Republished on Wednesday 1st September 2021: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of September's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
Predator: Hunting Grounds is the first major multiplayer-only video game Sony has published since MAG on PlayStation 3. And while Friday the 13th: The Game developer Illfonic may not be a first-party studio, the project is still a statement of intent from the Japanese giant. After defining the action-adventure genre for a generation, it is experimenting with different experiences when it can to entice a new subset of players into the ecosystem. Sony is going to have do better than this if it wants to succeed, however. Predator: Hunting Grounds is a game lacking in both content and longevity.
Following in the footsteps of the studio's previous title, this is an asymmetric, multiplayer undertaking which tasks four teammates with taking down classic movie villain the Predator. There is absolutely no single player content to speak of besides the tutorial, leaving you with just one online mode to play and master. And simply put, there is not enough content here to justify a purchase even when taking the discounted price point into consideration.
On the human side, matches take the form of a first-person shooter filled with mindless objectives to complete. The flavour text makes it sound like there's a good amount of different tasks to tick off when in reality they consist of the dullest mechanics imaginable. Gather a material within a certain area, collect marked objects inside an enemy base, or search for hidden items. And then, of course, you'll need to defend a point while a meter counts down to zero. It's the sort of brainless goals which have plagued this style of game for years now, and Predator: Hunting Grounds doesn't bring a new spin on the formula to the table.
To be fair to the title, this loop is fun enough for the first couple of hours. Teaming up with friends is a blast as you work together to accomplish whatever is asked of you. However, the more you play, the easier it becomes to realise that virtually every match plays out the same way. After completing the handful of tedious objectives put in front of you, it'll be time to extract — a process which can take as little as five minutes overall. And that's it. There are maybe three to four hours of fun to be had here before its repetitive nature really starts to get to you.
Thankfully, there’s rarely a boring moment when playing as the Predator. From the third-person perspective, it's your job to stop the human team in their tracks by eliminating them one by one. You can do that either in a stealthy fashion, picking each one off as they find themselves alone, or make your presence known with explosions and aggressive melee attacks. From the classic Wrist Blades and Net Gun through to the more extravagant Smart Discs and Combistick, Illfonic has made sure you can recreate the classic, gory kills of the movies.
The best thing about playing as the Predator though is the freedom it gives you in traversal. The alien can climb trees and jump between branches with ease, making getting about the map quickly feel like second nature. Equipped with a targeting scan, the Predator can speedily lock on to its targets and go to town racking up kills if the human squad isn't prepared. What's more, its invisibility cloak makes quickly escaping those fights relatively easy. It's safe to say that when a skilled player takes up the role of the Predator, they have just as good a chance of winning the match as the four teammates cowering in the bushes below.
This can make for an intense experience on both sides of the equation, but there just isn't enough content on offer to facilitate the battles beyond a couple of hours. The game includes just one mode and only three maps, all of which look virtually identical. That's not good enough in 2020.
A levelling up system allows you to change and tweak your loadout on both the human and Predator side, but even this feels somewhat basic. Your rank will increase at such a rate that the system feels almost meaningless, arbitrarily locking you out of equipment and items which, on the Predator side at least, seem essential to survive. Although, the sort of abilities you unlock are hardly game-changers for the humans either. Thanks to clunky and unresponsive controls, aiming and shooting feels especially poor. But at least you don't have to worry about lining up long-distance shots which only have a chance of connecting. That's because brain-dead enemy AI makes combat a bit of a joke when you're not up against a real-life player.
Customisation is another of Predator: Hunting Ground's biggest aspects, and it's one which ties in directly with an in-game currency. Earned during matches, it can be spent on skins for your weapons and new items and accessories for both the humans and the Predator. It can also be spent on loot boxes. Now, the game does not feature any microtransactions at the time of writing, so this is purely a performance-based resource at launch. And in its defence, the options at your disposal are pretty fantastic. Customising the Predator with war paint makes it look more terrifying than ever while fun cosmetic items for the humans allows you to make an avatar feel somewhat unique. It remains to be seen whether or not this currency will be purchasable down the line, but for now, it can be considered a highlight.
The same cannot be said of its technical performance. Minor bugs and glitches are a supremely common occurrence, from objects floating in mid-air and subtitles flickering right the way through to objectives breaking and refusing to progress. They are problems we're sure will be fixed with patches down the road, but they make for an experience at launch which feels hastily put together. An inconsistent 30 frames-per-second on PS4 Pro, especially during heated combat, fails to provide any comfort on top of that.
Predator: Hunting Grounds wouldn't look too out of place amongst the tacked-on multiplayer modes of the PS3 generation. It offers a handful of hours packed with enjoyment but quickly comes apart at the seams as you realise how lacking in content it really is. While playing as the Predator and a good amount of customisation may be its saving graces, this is an experience you can safely skip.