A loading screen – my only protection – fades away and leaves me standing a foot deep in the Bayou swamps. Monstrous creatures are in my view, shambling grotesque meat sacks and packs of demonized dogs are the least of my worries… I’m on the hunt for some giant spider daemon beast that has a pursuant for crunchy peanut butter and modern jazz. Probably.

But to get to this eight-legged git I have to find some clues as to his location first, whilst dodging or dispatching the zombie thugs in my way. Due to the nature of the environment I cannot move quickly and I want to keep my presence on the down low for as long as possible because I’m not the only one on the hunt. I must kill the big git and banish it to… where it came from (ASDA I think) before the others, else I don’t get paid. An’ I need to get paid, Nutella addiction is real.

Thankfully, I packed a revolver with a suppressor on it so I can get my ninja on. Taking on a group of thugs is easy, they seem genuinely daft and cannot work out why their heads keep exploding. The packs of dogs however, can do one! As a rule, I don’t pick fights with things faster than I can leg it away… it’s not cowardice, it’s intelligence.

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So I’m using my ‘sense‘ to see and track the places this motorbike sized spider has been. I come across a dilapidated farm, and it is busy – must have been a cider festival or something. Farmers everywhere, all daemon zombie farmers shambling about. Some with angry expressions and rage filled erratic movements and others stood still, as if thinking about whether they left the stove on or not. Anyway, I cap a few and sneak into a paddock shed, closing the door behind me like a little girl. On the floor is this… black bubbly patch, some waste product of the Spidergit, I chose not to think about what it was too much but what I did do is stick my hand in it. Yup. Creamy.

The reason I had this inexcusable urge to fluff about in some black smelly bubble bath is to link myself with my quarry, allowing me to track it down faster. See, it wasn’t just for kicks. Right, time to get moving, or at least that was the plan. Instead, the second I opened the door to the shed something screamed in what I can only describe as the sound of a possessed dying giraffe going through its first aggressive colonic and having kicked the leg of a coffee table without footwear on (a giraffe in trainers?! Don’t be daft).

Some 8ft massive butcher bloke, stained with blood and black gunk is staring right at me – brown trousers time. So while doing my best virtual impression of Jessie Owens, I run into a pack of dogs. Howling and growling, barking and monstrous squeals, I actually jumped off my chair. Time to get loud, whip out the shotgun and aim it at the closest hound. Bang, bang, bang! I missed three times, three! Professional occult bounty hunter extraordinaire me. I manage to kill two and leg it north.

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So what I’ve discovered so far is that I’m good at cardio and I’m oddly (worryingly) getting hungrier the longer this hunt goes on. Ok, ok… recover and get my bearings, as I survey the landscape I can see two swift moving zombies crossing open ground. Then they stop at a tree, doing what I can only explain as a crouch dance before moving on… HANG ON! Them be people! Other hunters! And they haven’t seen me – follow them, follow them and they can clear the way so I can save ammo. Or at least that was the plan, because as I got to around 40 yards away my webcam fell of my monitor and hit my desk, which promptly led me to clench my hand (and bum) firing into the air (in game and in real life). Next level stealth skills.

After ten minutes of playing hide and seek at what I can only describe as five crusty white sheds and a farm house with two random hunters, they give up and start moving on. I chose to follow… further away mind, that’s when the proverbial brown stuff hit the rusty blades of a squeaky fan. Gunfire erupts like a… gunfire erupt-y thingy and turns the heads of the two blokes I’m tailing. Two things cross my mind here, a) the clatter of gunfire can only mean somebody’s found Spidergit! and b)… I’ve bloody entered a two man team match! Alone! Eff!

After some 25 seconds or so of swearing to myself, I set myself back to following these two plonkers in towards the action. It’s a livery! Not a place where liver pâté is made but a horse livery. Large barns, gated paddocks and explosions. You know, the usual. This place seems different though, its had some sort of work done to barricade the perimeter, must have been done by the thugs enslaved by the demonic forces at play. It’s all fine though because Tweedledee and Tweedledum have thankfully made short work of the on site security, while at the same time made it clear to the other hunters of their arrival, but we’re inside, the three of us, happy family.

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They both enter the big barn doors while I stay back and climb a ladder leading to a walkway into the barn loft. Bloody hell it’s dark in here, I genuinely can’t see anything other than my shotgun barrel and some light shafts from the daylight outside. It’s refreshing to feel so much unease whilst in broad daylight instead of the typical pitch black horror trope environments we’ve come to expect as standard.

Something moved! Just behind the top right wooden beam. It’s bloody quick! I shoot as I spin and back-peddle off the inner walkway and land on a stack of boxes. I’ve lost sight (what little I had) of whatever knocked me off but I’ve found the Tweedles. They are shooting at shadows and walls and bales of hay in what looks more like panic driven desperation than gunskill! Ha! They’ve got nothing on me and my webcam.

Let there be light! A brilliant arc of radiant white light, thrown from upstairs. Where I just fell from I might add. Gunfire halts, the entire barn is illuminated, plain as day, the Tweedles are back to back by a blood stained hay stack… and there’s two guys in a horse stock, two guys looking down from the rafters, one guy crouching by something hanging on a chain, one bloke hovering at the top of a staircase and me on a stack of boxes three high. It was magical, everyone just looked, looked at the Tweedles… and after a short few seconds of deafening silence, everyone shot Dee and Dum.

