It seems like in recent years we have seen the rise of what you might call the “chill-out game”. It’s a type of game that players can play at their own pace. A game in which they can lose hours, days or even weeks of their life to…a game that acts as an escape. It doesn’t require anything overly taxing, there is little to no need for twitch controls and the idea of ‘beating’ the game either isn’t possible or is never the aim. Seemingly, these titles were first truly popularised by ‘Farming Simulator’, and we now have a bevy of titles on our digital store shelves offering similar experiences. Of course, flight sims will always be one such example, but we also have games like Euro and American Truck Simulators, more recently Snowrunner and even more cutesy but no less relaxing titles like Stardew Valley. Hunting Simulator 2 is yet another example of one of these games, and it’s a fantastic addition to the team. If gaming is your passion, and you find yourself in need of an escape to forget about life for a while, then Hunting Simulator 2 is definitely worth your consideration.
As with many games, Hunting Simulator 2 opens with a tutorial. Players take control of a hunter as he or she is guided through their first hunt. The game teaches you how to interact with your dog, as well as follow trails, culminating in the player killing their first deer as they quietly wait for it to show in a hunting tower. After that, players are returned to base and are essentially left to their own devices to discover the intricacies that this game has to offer.
Hunting Simulator 2, in essence, is a ‘Walking Simulator’. This term has come to be something of a pejorative over the years, but in this instance, it’s one of the best compliments it can be given. In a world in which many of our shooters expect us to sprint around shooting people in the face as fast as possible before moving on to the next mindless murder room, Hunting Simulator 2 forces the player to take a breath, slow down and absorb the world around them.
As relaxing as this game will eventually become, there is a steep and quite honestly unwelcome learning curve that those unfamiliar with the world of hunting will be forced to endure to get the most out of this game. As previously mentioned, players are punished for trying to approach this game at speed. Unfortunately, however, at no point is the player ever told to slow down. Many will come to this game and be instantly turned away because it does such a poor job of explaining itself. In the early hours of the game, it’s all too easy to spend hours trying to find animals, only to be frustrated at every turn. The calm, relaxation and enjoyment of the hunt is what many will come to this game for, yet the game doesn’t really ever explain how to tap into that. A simple optional tutorial outlining the various features of the game would have gone a long way to help in this regard, but instead, the game just expects players to know what to do, which is a real shame. It’s possible that the bulk of the audience for this game actually consists of hunters and, as a result, don’t need the hobby explained to them, but as a learning tool, Hunting Simulator 2 does a poor job in explaining itself.
Players also shouldn’t come to this game expecting to be wowed by the graphics. This is a niche title, and the budget reflects that. It’s by no means an ugly game, but for a title that expects players to spend a great deal of time just looking around, it’s a little jagged around the edges. Unfortunately, this is just a result of the place Hunting Simulator 2 finds itself in the food chain, but it’s still a shame and worth mentioning.
In terms of a gameplay loop, players will choose from a number of different areas spanning across the USA and Eastern Europe and be asked to purchase a hunting license based on the type of animal they want to hunt. These range from creatures like deer, ducks and geese, to more dangerous animals, like bears and wolves. Once caught, the player has the option to claim the animal as a trophy, in which case it will be mounted on a plaque in your home, or sell it and use the money to buy more licenses, clothing, guns, bullets and equipment, like duck whistles or scented lures, to draw animals into the open. There’s a lot to do in this game and seemingly no real end. The player stops once they feel satisfied or, as is more likely, use it like a comfort blanket that they can return to over and over again as a tool to zone out and take a nice, relaxing walk through the woods with man’s best friend.
Make no mistake, the pacing of this game is as slow as it gets, and under no circumstances will it bend this rule to meet the player halfway.Try to speed up, and the game will punish players for it over and over again until they slow down and play it by its own rules. Running will make too much noise and alert animals, giving them the chance to vacate an area before the player even arrives, leaving them to run around an apparently empty world in search of seemingly non-existent prey. It isn’t until players slow down that they will start to become in tune with the environment around them. Players will begin to hear animal calls in the distance, and the eye will begin to pick out details that had hitherto gone unseen, such as animal droppings, half eaten plants and the odd footprint. The early hours of the game might even be spent simply interacting with your dog, training it to find and pick up scents, praising it so that it becomes more eager to please and improve its drive to become better at tracking animals. In many ways, it’s less of a game and more of a relaxation simulator, and in the hustle and bustle of daily life, that cannot be a bad thing.
Hunting Simulator 2 is a game that will appeal to two very distinct audiences. Firstly and most obviously, it’s a game for those interested in hunting. The developers have clearly put a lot of effort into creating an atmosphere that simulates the slow, deliberate, thoughtful nature of the sport and the use of official licences, like Browning and Beretta, lend it an authenticity that will further enhance the experience. Secondly, this is also a game that will hold an appeal for those looking for an opportunity to zone out of life for a while, and there’s a genuine merit to that. All too often in games, we are expected to be the hero and save the world or have a huge impact in the story around us, but in Hunting Simulator 2, we are allowed to leave the civilised world behind and just enjoy the world in which we inhabit. It’s not a game that’s filled with narrative, superpowers or fast-paced action scenes, and that’s okay. This is a title that won’t appeal to everyone. It likely won’t even appeal to a mass audience, but again…that’s okay. Those that are able to get by its flaws and push through the unforgiving learning curve will find a cool, calm and relaxing experience. This game is about the simplicity of nature and nothing more…but you know what? That’s more than enough.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 25th June 2020
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Hunting Simulator 2 was provided by the publisher.