The simulation genre has taken off quite a bit in recent years. Some are comedy, deliberately janky, like Goat Simulator, and others take a more realistic approach, like Farming Simulator or Euro Truck Simulator. No matter the game, their popularity is insane. Hunting Simulator 2 was originally released back in June 2020 and now has been released on Xbox Series X/S and PS5. I have never hunted, and from my understanding, it’s an extremely slow and methodical experience that rewards patience. Does Hunting Simulator 2 succeed in making this a realistic experience while also giving the player more to come back for?
The game begins with a tutorial, teaching you the basics of hunting an animal; first, you choose the right weapon and caliber of ammunition, then you choose the right dog for the job, and lastly, you set off in hopes of finding some tracks or urine that will eventually lead you to your prey. The tutorial doesn’t take too long and sets you up on your hunting adventure, and bagging my first kill was a satisfying feeling. Luckily, you can hold plenty of animals before you have to return to your lodge to sell; the trek back to the lodge, however, is a slow one.
Before starting your first real hunt, you must go to your hunting lodge. Here you purchase new weapons, ammunition types, equipment, licenses, and best of all, dogs. To hunt an animal, you must purchase a license first, which sticks to the realism; however, some of these are expensive, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated when I came across an animal that I didn’t possess the license to hunt.
You can explore three areas: Texas, Colorado, and Europe, each having two locations that are filled with some unique animals. They’re all beautiful and calming to explore. There’s a certain level of tranquility to be found while creeping through a forest. This is important as 90% of your playtime will be doing just that; after all, hunting is all about patience. If you’re looking for an arcade experience, then this won’t be for you. Movement speed is extremely slow, and while you can sprint, it’s not advisable as every animal can hear you from quite some distance. I enjoyed choosing a different canine companion for the job. A retriever does exactly what you would expect and retrieves small prey, like birds, whereas a beagle barks at large prey to distract them while you line up your shot. While it felt slightly janky, building a bond with your dog through praise and pets was nice. Even with the right gear and dog, my hunts were often unsuccessful, and within the first two hours of gameplay, I managed to bag two foxes, and after selling them, I realized that I’m in for quite a grind to buy my next bit of equipment.
Grinding isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the gameplay loop is satisfying. The first few hours with Hunting Simulator 2 were peaceful, and I was enjoying the pursuit of my prey, but the lack of a real objective was a big issue. Some may enjoy the freedom of getting lost in the wilderness, but I didn’t. If there were extra challenges, like hunting a specific animal that would net more money, then that would have been a nice way to add some diversity. The game is let down by its shooting. Guns never felt like they packed too much of a punch, and shooting requires little skill. Mostly just aim your reticle and shoot, not really having to account for wind or distance from the target. It’s choices like this that are jarring. Neopicaopted for extreme realism in some places, which for me ruined the fun, but decided not to focus on realistic shooting mechanics. The balance between realism and ‘gameyness’ (pardon the pun) is off, and I struggled to play any more of Hunting Simulator 2.
From a technical standpoint, Hunting Simulator 2 is great. Load times are practically non-existent on PS5, and the game is absolutely gorgeous. Making your way through the European swamps as the sun splits the trees while you hear the rushing of water below and the birds chirping high up in the trees was pleasant to experience. Neopica has created a beautiful experience, and if you want something that you can wind down, maybe listen to a podcast and play this, is worth considering.
If you’re looking for a well-made hunting experience, then this will be right up your alley. For me personally, the gameplay loop alone was not engaging enough to keep me coming back for more, and I was done with the game after I spent some time exploring the different areas and hunting different types of animals. It would be pretty stupid if I docked points for a simulation game being as slow as its real-life counterpart, but this combined with the lack of objectives had me not wanting to come back for more. I enjoyed my first few outings with Hunting Simulator 2 but became bored after a while.
Publisher: Nacon, Bigben Interactive
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 11th March 2021
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Hunting Simulator 2 was provided by the publisher.