Predator: Hunting Grounds has tense moments when players are being hunted by an alien in the jungle. Unfortunately, this multiplayer-only video game's loose shooting mechanics and lopsided matchmaking ultimately hold it back from greatness.
Developer Illfonic perfectly nails the premise from the 1987 film Predator. A fireteam is tasked to complete an objective in a jungle. Mission objectives for this team of four range from killing a specific target to gathering intelligence to sabotage. Artificial intelligence (AI) enemies are strewn across the map, though they pose little threat in most situations.
Standard shooter mechanics apply and, as a member of the fireteam, you run, jump, sprint and shoot in the first-person point of view. You have a healing kit and an assortment of optional arsenal such as grenades and extra ammunition.
When objectives are met, you do what actor Arnold Schwarzenegger says in the movie and "get to the chopper". If at least one team member makes it out, you win.
However, there is someone out there who will be making your missions hectic. In the game, one player can take on the role of Predator, whose sole purpose is to wipe out the fireteam.
Playing as the Predator puts the player in a third-person perspective with the camera behind the character, which widens the view and allows the player to see more.
The Predator is not only a bullet sponge which can take heaps of damage, but it also has jungle parkour ability, or "Predkour" as the game calls it. It can traverse the jungle swiftly by scaling up trees, jumping from branch to branch and leaping to close a gap quickly.
As Predator, a player starts with iconic weaponry such as the Plasma Caster shoulder cannon and wrist blades, with weapons such as Smart Disc and netgun unlocked through playing.
Whether you play a fireteam member or the Predator, each mission will net player experience points that go into unlocking weapon attachments and character perks. For example, fireteam members could equip their guns with a larger magazine or have the ability to take more damage.
Unfortunately, Predator: Hunting Grounds is not as polished as it seems.
For one thing, button input response seems laggy, while AI enemies seem to pop out of nowhere and are as dumb as a rock - they either rush at you head-on or sometimes do not react when you are killing other enemies around them.
Console games such as Call Of Duty and Apex Legends have a degree of aim-assist, which draws weapon crosshairs closer to the target. Here, your weapon does not seem to lock onto targets as much when you are shooting.
The movements of the Predator, while fluid and swift up in the trees, feel clunky on the ground.
But the biggest thing holding this game back is its matchmaking.
By design, when five players log into a match, only one gets to play the titular character. The problem, though, is that the soldiers' missions are so similar that they get old quickly, while playing the Predator feels significantly fresher in comparison.
This resulted in long waiting times to play the Predator in matchmaking lobbies. My shortest waiting time was five minutes - I have waited for as long as 20 minutes before giving up. Even with cross-play, which matches console players with PC players, waiting times were very long.
To encourage replaying, loot boxes can be earned or bought with in-game currency. These "field lockers" contain three randomised cosmetic gear that do not affect gameplay. But it is nice to be able to customise your soldier in different facepaint as well as tweak the uniform and guns with colours and patterns.
Predator: Hunting Grounds has the makings of a good game and fans of the film franchise will get a kick out of playing as and against the series' main character.
But with limited game modes, mediocre shooting mechanics and matchmaking issues, there is little reason to get back on the chopper and return to this game after you have had a few runs.
• Faithful to the source material
• Variety of character perks
• Fun combat in short doses
• Mediocre graphics
• Loose first-person shooting and movement mechanics
• Long wait to play as Predator
PRICE: $54.90 (PC; PlayStation 4, version tested)
GENRE: Multiplayer shooter