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Way Of The Hunter Review (PS5) – Accessible Hunting Sim Almost Shoots Itself in the Foot

Way Of The Hunter PS5 Review. I find myself in something of a quandary with hunting simulators. I don’t really care for the idea of hunting as an act. It’s up there with golf on the ‘a good walk spoiled’ board, but guess what? I really quite like golf games and hunting games, but that’s usually because they offer something else besides the stuff that doesn’t interest me.

Everybody’s Golf is one of my favorite comfort games, and I cannot begin to explain the impact theHunter: Call of the Wild has had on me without firing a single shot, and it has little to do with shooting doe-eyed animals.

So, Way of the Hunter is a bit of a strange one for me. In one way, it tries very hard to promote the ‘ethical’ side of hunting, but in pursuing that, Way of the Hunter makes its argument seem forced, and undermines the rest of the game.

Way Of The Hunter Review (PS5) – Accessible Hunting Sim Almost Shoots Itself in the Foot

Hunter And The Hunted

Before I get into that part of things, let’s get into what else Way of the Hunter is, and what ultimately does and doesn’t do well in it.

Way of the Hunter is an open-world hunting game with a story tying it all together. The two maps (one in the US and the other in Europe) cover 55 square miles of terrain each, and feature a variety of woodland creatures and breathtaking views.

Neither the story nor the environment make a good first impression, however, as the opening scenes are riddled with technical issues that dragged me out of the attempted ambiance of the wild and starkly reminded this was all just a virtual show. The clunky exposition opening added to the shonky visual hitches make for a poor introduction indeed.

These are problems that persist in smaller measures as I stepped into the game proper, as well. Thankfully, things do pick up a bit after a fairly dry opening few missions that teach some hunting basics, but fashion them to feel like the kind of busywork you find in any number of open world games.

The story is well-meaning. It’s a tale of an estranged family with a famous hunter now returning to his grandfather’s ranch to sort some things out both in his life and in the woods and mountains of the surrounding area. It’s not going to trouble the Hallmark channel or anything, but it’s something. I just wish that something wasn’t a detriment to the game itself.

A Well-Meaning Story With More Than A Few Issues

Make no bones about it. Way of the Hunter’s story works best when you finish the handful of missions required to open up other things and get a basic understanding of how things work and then just ignore it completely for Freeplay. The story is no more than a glorified, overlong tutorial with mild soap opera drama slathered on top like near-flavourless icing on the world’s blandest cupcake.

The story also has this recurring problem where it tries to justify the hunt at every opportunity and saturate it with homely down on the range vibes. That’s absolutely fine in moderation, but it starts to come off as preachy, or worse, apologetic.

Much like the Hunter, Way of the Hunter is at its finest when you’re just soaking up the tranquil ambiance of the great outdoors, taking in the view and spotting an animal you haven’t seen before in the distance. The views can be genuinely beautiful, and the environment really feels like it’s been crafted to suit what the game is about instead of being a vacant box for Way of the Hunter’s toys to go in.

In-Depth Hunting Mechanics Make For Immersive Gameplay

Its hunting mechanics are fairly in-depth, taking plenty into consideration when stalking your prey. Keep slow and low on approach, pick the right weapon for the job, choose the right time of day, and more come into a successful hunt.

There are several levels of immersion to fiddle with if you wish to make the experience more or less challenging which makes learning the ropes without the harsh punishment of realism a more feasible option than having to jump into the deep end.

Games like Way of the Hunter, the Hunter: Call of the Wild, and to an extent, The Long Dark have an admirable level of stealth that goes beyond the usual gamified sneakery.

These are games that take the player’s impact on the world more seriously. Come at a target from the wrong direction and you’ll spook them long before you can be close enough to do something about it. The key is patience. Lots and lots of patience.

A Fun Hunt, But More Flexibility Would Be Nice

Obviously, that means progress can feel slow, especially when you’re plonked into one of the two large maps and given a checklist of seemingly trivial things to do that can take longer than some small games. It’s why I find the story to be too obtrusive to the experience.

It puts markers on things that tip things too far into feeling like any other open-world game. It would work better with a bit more flexibility. But as a Freeplay mode is eventually available, it’s something that is remedied after a while at least.

Way of the Hunter should be commended for trying to put some upfront personality into the hunting sim genre, and as a sim, it ticks a lot of boxes quite nicely. It doesn’t always work, and technical hiccups can spoil the spectacle of the land somewhat, but it doesn’t prevent the game from being a decent foray into hunting season.

Way of the Hunter is due out on August 16, 2022 for PS5, PC, and Xbox Series X/S.

Review code kindly provided by publisher.



The Final Word

Technical issues and an overbearingly bland story sour Way of the Hunter’s finer points. Its maps are filled with enchanting scenery, and pumped full of serene atmosphere. The hunting options are surprisingly flexible for newcomers and pros alike. Overall, it’s a decent hunting sim if you can push past its messy start.