It’s a weird thing to say as an animal lover, but I love a good hunting game. Getting thrust into the wilderness and stalking your prey is a great gameplay loop, and with a whole world of animals to choose from there are so many possibilities for virtual hunters. Often hunting games lean way too far into the realism though, and expect you to crawl for hours at a time and wait for certain times of day to find the trophy deer you’re looking for. I was intrigued to see if Way of the Hunter would have the pace I appreciated.
After years away from the ranch, your character has returned to this beautiful place from his past. During his childhood he spent many happy summers here, although his dad didn’t want him hunting. Apparently his dad is the bad guy here, and we’re supposed to love children killing innocent woodland critters. Well now you’re old enough to kill to your heart’s content, so grab that rifle and get shooting.
If this all sounds a little morally dubious to you, don’t worry. Way of the Hunter has a focus on ethical hunting. A local restaurant often asks you for ethically killed animals, and it’s up to you to kill them as painlessly as possible. This means aiming for body parts that’ll end them instantly, like the heart or brain, which is pretty much impossible. Instead you’ll more likely shoot them in the leg and have to follow their blood trail to the site of their painful death minutes later. Or they’ll escape, and will have to live the rest of their lives in agony.
Fortunately you don’t have to let ethics get in the way when decorating your cabin. Anything you shoot can be displayed in this humble abode in a variety of places and positions. Want a badger fighting a wolf next to your breakfast table? Go nuts, although you’ll have to kill a lot of animals to get enough money to pay the taxidermy fee.
Okay I’ve put it off long enough, I should probably talk about the actual experience of hunting. You’ll usually have a target animal in mind, so firstly you’ll need to head on over there in the car. This hunk of junk controls painfully badly, but is faster than walking at least. Don’t drive it too close to the animals though, or they’ll bolt.
Once you get out of the car it’s time to use your hunter senses. These are magical powers that I assume you get from murdering a variety of animals, that allow you to see footprints, noises and areas that animals might want to visit. Once you have an idea of the direction of a target (because you’ve seen it make a noise with your powers) you should get over there as slowly as possible so you don’t scare it.
And here lies one of the biggest issues with Way of the Hunter. Not necessarily that this is tedious (which there’s certainly an argument for) but because it’s wildly inconsistent. There were multiple times I crawled incredibly slowly towards a deer, only to see it leg it after five minutes of misery. Other times I’d drive up to an area and the animals would just sort of sit and watch me.
If you do find the magic formula and catch a badger unaware, you can finally take a shot. The guns you have access to aren’t exactly heavy hitters, so you’ll really have to make that bullet count. You’ll rarely have more than one chance to shoot at an animal, so you’ll need to think about bullet drop, wind and (perhaps most importantly) if the gun you’re using is strong enough to actually kill the animal.
As you progress in Way of the Hunter you’ll unlock all sorts of new guns and equipment to purchase. Whether you want a gun that can take down a moose or a little can that sounds like a deer, there’s all sorts of items to spend that hard earned money on. The only issue here is quite how long it takes to build up the money to afford them, especially when you want to mount a freshly shot pheasant or two on the wall first.
Despite all the issues I had with the game, there is some fun to be had with the game. I enjoyed heading off into the beautiful wilderness and following a river, while shooting the occasional dunce of a pheasant or deer that hadn’t got the memo to flee when I enter the area.
Being realistic doesn’t make a game fun, and Way of the Hunter proves that repeatedly. Crawling at a snail’s pace towards a moose or waiting in a hide for twenty real life minutes for a badger to show up will never be fun, no matter how realistic it feels for the actual hunters out there. Hunting games don’t have to be boring and slow paced, but Way of the Hunter absolutely is.
Hunting is fun when it goes right
Taxidermy options are interesting
The realism makes the game slow and boring
Controlling the car is painful
Animals behaviour is inconsistent