Video games have been more popular than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic keeping everyone indoors. Hardware and software sales have been off the charts, and we’ve seen new game releases breaking records with little effort. But one game that came out along with the others hasn’t made as much noise. We’re talking about Predator: Hunting Grounds, an asymmetric multiplayer romp from the developers of Friday the 13th. What’s going on here? Could Hunting Grounds pick up steam later, or will a number of factors keep it in its niche?
People seemed interested in Predator: Hunting Grounds when it was announced during a Sony State of Play, but leading up to and after release, you don’t see a lot of chatter about it. I looked into it a bit, to see what people thought of it. Considering how long in the tooth Friday the 13th has been, I thought perhaps I’d see a similar situation, with a fanbase dedicated enough to keep things rolling. Maybe Hunting Grounds could last even longer, considering Friday’s legal troubles.
I think the main problem is its PS4 and PC exclusivity. Sony Interactive Entertainment is the publisher on this one, which likely helped this game get made in the first place. That’s great, but the problem is the PS4 is truly on its last legs. Hunting Grounds is a AA release through and through, which means the console version has technical problems. A quick peek at the game’s Reddit community, which only has around 5,000 members, notes frustration with framerate issues on the console version, which makes for a weakening playerbase and frustrations with cross platform play.
While not always the biggest factor in a game’s livelihood, Hunting Grounds also didn’t get a great critical reception. Even without the technical issues, reviews note some balance issues that plague the core gameplay. It seems like the experience relies heavily on the person playing as the Predator, with a bad or AFK player turning the experience into a mundane PvE shooter. A good Predator makes it exciting, but it seems sometimes people playing Predator can feel underpowered. Post-release patches have been coming out, and the community seems pleased with them.
Finally, Hunting Grounds just had unfortunate timing. It’s a global pandemic, and people might be too stressed out by that and other current events to be into a tough, competitive shooter. More relaxing and casual experiences have done a lot better, or games that focus more on storytelling. Final Fantasy VII Remake and Animal Crossing: New Horizons cast a deep shadow over this game, and it’s easy to see folks just not having enough bandwidth to spare, save for diehard Predator fans.
It’s hard to say how much Hunting Grounds might pick up in the long run. Predator isn’t exactly the biggest IP in the world, despite the original movie being a classic. Friday the 13th benefitting from being a bigger property, with more room for cool unlocks and gameplay variations. It was also a multiplatform release, helping it reach more people despite technical issues. Hunting Grounds is stuck on a struggling console (power-wise) during a time when huge exclusive games landed and sucked up all the air. Perhaps Hunting Grounds could pick up interest once the PS5 is out, but it also seems like unless the developers make some big changes and additions, this game will struggle to escape its niche.