Competitive gaming has overflowed the market in recent years with the likes of Overwatch, Fortnite and Apex Legends. Even games like Quake Champions and Doom are getting their fair share in the limelight with Gears making a terrific return after a short hiatus. You can clearly see there’s a huge demand for multiplayer games, competitive multiplayer games or even co-op games. But have multiplayer games become a little stale? Rehashing the same formula over and over for too long? Well, Crytek has a solution and it involves mashing up a couple of key aspects into one. Hunt Showdown introduces PVEVP or basically players, versus the environment/NPCs versus other players?

A bold and ambitious ideal indeed but does it work?

Hunt Showdown has an interesting concept that brings co-operative and competitive multiplayer into a situation that demands high skill, patience and a bitter ruthlessness that ensures you win big. Hunt takes players to 1890’s Louisiana where dark forces are rampant and devouring everything in sight. So it’s up to a bunch of hunters to take care of this darkly business and pretty much screw each other for the big win!

What I instantly loved about Hunt Showdown and what has kept me drawn to it for all these years has been the setting. Setting this in a bleak and monster-infested Louisiana is a great start, but filling the swamp-like environments with gut-wrenching monsters straight from a gothic nightmare is a masterstroke. These creature designs are immensely creative and just disgusting. Plus it has one of creepiest spiders since Limbo. The aesthetic, setting and monster designs are truly great and absolutely terrifying.

Speaking of terrifying, the gameplay. Now as mentioned Hunt Showdown has a compelling concept, of where a player or two players (with a future update proposed, soon to be three) trek out into the wilds of monster-infested Louisiana, track down a number of clues that will lead them to their bounty. The bounty, in this case, would be one or two hideous creatures that haunt the land and needs a good banishing back to where it came from.

Tracking the clues is done through the player’s “Dark Sight” which allows them to see off into the distance, traces of said clue. You then find the clue, you find the others and after collecting a few of them, you find your target. Sounds easy right? Well no it’s not actually. Hunt Showdown manages to make everything from start to finish, uneasy and unpredictable. Due to the presence of monsters and other hunters who can end your game quickly if you’re not careful. Sound is extremely important and plays a key role in knowing where your enemy is. Make too much of it yourself and you’ll most likely be hunted down before you hit your first clue.

The arenas are massive but not complicated in their design. You’ll be able to find your way around the map, find short cuts and discover key locations rather easily. There are plenty of places to hide, gain an advantage or simply sneak by and be unnoticed. There is a multitude of ways to play and there is definitely a skill set required here.

Gunplay is pretty tight and allows all types to become involved, whether it’s players who favor long-range, short-range, stealth or more absolute carnage (which is not recommended). There’s a whole host of guns, gadgets, and consumables to aid you in the field and plenty of items to pick up in the environment to give you a small but potentially lifesaving edge. There’s enough to unlock for players to equip and get ready for a hunt, even if unlocking new weapons, later on, can be a bit of a grind.

The perma-death system is something that will make or break some players but there are some things which make it less of a burden. First, you can progress your ranking to rank ten without losing any of your hunters, more than enough breathing space to learn the ropes. Second, you do lose your hunter and gear but will surely have enough money to buy more. Plus you get the odd freebie to help you out and your ranking/gear unlocks remain untouched. I will admit there are times you will experience a cheap death or just get caught off guard. These things do happen but the developers have made sure there are a couple of fail-safes to avoid anything that would be considered outright unfair.

I do wish there was maybe a life-line system where each hunter has a second life, avoiding a potential cheap death.

But this does make every venture out into Louisiana a nail-biting experiencing where one small error can be fatal. This is where learning the ropes quickly enough will be vital and pairing up with someone who will have your back is incredibly important. But doing this alone also has its benefits. Overall Crytek has found quite an enthralling formula (even if it may not be for everyone) that shoves intensity into your face but with the right skill set and patience, it will mean you can enjoy a thrilling hunt.

It’s ruthless, but it’s that kind of ruthless where you learn quickly, you learn hard and you up your game to ensure your survival. By the time I was level 15; I had died a couple of times but ruined the days of a few other players. All you need to do is get back on your horse, buy some gear and everything can start again. It’s punishing but not so much you want to quit the game for good.

Plus there are a few modes to try out, including the Free mode where you get a free hunter anyway and a chance to reap some awesome rewards. Plus the training levels which you can reply as many times as you like. This has made me hopeful that Crytek may implement an offline mode or couch co-op mode where you can play with a friend, use the gear you’ve unlocked and do some hunting without the fear of being shot by a player with a stupid gamer tag.

The one thing I will say is that Cryek is continuing to evolve the game with more modes and hopefully maps/bosses. It’s a very good game and one that deserves high praise but at this moment, it’s just a little underwhelming in content. To reach level 80 with the same two maps and three targets is a little ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, there’s enough here and the gameplay/competitive aspects are highly refined and immensely engaging. What we have here is good but I’m wishing just another mode or two and a couple of new bosses to bump the roster from three to five.

There are micro-transactions here but these are purely cosmetic. Now I don’t mind if it means more free content in the future and it does seem like Crytek is happy to give a plentiful amount of Bloodbound (the premium currency) away to all newcomers anyway so it doesn’t seem all that bad.

While Hunt Showdown has few hiccups with its long loading times and small roster of maps and targets, there’s no denying that it has an immensely satisfying competitive experience. It’s highly engaging, highly rewarding and massively engrossing for all the right reasons. From its great setup, beautifully disgusting monster designs, intense gunplay, and ruthless competitive aspects, all these elements work together seamlessly. I urge anyone who enjoys dynamic multiplayer experiences or is enormously competitive to check this out! Cyrtek has come back and proved they are still masters within the FPs genre and if Hunt Showdown can bring us more monsters, more maps, and guns, I’ll be happy!

++ Intense, brutal and fun competitive gameplay
++ Awesome setting and monsters
+ Good sense of progression and unlocks
-- Lack of maps and main targets
- Long loading times

An Xbox One review copy of Hunt Showdown was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.