Thrill of the Hunt
Since the dawn of mankind, hunting has been a staple part of our survival. The rush of the hunt, the thrill of the kill and the satisfaction of eating, displaying, or selling your gruesome handiwork has attracted many a man, or woman, to the now sporty profession. Hunting Simulator 2 is here to give you the most accurate representation of this pastime, all from the comfort of your own home. In theory.
The game starts with a brief creation kit allowing you to pick your gender and whatnot before being thrust into the big wide world of hunting. You are guided by a gruff old voice who shows you the ropes. In no time you will have been introduced to your pet dog (Humphrey in my case), your gun, and even your feet as you go out tracking. Before long you will stumble upon a classic hunters mark – a deer of some description. You take aim, shoot it through the chest, nab its carcass and haul it back to camp. The whole affair takes around twenty minutes or so, and is surprisingly satisfying and gets you hyped for all the tracking and hunting you are will be doing from here on out.
Unfortunately, the tutorial is an elaborate lie, artificially designed to make you believe hunting in this game would be that satisfyingly compact. Once you take away the gruff vocals, the scripted deer, and even the scoped rifle, you are left with something altogether different – an actual Hunting Simulator, believe it or not. That’s right, this thing, whilst maybe not an entirely accurate representation of a gun-toting hunter, is much slower paced than what you were led to believe.
This is actually a good thing, initially, as Hunting Simulator 2 takes on this surreal, relaxing but also interestingly tense atmosphere. Plodding along through the Colorado wilds, gun grasped firmly in your hands, dog by your side, tracking various breeds of sheep – it’s calming to the soul, almost ASMR inducing, if you are subject to such tingling reactions. This easily carries the experience for a good 30 minutes or so, and then the boredom kicks in. Once an hour had passed and I had only seen a glimpse of the darn sheep I was tracking, I truly understood what hunting felt like – frustrating, yawn-inducing, and ultimately pointless in this day and age. In that respect, Hunting Simulator 2 nails the experience on the head.
Take Your Time, Aim, Shoot
What compounds the issue is how slow the game is, in terms of actual tangible movement-based progression. As animals will run away at the first sign of danger, you are actively discouraged from even walking – ever. Baring in mind, your walking speed is already fairly ponderous, being forced to crouch or crawl is nightmarish to say the least. Even then, I found my prey on multiple occasions just running for the hills for no discernable reason, despite being so close to the ground I could actually be legally declared dead and buried.
After almost two hours of ‘hunting’, I finally got to a point in my journey where I could shoot my gun, and to my surprise, the gun handling in this game is actually not too bad, but not really what I was expecting either. I took aim, blew the lungs out of the nearest sheep, skipped over to it, and bagged my first kill. Problem is, despite getting a kill, it was far from satisfying. As a simulation, you expect bullet drop, wind influence, bullet travel time when you take the shot. You expect to be challenged and rewarded accordingly. From what I could gather, Hunting Simulator only has bullet travel time as a system, meaning all you have to do is point and shoot. Ultimately, the shooting boils down to pointing a pulling the trigger once every hour or two, which is far from exhilarating or even worthy of consideration when it comes to a worthwhile time investment.
On the plus side, that one system Hunting Simulator 2 has, is somewhat fleshed out due to the inclusion of around 100 weapons to buy and play with. Each gun has enough variation in terms of handling that it feels unique, although not a massive amount, which goes some way towards making the game feel slightly more interesting. Additionally, picking the right gun and ammunition for the target you are planning on hunting adds a nice layer of strategy, as some marks can’t be hunted without proper preparation.
This preparation system is not exactly fleshed out but does tie in quite nicely with the equally shallow, but realistic, ‘license’ system. In short, you are not able to hunt any animal you are not legally licensed to hunt, so if you go for a jaunt through Texas to kill whatever beasts grace Texas, and you haven’t bothered to pick up a license for an interesting bird over yonder, well tough. These licenses are all pretty cheap and you can pick them all up basically immediately turning the whole process into a mostly pointless money sink.
Moving onto your faithful and ever-helpful canine companion, you have some extra systems to play with, again, none of which seem massively impactful, despite arguably being the selling point of the game. Your dog will help you track your target, making it significantly easier to follow poop trails and chewed up foliage. The more he tracks, the better his tracking stat becomes, making tracking easier, naturally. You can also praise your dog, making him slightly more inclined to do what you ask him to do – not that I ever noticed a difference throughout my playtime. Finally, different dogs have different abilities, the most notable difference, being the dog that can swim, who is vital for bird hunting. Provided you have the right caliber bullets to hunt birds, there is a very high chance they will fall into the middle of a lake. If your dog isn’t keen on swimming, that mark is gone forever, and you will be sad for around about the same length of time. My advice would be to avoid birds altogether due to the faff involved.
Whilst I was not massively impressed with the gameplay on offer, I was somewhat surprised by the presentation, which at first glance, is fairly striking – especially if you are stationary. The game is spread across a number of incredibly large, diverse maps giving the game a real sense of scale. For all of its flaws, you do feel like you are in the middle of the wilderness. Environments look nice, thick foliage and dense forest areas where appropriate, giving a surprisingly good first impression. I did notice a fair few issues with the game during my time however, although I admit this may be due to not having anything else to do whilst I was trudging through the mud. Firstly, there is a noticeable fog on some maps, not massively thick or distracting, but it was certainly there on the Xbox One version. Whilst standing still, the lighting and shadow engine look damn impressive, but once you start moving it becomes clear it is actually fairly simplistic and the shadows, in particular, look a bit off, and not as dynamic as the game would have you believe.
There is also a fair amount of aliasing to be found, especially on the game’s 2D assets such as grass, which is incredibly noticeable when you are aiming your rifle or crawling, two things you will be doing fairly often. The game effects are also severely lacking, with your bullets having noticeably poor interactions with the world. Bullet holes look like they were ripped from Goldeneye on the N64, and I struggled to notice any impact when I accidentally, and then repeatedly, shot into the water. The draw distance is also quite poor, which can be masked in certain, built-up environments, but becomes very noticeable in more open areas. Finally, despite all of these little niggles, the game likes to drop frames at regular intervals, really breaking the immersion it was trying to achieve.
Visuals aside, you have the sound design, which was actually really good in some places. There was an ambiance during each hunt thanks to a mixture of nature-based sound effects like birds or water. In the first portion of the game, I was certainly sucked in thanks to these. The voice acting however is incredibly grating, despite how little of it there is. Your character will splurt out the same two or three lines whenever you interact with your dog, which for the record, is constant.
Hunting Simulator 2 has many, many problems, but the biggest one being it is a hunting simulator. This inherent flaw starts you off on the wrong foot as the act of hunting is typically slow and fairly uninteresting. When that is combined with everything else the game stumbles with, you are left with a crawling simulator with guns in it. I cannot recommend this game to anyone but the most hardcore of hunters, and I suspect that audience won’t be reading a review about a videogame.
HUNTING SIMULATOR 2 IS NOT RECOMMENDED
* =This guide was created and shared by deafboy288 from our Discord server. As such, we can’t verify it, but it appears to be information directly from the game, so should be reliable. While we generally don’t accept user contributions, we’ve made an exception on noticing a written guide did not exist and how useful it seems. If you find it useful, please offer him your thanks.
Many thanks to Nacon for a PC review code for this title.
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Forged in the rainy wilds of northern England, I carved a path of mediocrity through generations and genres. My play style is often described as: “optimistically awful”.