat. It has the vivid markings of a Monster Hunter, but those patterns are really just for show, like the eye-whites of a killer whale – masking the gunsights protruding from its abdomen. You certainly wouldn’t call it handsome, but you can’t seem to drag your gaze away. How did something so… multiple ever survive the evolutionary process? But alas, you’ve looked for too long. It knows you’re there now. No, don’t try to run! The creature’s girth is deceptive. We’ll have to see if we can bring it down.
If Hunt: Showdown’s unusual – and, as it turns out, fantastically exhilarating and engrossing – mixture of inspirations has a single guiding principle, it’s that predators become prey. It’s a game in which stepping on a twig while chasing a zombie can get you shot from a hundred yards off, and the time-honoured ceremony of a bossfight offers zero defence against the player lobbing dynamite through a window.
In Hunt, you play patron to a “Bloodline” of bounty hunters, all seeking their fortune amid the rot of a 19th century Louisiana that has been overrun by demons. Your task, in the main bounty-hunting mode, is to find the lair of a legendary monster within one of two festering open world maps, using your sorcerous Dark Vision to chase swirling blue sparks to clues that narrow down the search area. Having slain and exorcised the abomination, you must collect a bounty and head to a map exit to complete the match. Along the way you’ll fight or avoid myriad lesser horrors – from vanilla zombies who can be treated as speed bumps, providing you don’t overlook the ones waving cleavers or torches, to chunkier threats such as the Meathead, a one-armed juggernaut that sees by way of a slithering entourage of leeches.