theHunter is an in-depth hunting simulation for up to 8 players at a time. Players hunt 22 animal species across 9 reserves based on real world locations.
|Publisher: Expansive Worlds
Type: MMO Shooter
Release Date: March 2009
Pros: +Great graphics. +Realistic hunting model. +Immersive. +Can own a hunting dog companion. +Lots of content. +Reasonable subscription price.
Cons: -Can be fairly expensive. -Player models are almost doll-like. -A small number of animals require additional purchases to hunt.
theHunter, currently maintained by Expansive Worlds, aims to be one of the most in-depth hunting simulations ever made. Players hunt 22 different species of animal with 127 total, counting variations in ten different reserves. The game spares no expense in recreating the real-world locations the reserves are based on using immersive audio and lush scenery. Increase your skill in tracking animals as you identify calls, find their trails, and spot them. Show off your kills by taking trophy shots that get uploaded to a robust player profile, complete with a variety of statistics about your hunts.
theHunter Key Features:
- Realistic animal AI - animals in-game hear and see you as real animals would.
- Track animals down - use your HunterMate to follow your prey’s trail.
- Over 22 species of animals - hunt anything from ibex to geese to kangaroo.
- Robust player profile - view all of the hunts you have ever been on, complete with detailed time and kill statistics.
- Realistic maps - maps based on real locations and thick with foliage.
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theHunter Featured Video
By, Matt Chelen
Setting out to do something different, theHunter aims to provide a true-to-life hunting experience in a free-to-play online setting with up to 8-player sessions. The game currently features 22 unique species of animal, as well as a large variety of guns, ammo, and tools used to hunt those animals. Hunting is done across nine different reserves, each providing their own unique experience, with a tenth on the way soon.
Starting out in theHunter can be a bit odd. While the game features typical FPS controls, the overall pace and attitude that you must take on during the game are significantly different. It’s a hunting game first and foremost, and it requires patience. Regardless of whether you decide to actively track animals and take shots at them from a mere 100m away, or if you would rather sit in a deer stand and wait for the animals to come to you, patience is key to success.
This patience can be hard to adapt to. There’s an extremely intricate system of sight and sound that the animal AI rely on and learning the nuances of each animal takes some time. Each animal has different detection rates that can influence what pace is optimal. Although crouching is generally the safest bet, even though it's slow. Foxes, for example, can hear you coming from quite a ways off so you have to be careful to keep your distance from them even when crouched. But there are times you can be standing and a deer will walk right up to you before running off.
Fowl are another story entirely and require different tactics on a case by case basis. Pheasants must be snuck up upon and scared into the air by whistling before you can shoot at them. If you scare them before whistling, you run the risk of them not taking off at all. Geese and mallards, on the other hand, require lures to bring them down to the ground first, after which you must scare them back into the air in order to get credit for the kill. This will require one or more tools, that can include calls, decoys, or blinds.
Just getting an animal in your sights isn’t all there is to it, though. You still have to aim well. Being a realistic game, you don’t want to aim for the head and you don’t want to just aim wherever. You want to aim for the chest, specifically the lungs, for the best effect. The spine can also provide instant kills but it's too small of a target to recommend.
The Brush Is Thick
In going for the most realism possible, the team behind theHunter have crafted uniquely awe-inspiring maps. Thick with brush and trees, the game’s reserves—modeled after real world reserves—create the unique feeling of actually hunting. That fox you were tracking can easily disappear in high brush, while that moose in your sights can move behind a tree and block your view.
There are truly a stunning amount of environmental factors to take into account. When it rains, tracks get washed away. When animals cross rivers, they generally don’t leave tracks. Various types of camo actually make a difference. It’s little details like this that make the game more immersive.
Supporting all of the features mentioned above is an immersive environment unlike any other that I’ve ever experienced. You will hear birds chirping and insects buzzing. You will hear strong winds pelt your ears with their roars. You will see snow and rain fall, with hazes obscuring your view. You will hear the crunch of your footsteps as you walk through lonesome reserves. Your choice of camo has an actual in-game effect. And each gun has a unique and accurate reload animation and sound, with the sound of reloading being able to scare animals away. While the sound of gunshots is deafening and can easily catch you off guard.
More than anything, the audio experience provided by theHunter works to create the sense of immersion that it gives. Many other details support the audio and do so incredibly well. The audio is undoubtedly the strongest point when talking about immersion. It’s the sort of game you want to play with headphones because it provides a better experience, allowing you to tell the direction and approximate distance of animals in relation to yourself with enough practice.
On Their Trail
While uniquely designed, tracking is not the most realistic of features. Your HunterMate—that provides you a GPS-like minimap of your surroundings, complete with topographical lines—can identify calls and animal tracks left behind instantaneously, eventually being able to identify even the gender of the animal. You pick up these tracks by left-clicking with your HunterMate equipped while standing over a track. These tracks are marked by a crescent-like shape, which you can change the color of if you are not currently tracking the animal that left those tracks, or a full semi-circle if you are.
By eschewing realism for usability there theHunter provides a unique system to track animals while still being manageable. But you still have to rely on your player’s tracking skill, which levels as you track the same kind of animal repeatedly, to show you the direction of the next track in the trail. The distance at which you can see the glowing marker over tracks is fairly limited, so aimless wandering between tracks may prove fruitless. Fortunately, the HunterMate tracks the location of each track in your active trail that you have registered.
