How can Predator: Hunting Grounds be improved?
When it initially debuted in late April, we found Illfonic’s newest asymmetrical multiplayer title Predator: Hunting Grounds to be a mostly “flawed and uneven” experience despite its promising premise and use of the iconic Predator IP. Fast forward a month later and the game has now received its first major balancing patch along with a small premium DLC which brings back Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Alan "Dutch" Schaefer from the original Predator movie.
Patch-based performance tweaks and cosmetic DLC are all well and good, but we’re guessing that both fans and critics of Hunting Grounds would agree the game needs more substantial improvements to ensure a full recovery from its rough launch. Illfonic has confirmed a series of additional free updates will follow up through August and potentially beyond, and we’ve got some ideas on how the studio could best leverage those updates to radically boost Predator: Hunting Grounds’ value.
Offline Bot Play
Developing competent AI for offline bots naturally takes time and resources, but it also ensures a game’s longevity by eliminating the need for a persistent online community of other players. As of this writing, Hunting Grounds doesn’t include bot support for either the Predator or the four-person marine Fireteam. Players can at least load into a private match as a solo Predator and practice their skills against the game’s standard AI soldiers, but the extremely limited combat capabilities of said soldiers don’t make for much of a challenge.
A full offline bot suite that supported both bot-controlled Fireteam marines and Predators would certainly be a welcome addition, but we’d settle for bot marines that players could insert into private matches whenever they didn’t feel like facing random online strangers. This latter scenario would have the added benefit of functioning as a pseudo-PvE experience wherein Predator players could hone their skills against competent AI opponents while earning rewards and XP for their troubles.
Of course, the only thing better than offline bot support for Hunting Grounds’ competitive matches would be a more fully realized PvE experience…
Proper PvE Game Modes
If Illfonic managed to improve the standard soldier AI to the point where they actually posed a significant threat in large numbers, it could easily leverage such a development into several promising PvE modes and concepts.
Having a four-player Fireteam work through a linear series of objectives (as they already do in Hunting Grounds’ standard matches) or even defend a single position in a horde mode setup sans Predator would be a promising (if not terribly original) start. But what if the Predator wasn’t completely removed and was instead merely…optional?
Illfonic could really capitalize on Hunting Grounds’ PvPvE format by allowing Predator players to “invade” PvE Fireteam matches, be they objective-based or horde mode-based. To really drive up the tension, this invasion could go completely unannounced, leaving the Fireteam players in a constant state of worry over whether their otherwise straightforward goal of battling AI soldiers would be suddenly interrupted by a Predator ambush.
Critics have noted that one of Hunting Grounds’ biggest missteps is structuring matches in a way where the Fireteam players already know the Predator is out there and coming for them. By implementing more traditional PvE experiences alongside optional Predator invasion mechanics, Illfonic could accomplish two goals at once: giving more casual players PvE options to enjoy while also ratcheting up the potential chaos of pitting humans against a nigh unstoppable Predator.
Then again, why fight one Predator when you could up the challenge even more by taking on two at once…
As we noted in our review, Hunting Grounds’ take on a playable Predator can certainly be deadly under the right conditions. However, the Predator’s lack of mobile combat options and its heavy reliance on melee-based weaponry makes winning against a competent marine Fireteam a daunting prospect for even the most skilled players. Then again, Fireteam players likely wouldn’t be so bold if they knew that there were two Predators waiting for them out in the jungle instead of just one.
If Illfonic wasn’t willing to properly invest in Hunting Grounds’ PvE potential, another route it could go would be ensuring the Predator side had a definite edge by adding in a mode which allowed for two Predator players at once. A two-Predator mode would be ideal not only because it’d make the Predator side an appropriately imposing threat, but also because it could help Hunting Grounds lean more into the Predators’ “glory to the fittest” mentality. After all, just because two Predators are present doesn’t necessarily mean they’d have to work together.
The Predator players might start out as allies in the face of a larger opposing force (i.e. the Fireteam marines and AI soldiers), but such an alliance would be tenuous at best and would also most certainly be temporary. If the Fireteam was defeated and both Predators were still alive, a final duel to the death would provide a suitably climactic end to a round on par with the Fireteam’s final sprint to the helicopter exfiltration.
Stick and Move
Whether or not alternative modes such as a PvE horde experience or a double-Predator face off are eventually added in, Hunting Grounds’ default option will likely always be the current 4v1 format. Because of this, it’s important for Illfonic to at least address the Predator player’s need for more mobile combat options which allow them to better embrace their status as an unseen terror of the jungle.
Some ideas we had include proximity explosives which the Predator could place like booby traps or even drop on unsuspecting marine players from above as they’re leaping from one tree branch to another. It’d also be neat if Predators got some sort of silent weaponry which allowed them to isolate and/or incapacitate a marine player like a grappling hook or a throwable net. Auxiliary gadgets such as deployable decoys or flashbang grenades wouldn’t be out of the question either.
Giving the Predator a ranged weapon it could use while moving might upset the competitive balance a little too much, but at this point we’d be happy to see Illfonic at least try it and see what happens. As it currently stands, the Predator’s arsenal is woefully ineffective at doing much else other than facilitating clunky ambushes and/or full on direct assaults, neither of which does much good in the face of a properly prepared Fireteam squad.
Less Grind, More Rewards
This is more of a general recommendation and one which would admittedly require a more fundamental reworking of Hunting Grounds’ structure, but an easing up on the amount of grinding players are expected to work through sure would be appreciated. Granted, it’s nice that Hunting Grounds has so much stuff for players to unlock in the form of cosmetic items and new weapons and classes for both Fireteam marines and the Predator. But it’s also hard to get excited for such rewards when you have to put in hours of effort just to unlock a single item and/or hope you get lucky when opening a randomized loot box.
A more streamlined progression system which guaranteed substantive rewards over a flatter curve of playtime would not only be a welcome addition all on its own, it’d also pair nicely with other suggestions on this list such as PvE game modes and Predator ability enhancements. We’re guessing that a general addressing of Hunting Grounds’ current progression and rewards structure is on Illfonic’s to-do list, we just hope that the studio’s plans are as comprehensive and player-friendly as possible.
Content That Matters
Again, expanding the official Predator lore through some Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring DLC is cool and all, but Predator: Hunting Grounds is going to need much more if Illfonic wants to keep it going over the next few months, let alone the next few years.
No matter what, the game needs content that matters, content which not only makes Hunting Grounds a better game but also proves that Illfonic is in this for the long haul. There’s certainly a place for cosmetic DLC (especially the kind with some bonus story flavor attached), but our ultimate hope is that distracting players with flashy marketing-friendly cosmetic updates isn’t Illfonic’s top priority nor its ultimate endgame strategy.
Predator: Hunting Grounds is available now for PC and PS4.