I can’t say I expected that the first thing I would be playing at E3 2017 would be a game about big game hunting. A visit to the floor space of developer and publisher Big Ben supplied us with games about racing and shooting action, but also one about stalking through the grass, picking up tracks, and trying to get that next big kill. Hunting Simulator puts a rifle in your hands and sends you off, just like that.
The setup was simple. Hunting Simulator features 12 environments and a full dynamic weather system, meaning that players can search for prey anywhere from a mountainside to a desert. I was placed in a forest, and set to the task of hunting a deer. I didn’t find the deer, but I did learn some essentials of the game’s animal-tracking systems. I found animal tracks on the ground, listened for movement, and aimed down a scope to spot some potential prey. I even managed to take down a fox, pretty quickly.
In pecking off the furry fennic, though, I quickly learned something. When aiming and firing at an animal, the player gets a look at three potential factors that can make or break the encounter. These are sight, sound, and smell. Sight was the one I ran into most often, as some animals had longer-distance sight than I had expected. Standing on the far side of a field, I could scare something away without even thinking about my own positioning. The mechanic is an element that allowed me to learn by my own mistakes.
We were told that Hunting Simulator didn’t allow weapon customization, instead focusing on lines of particular gun and tool types. My rifle had some extra movement, but the game gave me the option to hold my breath as I took my shots, to steady things out. In addition to the aforementioned weather system, Hunting Simulator also features a day/night cycle that can take you by surprise. Even then, the simple element of lighting during the day can change a lot. I found my environment getting suddenly darker as I attempted to track a deer, only to realize I was getting deeper and deeper into foliage.
What I played was simple and straightforward. We were told the game will supply players with missions. We were also told the basics of larger kills meaning more reward, although we didn’t get a great idea of what that reward might truly be. Simple as it is, Hunting Simulator comes across strong when it comes to a basic loop. Really, that kind of loop is what hunting is about. There are bait and lure types, sure. You want to know how far away your prey is, and how long you can sprint before the noise puts everything at risk. It’s a loop, but it’s a satisfying kind of loop. There’s no better way to learn from your mistakes than to watch those mistakes run away from you, tail up, on their way further into the woods.
Hunting Simulator hits Xbox One and Playstation 4 later this year. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find my rifle.