“Choose your battles”… It’s an interesting concept. You need to know where your lines are and in a modern context when to voice concern and when to just keep shut. When starting theHunter: Call of the Wild I weirdly had to take a moment to question my own moral stance on hunting in general. Forgive the indulgence but it’s actually an hypocritical element of my psyche; I’m meat eater, yet I object to hunting. I understand the juxtaposition of this stance but at least I acknowledge it. I’ve always felt uneasy about killing animals, I’m one of those monsters that will sheppard a fly out of the house rather than kill it and will catch spiders to release into the garden, all so I can return to my perfectly cooked steak. When it came to theHunter: Call of the Wild I was coming off the back of a stint mowing down people in GTA, and that’s a key factor here, real life and games aren’t the same thing.

theHunter: Call of the Wild is the first hunting simulator I played since Deer Stalker on the PC in 1998, so in 19 years what has changed in the hunter simulator genre? Well it’s a hell of a lot more relaxing and harrowing. theHunter: Call of the Wild is set in Central Europe, you get dumped into the middle of a reserve surrounded by autumnal scenery and are basically told to go crazy, but in a quite stealthy way. My first run led me to a deer just chewing on some grass right in front of me, I pulled out my sniper rifle and took aim before firing off a shot, the deer ran away. I wasn’t sure if I missed or what had happened, on running down to where the deer was spotted I found a small pool of blood, on inspection my character was able to determine the direction the deer ran off in and I gave chase. The next 30 minutes was spent trying to work out where the hell my dinner had gone. It was a lost cause. I had a similar experience with the next 2 deer I took aim at.

theHunter: Call of the Wild is somewhat lacking in real tutorial or guide, tool tips pop up but to be blunt they’re as useful as someone randomly shouting at you about how you’re doing something wrong. By hour 2 of my time with theHunter: Call of the Wild I had gone native. I was desperately sucked into the beauty of the world around me and just started going for a stroll. Every so often I would hear the call of an animal but once I had crawled my way over, to avoid making too much noise, the furry bastard had legged it. Eventually though something clicked and I got a grasp on how to efficiently take out my pray. My first properly high scoring kill I managed to get a headshot on an unsuspecting thing of nature and watched it crumple from over 400m away, the trophies popped up confirming my excellent shot. I wandered over and took a photo of my victim like Dexter on a vigilante run, but after a moment of moral questioning I realised how satisfying the experience was. The walking for 20 minutes with not so much as a nibble was enjoyable thanks to the swaying foliage in the wind and the nice farmland I ambled over.

As soon as I had the epiphany of fun I was hooked, this game is a time vacuum, the ‘just one more’ principle was in full effect for me as I quietly trudged through woodlands looking for the slightest pixel movement and my next target. I would lay down and point at the various important bits of an animal before taking fire. With each kill I was gaining XP and buying skill points in things like the directional cones from following tracks being more narrow giving me a more defined direction, or spending my money from the trophies on building lifeguard stands for me to get a better view of an animals resting spot. After a few hours of strolling non stop I finally pulled up the map properly and realised that I had made next to no progress on clearing the fog of war, this map is huge. Thankfully after a fair amount of work you do get access to quicker ways of moving around but at the cost of stealth.

theHunter: Call of the Wild is undoubtedly a gorgeous game, the weather effects, the natural foliage and plants all come together to really absorb you into the world and make the slight tedium of belly crawling everywhere not so painful to get through. There is no real soundtrack in theHunter: Call of the Wild, you are just there with the sounds of nature and the occasional roar of a boar or bear as they come at in asking to be culled.

theHunter: Call of the Wild is a game I’ll be going back to, I used to go to games like Mirror’s Edge or even earlier GTA games to just enjoy the music and the design; not to progress the story but to just feel immersed and chilled. theHunter: Call of the Wild is a new game to scratch that itch. There is various ‘missions’ and a story to follow but to be honest you will get just as much out of the experience by just picking a direction and forging your own path. With each kill you claim you get to see an X-Ray of the animal with where your bullet hit, letting you know each time how much you suck, but you will over time get better and start to work out bullet drop and wind and how they affect your shots. From a non fatal shot you could end up tracking a bleeding out animal for a very long period of time, desperately trying to find where it’s final resting place ended up, despite the frustration this could cause it’s also that final element in a game of various parts. The world, the shot and the hunt for the trophy, all of these alone wouldn’t be enough, but together they make for a bafflingly immersive and entertaining experience, equal parts chill, stress and satisfaction; the combo for any great game.

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Ruaidhri

Big-Boss of PixelBedlam.co.uk
Ruaidhri has been writing for a number of sites over the past few years, spewing his vitriol and love in equal measures on all topics from Video Games to Film and Board Games to Geek Culture. He started PixelBedlam in September of 2012. Follow him on Twitter!

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