Showdown is the game that’s better when you’re bad at it •

Showdown is the game that's better when you're bad at it •


An assassin made of insects and knives is screaming somewhere in the dilapidated church behind me. I’ll get to that in a minute, for now I have to focus on something even more terrifying: a man with a gun. Moments before, he had landed a headshot on my partner before disappearing into the tree line. We think he was alone – but you can never be too sure. Right now he could be anywhere, but I rely on him to be exactly where I would be: curled up in a bush, healing, recharging, and preparing to emerge again. If he isn’t, aiming for that bush out the window will be very stupid of me. With every second that passes, that possibility weighs heavier. Another moment passes, and – there he is, crouching from bush to bush, rifle raised, but not pointed in my direction. I died in rights.

I take the hit.

I miss it.

He spots me and retaliates.

It’s missing.

What happens is a long, tense sniper battle, ending in a panicked duel up close with our handguns in the mud near my friend’s body. The distance narrowed after neither of us proved particularly proficient with our rifles. This meeting could have ended earlier. If I had predicted his moves better I could have surprised him in retreat, if I had counted his punches I could have been ready to move in when he was empty, or if I had simply landed my first punch when he is out of the treeline, none of this would have happened.

But I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Hunt: Showdown trailer.

In Hunt: Showdown, every miss makes the situation more interesting, trading the advantage of an ambush for the level playing field of a gunfight, every slow reload is your enemy’s chance to gain the upper hand. This vulnerability fuels the central tension of the game: it’s a game that’s better when you’re bad. I’ve seen what it’s like to be good at this game – there’s no shortage of professional gamers streaming on Twitch, able to make out their enemy’s exact location from 100 yards away and then headshot them without breaking a sweat. But I wouldn’t trade their skills for mine. Sweating is the point.

It’s one of the most distinct multiplayer FPS games around, and it’s quietly Crytek’s best game. The Steam page describes it as an “exciting, high-stakes PvPvE first-person shooter”, but what does that really mean?

Here’s the hunt: preview. You and your small team appear at the edge of a 1 square mile slice of Louisiana swamp, armed with period-appropriate 1892 weaponry. Your task: locate and kill a monster that is hiding in a complex somewhere on the map. Once you have taken this bounty, you must escape. The catch is that up to eleven other players in teams of up to three are competing for the same bounty. If there is only one bounty on the map, you can safely assume that everyone in the game will converge on the same monster at some point. It’s a difficult situation, but you can at least prepare for it. If there are two bounties on the map, everyone is guessing what you will face.

Hunting: Confrontation.

You can arrive at the lair of the bounty with gunshots and explosions, a team already inside the fights. You could defend against both of them or set an ambush somewhere outside. If you’re the first on the scene, you might ambush other players, or maybe you’ll be ambushed yourself. It’s easy to get lost in the variables, every bush could hide enemy players, every space in the woodwork of a barn could hide a patient sniper, every twig snapping under your feet could reveal your location. Whatever you do, don’t scare the crows away.

Many of these same strains gave rise to the battle royale genre and were popularized by Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. The success of PUBG could have been an opportunity for the gaming industry to recognize that the general public is ready for more complex stakes in their games, a case that could even be reinforced by the recent rise of test games. like Among Us. Instead, modern battle royales like Fortnite, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Apex Legends have worked to minimize those tensions as much as possible in favor of something faster and simpler. This direction for the genre isn’t wrong, obviously the numbers will tell you a lot, but it’s a departure from much of what made the genre initially appealing.

Hunt: Showdown isn’t a battle royale, but it uncompromisingly doubles down on that friction. It rewards careful, attentive and tactical play, but weaves its most memorable moments from our biggest mistakes. It’s for this reason that the game’s community has grown steadily since its release in 2018, prompting Crytek to continue supporting regular feature updates. A new map and boss were added last year, events rotated regularly, and new weapons were added as recently as last Thursday. It’s a regular trickle, not on par with the relentless seasonal content we see for Warzone or Apex Legends, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a game that’s committed to being more complicated than the standard “last man standing” power fantasy, and that complexity leads to inevitable variety. No two games in this game tell the same story, and fundamentally, these are stories worth telling.

Inevitably, the complexity that sets it apart from its peers also makes it a hard game to learn and even harder to master… but honestly, you better not be that good at it.

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