Way of the Hunter Review – Silence and Patience Required

Hunting season may still be months away where you live, but Way of the Hunter is out now, and we’ve been playing for several days already. Is the game worth your time, or should it get lost in the woods?

Read on to find out.

 

As a kid growing up, hunting was an active part of my life, so hunting video games are always a welcome genre for me personally. Whether it’s hunting on the prairie, in the woods, or in the mountains, if a hunting game is done right, it can be a peaceful way to spend my time (not peaceful for the animals, though). Way of the Hunter takes a shot at being just that, and hits most of the marks.

Way of the Hunter Review – Ethical Hunting

Ethical hunting is a term that folks over at PETA may see as an oxymoron, but in all honesty it’s the only way to go. Anyone who dislikes hunting probably doesn’t fully understand why we hunt. Hunting helps keep a healthy population of animals by lowering their numbers so as not to have them overfeeding and eventually starving themselves. Hunting can also weed out the genetically weaker members of a species, creating a stronger herd overall. Way of the Hunter does a decent job of trying to teach these things, and for that I applaud them.

Way of the Hunter is a loosely story driven game. Our hunter finds that he has inherited his grandfather’s hunting lodge and hunting lands in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s now his place to help learn about his past, and learn how to hunt. His father had forbidden him as a kid to ever hunt on the lands, for reasons you’ll have to find out for yourself, so our hunter was excited to return and learn valuable hunting lessons. The story is continued as you hunt specific animals and complete specific tasks. There are several locked regions that you’ll either have to pay to unlock, or compete tasks to unlock.

Way of the Hunter Review – Tracking with Hunter Sense

Way of the hunter isn’t a game that you should expect to be able to just run around and shoot animals. The game requires patience, and has a bit of a learning curve that makes it almost impossible to bag an animal at first. You are equipped with a special Hunter Sense and are given a blank map that you’ll have to work towards revealing where the animals are. To start with, your Hunter Sense is only active when you are standing still, but after you have interacted with thirty unique animal signs, such as tracks, feeding places, resting places, or watering places, your Hunter Sense is upgraded to work while you’re walking. I found that I was better off not hunting for animals, but just their signs to begin with. This allowed for me to better understand their daily routines and to help find their most used paths.

Walking, or even crouch walking, will help to upgrade your hunter to make less noise, and in turn make it to where you can actually get close enough to an animal to shoot it. The animals in this game are beyond skittish, and getting within 200 yards of one early on will spook them and send them skipping off into the woods. Once I fully had my hunter upgraded, I was able to get much closer, as long as the wind was in my face. Just like in real life, animals can and will smell you coming if the they are downwind of you, so keep that weather forecast in mind and keep a close eye on your wind meter, which is found in the lower right side of the screen. If the wind is at your back, and the herd is in front of you, circling around to their flank my allow you to get closer and get acquire a better shot.

Way of the Hunter Review – Low Population

Way of the Hunter is not a game for the impatient. Much like in real life, hunting can be a waiting game. The in-game encyclopedia does a good job of telling you when and where you are likely to find a given species, but the animals can’t read or tell time, so you may end up waiting in a stand for hours, only to leave empty handed. The animals seem to use random location schedules, so just because you are waiting for a mule deer to stop by his watering hole at the correct time, he may have decided to sip at an alternate location.

As an avid hunter, I already understood the basics of hunting wild animals. If you are new to hunting, you’ll need to understand that hunting is time consuming. Animals are creatures of habit and are generally afraid of humans. Knowing where an animal should be, and understanding their daily patterns, will lead to a much more successful hunt than just running around with a rifle, looking for something to shoot. While the environments are alive with animals, it isn’t densely populated so finding the critters isn’t always easy, if you don’t know where to look.

Way of the Hunter Review – So Many Different Critters

Way of the Hunter will have you going after animals from the size of a small bird, all the way up to a big moose. There’s black bears, brown bears, white tail, mule deer, and mountain goats. You’ll need to bag pheasants and Mallards, as well as foxes and badgers. The game has two open world maps to choose from. One in North America and a second one in Transylvania. The maps are huge as they each take up an in-game area of 55 square miles (that’s over 35K acres each!). The environments on the PS5 are well detailed and look gorgeous. The level of detail to every aspect of the world and its animals are breathtaking. The developers even added in a great photo mode for those that want to create some impressive screenshots.

Way of the Hunter Review – Tier System

Way of the Hunter has a decent arsenal of guns to choose from, and which one you use is dependent upon which animal you are going after. Each animal is given a tier: i.e. Pheasants are tier 1 and should be hunted with tier 1 weapons such as the 20 gauge shotgun. Bears are tier 6 and should be taken with either the .300 Win Mag or the .338 Lapua Mag, both of which are tier 6 calibers. The tier system is a great example of how well the developers understand hunting in general. Overall, the arsenal of weapons is well detailed and impressive, and the ballistics in-game do a great job of mimicking real life.

 

Way of the Hunter Review – Some Room for Improvement

While Way of the Hunter did a lot of things great, there are a few things it could have done better. Anyone that has spent quite a bit of time in a hunting stand will tell you, napping should be allowed. In order not scare the critters while getting to your stand in the morning, you’ll need to get there before the animals arrive at their spot, and sometimes this means getting there a couple hours early. The in-game clock seems to run double time, but that still leaves an hour or more of watching and waiting. It would be nice if we had a sleeping bag that allowed us to sleep until a certain time. Currently, this can only be done at a camp or a hunting cabin. It would also be nice if a stand allowed us to rest our rifle on the ledge to take a steadier shot.

The game does a decent job of keeping a log of all of your successful hunts, but doesn’t allow for GPS like historic markers for the exact spot you shot an animal. You can use a marker for tracking, but that goes away as soon as you place another marker. It would be nice if you could see the exact location, and this would allow you to remember to check that spot again later. My last complaint has to be: Where’s my damn dog?! If you are going to include bird hunting, there should be a dog available to help you on your hunts. This would make tracking wounded animals a little easier as well.

Developer Nine Rocks Games has done an incredible job with Way of the Hunter. The environments are gorgeous, the animals are well detailed, and the hunting is authentic.

Just keep in mind that the game requires patience and time, and above all slow and silent footsteps.

 

8


Way of the Hunter review code provided by publisher and played on a PS5. For more information on scoring, please read What our review scores really mean.