Developed by Nine Rocks Games and published by THQ Nordic, Way of the Hunter is a new hunting game that takes you to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and Transylvania. You step into the game as a new hunter who has just taken over his grandfather’s hunting lodge and is ready to step into the amazing world of hunting. For quite some time, there has not been a decent hunting game and I have been keeping my eye on Way of the Hunter for a long time and now it is finally here. This is our review of Way of the Hunter in which we explore beautiful regions and hunt some of the biggest game that these regions have to offer.
The very first time you play the game; you start in the Nez Perce Valley where you must complete the tutorial of the game. Once you complete the tutorial, you are free to explore either Nez Perce Valley or the second map of Transylvania. Both maps are huge with plenty of regions to explore and tons of game to hunt. Before jumping into the game, you can choose from four difficulties as well. These range from Explorer to Ranger. As you increase the difficulty, various elements of the game like Animals Senses, Scope Information, Binocular Identification, and more start to turn off giving you a more raw hunting experience in the game. Depending on your skill level, you can either make your hunting experience a walk in the path or you can go for the most hardcore, authentic hunting experience.
Starting with the most obvious thing, hunting is the sole purpose of you earning money and moving forward with the game’s main story. The hunting mechanics are fairly straightforward and what you would normally expect from any hunting game however, there are tons of mechanics into play here making hunting a complex thing in the game when you are actually serious about it. Your character can hold two weapons with their attachments at the same time. The weapons are categorized in tiers depending on how powerful they are and what sort of game you can hunt with them. Smaller game and animals require shotguns while there are rifles of different tiers for bigger game. You can purchase new weapons by using the laptop in your hunting lodge. You can also use your vehicle’s storage compartment for changing weapons on the go.
While you are not out hunting in the wilds, you will be spending your time in your Hunting Lodge where you will be able to do various tasks. One of the coolest things that you can do in your lodge is display all of the animal trophies that you Taxidermy. There are plenty of spaces and shelves where there are pre-defined and very cool looking presets for displaying various animals. All you need to do is to collect enough trophies, choose your favorite diorama for each slot, and then place those animals in them. You cannot display just any Taxidermy animal here, you need to find and hunt trophy-grade animals to display in your hunting lodge. Apart from this, you can also choose one vehicle to drive from a choice of three. They are all the same 4×4 however it has three skins and some visual customization. This is a great thing to have in the game and the vehicle control is pretty decent as well. I was happy to see that developers put effort into creating three versions of the vehicle and then give it good and enjoyable handling. It plays a vital role in moving around in the game and you will use it a lot in the game.
I was surprised to see how well the vehicle handles in the game. While driving around in Way of the Hunter, I was getting Far Cry vibes however the vehicle felt more solid. It also comes with a functioning horn and lights which is a nice touch since the developers could have easily ignored them both and no one would have batted an eye about it. The vehicle is also not invincible so you need to drive responsibly in the game and if you hit any animals with it, their hunting and trophy rating are wasted and you cannot use it for anything apart from selling it extremely cheap. This is a way of the game not wanting you to just run over animals instead of properly hunting them. While the game does not really shove it down your throat for ethical hunting, it does recommend you to shoot animals ethically. It all boils down to you whether you shoot the animals in the face or their vitals for an instant kill. It is more lenient however its way of making you hunt more ethically is more effective. There are different ways by which animals also change their patterns based on excessive hunting, for example, if you keep hunting an animal in their drinking area, they will start looking for other sources of water, or if you hunt too many females, the amount of the animals will start declining in that area because few babies are born. There is a lot more working in the background actually than what appears in the front and this is a brilliant game design. You can also hunt weaker males to increase the fitness gene pool of the specie in a region.
Your most important skill in the game is called Hunting Sense and it sort of works like the Witcher’s Senses from The Witcher franchise. You can press Triangle to activate your Hunting Sense and it will darken out the edges and show you important information on the screen as it is. During the hunting senses, all animals that make a sound in your surroundings are marked on the screen and you also get to know their distance, their sex, their specie, and whether they are spooked or calm at the moment. You can then begin tracking them using various methods such as using sound or their tracks which appear on the ground. Any useful sign or lead keeps blinking on the screen while your Hunting Sense is on. You can use these signs and tracks to follow and then finally shoot the animal. If you land a perfect hit on animal vitals, they will die instantly or soon after getting hit. Poor hits will make them suffer for a long time with your following their blood trail all around the area until they bleed out and die. While shooting, you can also adjust the bullet zeroing and your zoom for advanced control over your shot. The binoculars allow you to mark important locations around the map and also check how far the animal is located so that you can adjust your shot’s zeroing.
