In 2014, Crytek first announced Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age as a four-person cooperative shooter set in the 1880s where players come together to hunt monsters. But the company suffered financial difficulties, and the project was moved from Crytek Austin to the main studio in Frankfurt, Germany where it appeared to be forgotten.
However, looks are deceiving. In May, Crytek revealed that it was reviving the game, but renamed to Hunt: Showdown, and it would no longer be a cooperative third-person shooter. Instead, two players band together in an arena-like competition with other teams (up to 10 players per match) to track down a monster, defeat it, and escape with its loot. Alternatively, players can decide to skip the monster altogether and either hunt other players or interfere with their plans to steal the loot for themselves.
It’s a major departure from the original concept, but one that fits in nicely with the current trend of battle royale survival games such as Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. Hunt: Showdown mixes genres by being both a horror game and a survival game.
“Hunt leans toward different genres,” Dennis Schwarz, lead designer for Hunt: Showdown, told AListDaily. “We tried to marry the feeling of an open world survival sandbox game with the match-based structure of other titles. We brought these two worlds together to bring you the sensation of 360-degrees of danger, but there’s also directional focus as you go out and find the clues that will lead you to the target.”
Crytek showcased early gameplay to select members of the press during E3, which was the first major debut for the revamped game. The giant map is comprised of one square kilometer, set in the swamps of Louisiana. Target creatures can be found almost anywhere in this space, and a contract might even include multiple targets. However, players need to be careful with their actions, because the sound of gunfire might give away your location, attracting both rival hunters and nearby monsters. Players that die will lose their gear, but they will pass on genetic traits that will benefit successive characters.
Schwarz pointed out that although players can attack each other, they won’t be able to loot each other for gear, since the emphasis should be on hunting monsters and not necessarily each other. That being the case, new players will encounter veteran ones while exploring the swamps so that they can aspire to become great hunters themselves. Furthermore, players can strategically follow other teams around and steal the bounty after they’ve done all the work.
While discussing the radical shift from being a cooperative game to a competitive one, Schwarz said, “Originally, the game started in our Austin studio as a third-person four-player co-op game. We’ve taken it to the Frankfurt studio, where all the veterans of the Crysis series is located, and we thought it would help tremendously to put it into the first-person. It’s more engaging and puts you down in the action. Also, we thought that putting in PvP (Player-vs-Player) would add the thrill of survival games with an unpredictable element. By combining the PvP with the monsters, we end up with some really interesting gameplay. In our testing, very few matches play out in the same way because of the unpredictability that the players bring.”
Schwarz added that the sense of permanent death (permadeath) in a match is essential to the new format because it keeps players on their toes. “There needs to be a fear of loss because you play very differently if you’re about to lose something, and you have to gamble with your character,” he said.
According to Schwarz, the reception to the new gameplay format has been very good. The press was given a detailed presentation about how Hunt has evolved and Crytek made sure people understood how the game was unique. It also helps that battle royale-style survival games are very popular right now.
“Survival games are kind of in vogue right now, with a lot of great games out there,” Schwarz observed. “It seems like we’re hitting a nerve there. We’re positioning ourselves very closely to some of these games, which wasn’t planned, but it’s great to see that there’s strong potential for these types of games.”
No launch window has been announced for Hunt: Showdown, as Crytek is working to iron out the gameplay. However, Schwarz did confirm that the game would be releasing for the PC platform first and it won’t be a free-to-play game.
Crytek is already working to build up a community for Hunt, which will play a critical role in developing the game. “We want to work closely with the community in order to drive this game forward,” said Schwarz. “We want to see how people respond to it, and it will be a very open and active relationship with our community.”