PAX West 2019: ‘Predator: Hunting Grounds’ is Spine-Ripping Good Co-Op

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Asymmetrical multiplayer games have been taking the gaming community by storm and the PlayStation exclusive Predator: Hunting Grounds, developed by Illfonic, is looking to continue that streak. Having developed Friday the 13th: The Game, a game which allows you to run through a camp as the infamous Jason and hunt down counselors or play as those counselors and attempt to survive, Illfonic looks to marry the 80s to today again as they bring everyone’s action hunter to the game type.

When we walked into the expo hall of PAX West 2019, there was a cosplaying Predator to great us with a giant jungle themed PlayStation booth sitting behind him. To be honest, we both had forgotten that Predator: Hunting Grounds has been announced. As we never miss an opportunity to cover a co-op title, we jumped into the Predator’s Jungle and started playing.

Simply put, Predator: Hunting Grounds is an asymmetrical shooter set in remote areas around the world, where the Predator stalks the most challenging prey as they try to complete their military objective. You have two options as a player: play as a member of an elite Fireteam and complete paramilitary operations before the Predator finds you, or play as the Predator and hunt the others, using deadly alien tech to collect your trophies.

If you’re slotted into one of the Fireteam you have the choice to play one of five character loadouts, which include sniper, scout, and assault and more. Each one of these loadouts has a specialty. For example, the sniper works for range and the scouts and assault work for midrange, allowing you to work both close and mid with ease – also making them the easier classes. That being said, balancing your team’s skillsets, while not necessary, will help you succeed. Our four-person squad ended up with three scouts, so, we speak from experience. After you choose your classes, you’re dropped into the remote location to complete your mission. At the same time though, the Predator is dropped into the trees to stalk your team.

In line with the franchise, the Predator can camouflage and use other abilities that are iconic to the character. While camouflaged, the Predator is near-invisible and the added ability of effortlessly being able to move through the trees makes the identifiable shimmer, that would be helpful to the players to see him, almost impossible to spot. That being said, as the Fireteam, you can mark the predator once he’s spotted and help your team track him through the jungle – or at the very least, know what direction he’s coming from.

As a team, we like to review these demos as they’re meant to be played, cooperatively. Below are our perspectives on Predator: Hunting Grounds from PAX West.

How does Predator: Hunting Grounds compare to other asymmetrical titles?

Kate: I love asymmetrical shooters. I bought Friday the 13th day one and I am in love with Rooster Teeth’s title Vicious Circle and even have some hours in Last YearSadly, my love of the genre is what helps me know that Predator: Hunting Grounds isn’t anything revolutionary, but it is different enough to offer up enough variation to a gametype that is quickly becoming saturated.

The addition of AI enemies and objectives means that you have to work on a team strategy and work in unison to both fend off the Predator and complete your task as a member of the Fireteam. It may seem small but forcing people to work together changes up the gametype.

Matt: I think the main difference from a gameplay standpoint will the be the AI in the game. The addition of AI that will attack you while you are attempting to complete objectives and not be killed by the Predator. It adds a whole new dynamic to the game. Other asymmetrical games have you kill the “monster” or complete objectives but outside of that nothing else interfered with those tasks.

Was it hard to balance AI enemies and the Predator?

Kate: At first, my team pushed the objective, not realizing that there was AI, and then once we got a handle on that, the Predator dropped from the trees and began picking us off. In order to stand a chance against the Predator you have to keep tagging him, but, if you’re focused on his movements, it can be really easy to lose track of the AI enemies on the field as well. Truthfully, the only solution for this is communication. The pinging system is extremely simple so all of that will have to be done via mic, but if you can figure out that, it’s a good difficulty to combat and not an insurmountable one.

Matt: The need to balance everything can sneak up on you if you aren’t ready for it. We were just working our way through the objectives and AI just like a regular co-op game and then the Predator dropped out of the sky and downed one of our teammates, whom I had actually forgotten for a moment that we are also avoiding the Predator as well. It adds a lot of elements that people are going to have to get use to. Just as we started attacking the Predator more AI had spawned and the cycle continued.

Who did you play as?

Kate: I was apparently the fan favorite, as two others on my team also chose the scout. The assault rifle class looked the easiest to deal with, moving away from the shotgun and sniper loadouts was the obvious move for those of us either unfamiliar with the game or the controller. I was the latter. While the class wasn’t bad, it was boring and I would recommend one of the more skilled loadouts for better interactions with the Predator.

Matt: Everyone on my team ended up selecting the scout loadout assuming for the assault rifle except me who chose go close combat with a shotgun. I just felt like mixing it up and seeing how well worked. The shotgun was great for fending on AI relatively easy and allowed me to stay alive first the Predator as I did more close damage.

However there were some areas that the lack of range definitely did hurt me, but that is what teammates are for. I do think overall having a nice mix especially as you learn each class and with the different maps will be helpful. Being able to do that huge close range damage was just super helpful when came to a camp and few buildings.

Does Predator: Hunting Grounds feel like a part of the larger franchise?

Kate: It does. While we don’t know too much outside the demo, if Illfonic has proved anything with its last asymmetrical foray, it’s that they know how to satisfy fans of an IP by filling it with all the iconic pieces of the property. Like Jason’s uncanny ability to pop up behind his victim when he was three houses away seconds ago, the Predator’s camouflage is one of the most iconic things about him. In addition, both his red laser sight and his heat vision also make appearances in the game.

While it isn’t a part of a story, ti very much feels like the Predator’s world and if it’s to follow the path of Friday the 13th I’m sure fans will get countless skins for the big bad as well as other special powers showcased in different films.

Matt: I have seen a few of the Predator movies and the game does give you a Predator type feel especially of the first movie. It was fun, trying to track the Predator and seeing it blend back into the trees. I did not get to use any of some of these items available that allow you to hide such as mud like from the first movie. I think overall if you are a big Predator fan and of this genre you will enjoy this game.

However, the main thing to me that sets this game apart from just being a game based on a big name movie franchise will be the addition of AI for each game. Also, the biggest thing will be the licensing rights so long as that all pans out, as Friday the 13th: The Game lost all ability to expand and improve the game due to the rights, so if they are allowed to play with the entire Predator franchise it would be intriguing on what all they do.

All in all, as the only demo that PlayStation had that wasn’t VR, Predator: Hunting Grounds was a fun addition to the floor. With the game in pre-alpha, fans of the IP will have to wait a bit given the games large release window as “sometime in 2020.” Overall, the game provides a fun co-op experience like any asymmetrical shooter.

As a PlayStation exclusive, we’ll have to wait and see how the game does building a community. The success around Illfonic’s Friday the 13th: The Game is due in large part by its availability on every platform. The big question is whether or not the pull of The Predator is enough on just one console.

Predator: Hunting Grounds will be available on the PlayStation 4 sometime in 2020.