All of this sounds really complicated but it took me around 15 minutes to get used to all of this. They are not difficult at all and I was really comfortable with all of the in-game mechanics pretty soon. After you have tracked your kill, you can collect it and either sell it for money or Taxidermy it for displaying in your Hunting Lodge. You can only display those animals that have a certain trophy value otherwise you cannot display them in your lodge. You will need money to purchase new area boundaries to hunt inside in, new weapons, and new supplies such as animal calls and sights. Earning money is not too hard in the game as a decent animal hunt will give you a pretty good sum and you can pretty much afford everything in the game after spending some hours in the game. The grind is obviously there but it is not really tough to earn money in the game with all of the cool animals located on the maps.
For making your hunt easier, you can use various things to your advantage as well. As you explore the regions, you will discover various hunting grounds, watering places, resting places, and eating places. Analyzing them will unlock that particular animal’s ‘Needs’ area on that map and will also add an approximate location icon of that animal species on the map. You can keep analyzing and your map will keep getting populated with helpful information about the various animal species. A detailed Encyclopedia also keeps all animal species’ info in one place such as eating cycles, activity cycles, and sleeping cycles that you can use to your advantage. The game has a complete day and night cycle and all animals in the game follow their respective routines so you can use these things to be at the right time and the right place to hunt them down. You can also visit the required animal eating or drinking spots at the right time to find them there or get there in advance and wait for them there. The game also has tons of calls that you can use for luring them closer to your location as well.
Way of the Hunter is not just a senseless hunting game as well that just lets you lose in a huge area without any sense of direction or anything. There are a lot of main story missions, secondary jobs, and various tasks that you can complete as well. Both the areas in the game are huge however they are divided into various territories. Like your hunting lodge, various other hunters have their own lodges and huts and they have their private hunting grounds as well. In these parts, you will first need to buy a license and complete various jobs for the owners as well. This increases their trust in you and they start to like which results in you getting a permit to hunt on their private land as well. Most of the map areas are public and anyone in the game can hunt in them however for private land, you will need to purchase permissions and complete their tasks in order to hunt in these areas without getting any sort of a penalty. These missions and tasks give you a sense of direction, help you in getting settled on the huge maps, and also do not overwhelm you. They start small and allow you to gradually explore and understand the mechanics of the game while having fun.
When you discover a new hunting lodge, you can go inside it and check out the area map for unlocking all points of interest around the lodge along with their names and types of regions as well. Both regions in Way of the Hunter are just gorgeous to explore and I loved their design. Every area gives you a unique vibe and no two areas in the game appear similar to each other. Each region is unique and they are extremely well-designed to look as different from the other as possible. You have vast-open grasslands, mountains with tall pines and dense foliage, moist swampy areas, and tons of other areas to explore. One of my favorite things to do in the game is to just simply roam around, appreciating the beauty of the game. Walking next to a running stream while tracking down an Elk to hunt it down just feels amazing in Way of the Hunter. The game map feels alive with trees moving with the air, smaller insects and animals running around and their sounds keeping the atmosphere wild.
For me, the most annoying bit was the character animations which I think need more tweaking and adjustment at this time. For me, they were really slow. The time it took me to switch between the two weapons or to switch from the binoculars to the weapon was painfully slow. It should be slick movement because most of the time, hunters need to be quick with their feet and their hands as well. The slow animations really put me off at the start of the game however the good thing about this is that they eventually grow onto you and you start adjusting the gameplay according to the animations. The controls also take a little bit time of to get adjusted to but it is nothing too complicated to get the hand of things. There are a few bugs in the gameplay here and there which needs fixing at this time. For example, while crouching and moving around, I was able to see another barrel of the gun and sometimes half of a human leg which could only mean that it is my leg and my gun that the game is still showing while standing up.
The PS5 version runs really well however it does offer you two ways to play the game. You can either go for the Performance version which tones down visuals for delivering 60 frames per second or you can go for the Quality mode which limits the game to 30 frames per second but this around, you get more eye candy. Apart from this, Way of the Hunter does not really use any of the PS5’s features properly such as the adaptive triggers. It is a bummer but then again, we always knew that not all developers will be using these PS5 features. The game ran really well for me during my review playthrough and apart from the visual hiccups here and there, I did not encounter any game-breaking bugs or one that would actually annoy me too much or ruin the gameplay for me. The game is in a stable position at launch however it needs those pesky bugs gone to make it a solid release. Sometimes it would take some time for things to load in however I am sure this is an optimization issue and will be fixed with an update.
Way of the Hunter looks beautiful and it plays really well as well. I had fun in a hunting game after a long time and it is because, in Way of the Hunter, I actually had animals to shoot at. I love how the game balances the tracking bit, the feeling of being alone in the wilds, and still offer plenty of animals to shoot at. I do not remember a single time when I got bored just roaming around looking for animals. It is like the game knew when to show animals and when to hide them all. The overall shooting mechanics and the gameplay is pretty decent however the character animations could have been better. They sometimes hinder your hunting experience by being too slow but after some time, you sort of get used to it and start doing things on time to avoid the clunky animations. If you were looking for a decent hunting game for a long time, you should definitely jump into Way of the Hunter because this is certainly the most entertaining hunting game out there. It is a great title for both newcomers to hunting and seasoned hunters who are looking for a challenge.