If you could hop into a time machine and set the dial for the late 1990s, you could get a first-hand look at the huge boom in casual outdoor sports video games. Sparked by the release of WizardWorks’ Deer Hunter in 1997, the craze saw retail shelves full of similar games for PC and consoles and helped popularize gaming for a largely untapped audience. While the fever for hunting games eventually subsided over the years, the game-playing public is still ready and willing to take a virtual hunting trip, should the opportunity present itself.
The folks at Neopica, a game development studio located in Belgium, first came onto the outdoor sports game scene back in the summer of 2017 with the release of Hunting Simulator. It offered a large variety of target prey, weapons, and online play. This summer, the team has plans to launch the sequel, Hunting Simulator 2, as the evolution of the ideas presented in the original game. Publisher BigBen Interactive provided me the opportunity to play an early PC build of Hunting Simulator 2 so I could get an idea of what prospective players can expect should they opt to take the hunt next month.
Pack up for the hunt
Hunting Simulator 2 will offer all-new hunting environments for the series and promises a total of 33 different animal species that are ripe for the taking. During my playtime, I got to spend a good amount of time in the Colorado region, which included two different maps in the build I had. Much like real-life Colorado, these maps offered some incredibly varied geographic possibilities, including hills, mountains, and open plains. The Unreal Engine 4-powered environments are loaded with lush forests and rolling meadows where the grass sways with the wind.
Hidden among the natural beauty are unique tracks that are left by the various native animal species. Players can inspect these tracks to get started on a pursuit for a kill. You may encounter simple foot tracks, puddles of urine, droppings, blood trails, and more. The types of tracks are dependent on the type of animal that made them. Depending on the map you travel to, you may encounter various deer, bears, rabbits, coyotes, hogs, birds, and moose. There is no shortage of cuddly forest critters that need to be terminated.
Man’s best friend
You could simply try tracking these animals yourself, but I’m not sure why anyone would even consider such a thing when Hunting Simulator 2 offers the option of bringing along a hunting companion in the form of a dog. Like every other genre in video games, hunting games are also improved by the inclusion of good boys. In the early build I played, I was given access to a beagle.
I named my beagle Dingleberry. Dingleberry and I hit the wilderness, with my four-legged friend taking point on animal tracking duties. Right off the bat, this good boy led me directly to a nice whitetail buck. I took aim and fired for the vital organs and after the impact, the deer darted off into the cover of the forest. Dingleberry took a sniff of the blood trail where the shot landed and helped me track down the kill. I am a proud papa.
The tools of the trade
Once I was able to tear myself away from the extracurricular activities that Dingleberry and I participated in, I retreated back to the hunting lodge to take inventory of the gear I had available at my disposal. The lodge is a lavishly adorned dwelling that serves as the hub for your various hunting excursions. You can use your computer to order new weapons, sights, clothing, and more. A different room in the lodge allows you to customize your loadout for upcoming hunts. Some types of prey require specific gear, so it always helps to take the right tool for the job.
Speaking of these tools, Hunting Simulator 2 features a nice array of licensed firearms, including options from some of the biggest names in the industry like Winchester and Browning. Outdoorsmen who are averse to gunpowder will be happy to know that bowhunting is an option in Hunting Simulator 2 if you want to approach hunts like John J. Rambo.
Anticipating the rut
As far as moment to moment gameplay, Hunting Simulator 2 tends to veer towards the arcade style of hunting, as opposed to strict simulation. Admittedly, not everyone wants to sit in a tree stand for three hours hoping a trophy buck stumbles by. There is always action available, which should be great for those who don’t have time to commit to multi-hour sessions.
BigBen is promising a Texan desert and thick European forests will be available to hunters at launch, as well as several types of hunting dogs. If spending time in the great outdoors with some guns and dogs sounds like a good time, Hunting Simulator 2 could be the ticket for you. The game is currently scheduled to arrive for PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PS4 on June 25, 2020.