In today’s day and age where “simulators” have quite literally become a joke in the gaming industry (i.e., Goat Simulator, PC Building Simulator, or the ever notorious Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator) games touting a “simulated real-life experience,” will forever have a stigma attached to them. So how does Hunting Simulator stack up to the rest of the meme ridden field? Well at first glance the game looks ripped straight from the early PS3 days, but the decent gameplay and solid mechanics save it from being just another attempt at the same poorly written joke, although not without a few hiccups.
Even though graphics will always be secondary to fun gameplay, Hunting Simulator does not do itself justice with its muddy textures, ugly character models, and poor rendering. In 2018 there is no excuse for a game to be this hideous. Especially on the Switch, that features games with breathtaking visuals such as the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Most players will take one look at this game and think it’s ten years old. Although in this case, graphics don’t only play an aesthetic role. In a game about hunting wild animals, it would be infinitely more satisfying to be able to pick up on tracks naturally with a keen eye, rather than seeing a large white icon in the distance.
Despite the poor graphical quality, there is some serious attention to detail when it comes to mechanics; even going as far as animals being able to smell you from further distances if the wind is blowing your scent in their direction. Attention to detail like this is what makes games great instead of mediocre. Although, it would have been nice if bullets got the same treatment and acted as projectiles, having things like distance and the wind affect their trajectory, instead of being hitscan. It would have added a layer of depth to the game and would force the player to take their time in considering whether or not to take a shot.
The game is a victim of its accuracy though. The slow and methodical pace established by allowing animals to have hypersensitive hearing, scent, or sight forces you to move slowly, frustratingly so. You will often find yourself crawling vast distances to avoid detection, taking five or ten minutes to get where you’re going. It’s incredibly frustrating, and even though Neopica, the developer of Hunting Simulator, created the game this way for the sake of accuracy, they should also have asked themselves the question, “Is this fun?” while it was in development. It is a video game after all, and a game being fun to play is the most crucial aspect to consider when developing a video game. The molasses-like pace is most egregious on the more extended hunts. But for the quicker missions, it is much less offensive.
Even though the game treats animals senses with accuracy in mind, the actual act of tracking your target, setting up the perfect shot, and claiming your trophy remains wholly artificial. The only thing that leaves tracks in the game is the player-character; slapping the same footprint texture on top of every surface you walk on despite the varied terrain. Animals don’t create footprints in real time, and tracks you do follow are all stagnant, placed by hand by the developers. Allowing animals to create tracks in real time would have immensely improved the game.
Hunting Simulator is very much a mixed bag. It has a solid base but falters when it comes to the details. It feels like it barely grazes the surface of what could have been a profoundly gratifying game. Instead of each kill feeling like an accomplishment worthy of displaying in the game’s dedicated trophy room (which is a nice touch.) Hunts will often feel like a chore, taking forever to find a target, but killing and claiming your trophy is far too easy. Although, missing your mark is incredibly punishing, as you will have to begin that slow and steady crawl towards a new one all over again. If the developers created the mechanics with synergy in mind, the game would have benefitted as a whole. As the game is now, it is just mediocre, when it had the potential to be something special.
Shakes the simulator stigma: All too often games are intentionally left buggy or low-effort and then have the “simulator” sticker slapped on it as a joke. Fortunately, Hunting Simulator doesn’t continue that trend, offering decent gameplay and a fun premise.
Mechanics lack synergy: The mechanics in the game feel like they are continually fighting with each other. If Neopic designed the mechanics in such a way that they played off each other more effectively, the game would have benefited as a whole.
Final Thoughts: It’s a shame that this game is what it is because it has the bones of what could have been something great. With more development time Neopic could have made an excellent video game about trophy hunting, rather than an okay one.