As with most online games theHunter does feature progression systems. In addition to the tracking skill mentioned before you have your Hunter Score, which is sort of like your level. As you complete animal-specific achievements, such as registering a certain number of confirmed kills, you will gain Hunter Score points. Unlike tracking skills, which increase accuracy in judging where an animal is based on its tracks and provide several other improvements to tracking, it does not affect gameplay.
Show Off (Or Don’t)
In addition to the normal features provided for socialization in games, such as a friends list and the ability to restrict groups to friends, the game features a robust profile that others can use to compare your experience to theirs. Your name, hunter score, and other basic features are but a small part of your hunter profile. Your profile shows off accuracy ratings for every gun and ammo combination, as well as confirmed kills and more. Friends can see the details of every hunt you have been on, including the number of animals tracked, killed, spotted, what each of your confirmed kills were, and where you hit them.
The game also allows you to take trophy shots when confirming kills. These shots are automatically uploaded to your profile when they are taken, and save the animal type and its score. These are saved alongside even more pictures that can be taken using the in-game camera.
These features are incredibly nice to have. While you won’t often find me on others’ profiles, the amount of statistics that you can keep track, of in regards to yourself, is staggering—and I find myself checking them quite a bit. You can track time played, number of animals you've tracked, animals spotted, animals killed killed, distance walked, and a whole lot more from the same page. Should you decide you want to brag about a specific hunt or kill, just show your friends your profile. It’s simple, it’s detailed, and I find it adds quite a lot to the game.
The Item Shop
The first thing people seem to look at with theHunter is that it’s a free-to-play game with restrictions on hunting all but three animals, and an inability to host games unless you pay a subscription with an item shop on top of that. What players don’t tend to do after seeing that is research what is actually necessary.
If you want the absolute optimal hunting loadout for each reserve, then each one will likely cost you a decent amount. There are per-environment sets of camo, specific that guns can only be used on specific animals, preferred tents for each reservr, and markers (added recently). It can all add up pretty quickly. But you don’t need it all.
If you want a basic loadout, that can hunt all of the classic animals easily, with additional tools for deer and turkey you can start with the $15 Wayfarer bundle, get three months of subscription in the process, and be on your way. Personally, I recommend paying for the $50 Trailrunner bundle, getting a year of subscription in the process, and writing it off as a box fee because it will afford you the most options—such as using the .300 Bolt Action Rifle. Pair the rifle with any shotgun, while carrying the basic birdshot that is provided with your subscription, and you can hunt anything except geese, ibex, and mallards without paying for anything extra. You will need to pay $10 every three months for your subscription for this to remain in effect, though.
Geese, ibex, and mallards all will require extra purchases but those extra purchases can cost as little as an extra $2-3 per animal if you look carefully. Of course, more expensive options are likely to produce better results but you will get good enough results with the cheap options. When you consider that these literally are mini-expansions, $2-3 to access a small number of them doesn’t sound so bad.
Should you want to play for free indefinitely, you can earn in-game currency by completing missions which can then be used to buy month-long licenses to hunt one species of animal. The other restrictions will still apply, including being unable to host a game.
A recent feature that I have really enjoyed is the ability to purchase hunting dogs for about $10 a piece. An entirely new system of its own, you actually have to train your dog through positive reinforcement—the game allows you to purchase treats for this purpose—in order to get them to behave as they should. Until then, you run the risk of them misbehaving and scaring things off.
These companions are primarily there to retrieve mallards, geese, rabbits, and pheasants, but I’ve found a great deal of enjoyment in training them on any hunt. They’re surprisingly well-modeled companions and have a great deal of personality to them.
Final Verdict - Great
theHunter is an expensive game when compared to many others—that I don’t doubt. However, once you have set up your all-purpose loadout and purchased the camo(s) you want, all that is left is the ~$3 per month subscription and the occasional add-on to allow you to hunt new animals. With frequent updates in the form of new animal species, new reserves, and even major additions like hunting dogs, the game is constantly moving forward and the team make sure that the game is well worth the extra cost. In addition, you get the single best hunting experience on the market and one that is generally graphically stunning, at that.
theHunter System Requirements
Operating System: Windows XP, Vista, 7, or 8
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 2 GHz or AMD Dual Core
Video Card: nVidia GeForce 8800 or ATI Radeon HD 2400 with 256 MB VRAM
RAM: 2 GB
Hard Disk Space: 1.5 GB
theHunter Music & Soundtrack
theHunter Additional Information
Developer(s): Emote Games (pre-2010), Avalanche Studios, Expansive Worlds (subsidiary of Avalanche Studios)
Publisher(s): Expansive Worlds
Game Engine: Avalanche Engine 2
Steam Greenlight: September 04, 2012
Beta Release Date: April 23, 2014
Multiplayer Release date: June 3, 2013
Release Date: March 05, 2009
Steam Release Date: June 03, 2014
Development History / Background:
theHunter, developed in Avalanche Engine 2, was originally released in March of 2009 by Emote Games and Avalanche Studios, of Just Cause fame. On February 18, 2010 it was announced that Avalanche Studios had acquired all rights to theHunter and they established Expansive Worlds, their new online division, in order to continue development of theHunter. Originally a single-player game, the game’s multiplayer component launched June 3, 2013. The game was posted to Steam Greenlight on September 04, 2012 and subsequently released through Steam on June 03, 2014.