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The barn was thunderous with noise, explosives and flames being thrown. I’m sure the Spidergit was giggling. The guy on the stair had clear view of me so I quickly change to my dynamite to lob over at him but again I back-peddle, this time off the box whilst mid toss. My grenade hits the back of the box now in my vision and bounces back over my head. Leg it! Forced myself out of cover to a one on one duel with the stair guy, he hits me once but needs to reload, fatal mistake as my shotgun roars and its on target. He goes down and my dynamite explodes behind me… inadvertently killing the two guys in the stocks. What can I say, I do what I do.

So it’s just me and the two guys shooting upstairs though they aren’t shooting at me, must be the daemon. Im not kidding here, it took me five whole minutes to work out how to get back up there, even ended up in the basement at one point. I literally resorted to going back outside, up the ladder and across the bridge then back into the loft to… chaos.

There was an unspoken bond between the two and I as we worked together to kill the spider. They stayed on one end and I resigned to the other, shooing rather than shooting at it really. It’s so fast, scarpering across the walls and floor and lunging at me when possible. I swear, I will never try to use a shotgun in real life. Unless I’m defending myself against… a barn.

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Someone killed it! I honestly don’t know if it was me or them, but the Spidergit has fallen. Huzzah! So why are the other two still shooting? Maybe they still think it’s alive? Or maybe something else, who cares I have to send this thing back and escape with its essence or something.

So this bit takes a while, banishing evil. In fact it takes about two minutes, during which some plonkers are still shooting at something or each other, I’m not sure but the faster I get to sending this git back to hell the sooner I can get back to the cardio. As I near 90%, almost done, I hear some feet on the wooden floor of the loft, coming in my direction too. The best I can do is throw profanities or smack them with my hands because my accuracy has been exceptional. The latter may be more effective though.

I let out a little gasp as I see one, only one though, so my luck is in but he’s got a machete or sword or something. I just aim at him and he just wobbles left to right in what I assume is to make him a harder target to hit, I chose the shotgun for a reason.

I can’t lie, I could make it sound like I’m epic but there’s no point, I missed the first shot. He closed ground an I ended up punting him with the gun. Twice. I appear to be in one of those cack-handed brawls you only get when people are too close to see let alone throw a punch.

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It’s been a long day, I’ve been lucky, I’ve been daft, I’ve been running away from danger more than running to it but it’s all paid off. I have the bounty and all I have to do is get out. So I’m running. Back across the walkway and jump down next to the ladder. The open air doesn’t seem as reassuring as I’d hoped it would. Probably because I’ve got a big bloody marker on my head telling anyone still left alive that I have the prize and mean to escape. Sure enough, no sooner than I had cleared the paddock I could hear shooting.

As soon as I said “at least they’re not shooting at me”… they started shooting at me. Serpentine! Left, right, jumping, crouching, if they were not annoyed at my survival they were probably laughing at it.

I’m almost there. I thought, with a willing suspension of disbelief, I’m actually gonna make it. One man in a game of twos. If that’s not hardcore I don’t know what is! Shame you’ve read this and know fully well how far from hardcore it actually was.

I’m running up the last embankment and my extraction is almost in view… as well as the two players waiting for me. I sort of froze, then my knee jerk reaction was to run sideways whilst pulling out a lantern. I got absolutely torn up, it was the most useless act of defiance I could have produced, a bloody lantern. Ironic really, because the lads switched my lights out. They killed me, nicked the bounty and ran 20 meters to escape.

Gits.

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This was my first 30 minutes of Hunt: Showdown. It sounded amazing, it looked amazing, it played amazing. The visual fidelity is a testament to the CryEngine and everything Crytek has done in the past, they really know how to push it. Lighting is a particular standout, it’s truly alive. Whether you’re indoors and the light shafts from the sun are beaming through the cracks in the wood or it’s the pitch black of night and someone has thrown a flare, it brings the game to life.

I chose to walk you through my first bash at Hunt: Showdown because a standard preview wouldn’t have done any justice. I had to get you there, take you to the action and into the suspense… or my idiotic actions.

That said, the game features a solo and duo multiplayer mode, there was some difficulty in managing to get into a game of duos but we got there in the end. You choose your equipment and character traits by means of recruitment using your hard won cash. Better equipped and more usable traits cause your hunter to cost noticeably more which in turn increases the risk factor because, if you die, you lose the hunter.

Gaining experience at the end of a hunt (successful or not I might add) means you get to level up and have access to better weapons and hunters. Gameplay feels greatly different with each weapon and with that your actions and tactics change to take advantage of them. I will attest to the suppressed revolver and the ‘Mosin Nagant Avtomat’ (not a typo), these are my go to tools.

Despite it being a little ways off release, Hunt: Showdown feels greatly polished, we just need some UI components cleaned up and solve some server connectivity issues. I can firmly say that this is going to be in my top three most played games of 2018 even though we’re only 2 months into the year.

Written by Michael Jones.

(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of Hunt Showdown, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you

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