theHunter: The Call of the Wild is the latest in a long line of hunting games that harken back to man's earliest interactions with animals. It gives players an opportunity try out their tracking and shooting skills in beautifully crafted forests.
At the start of the game, you can choose between two different locations, one situated in the Pacific Northwest, and the other located in Central Europe. Both offer a massive map to explore, unique fauna, and their own set of objectives. You are free to play on either one and can change locations at any point without losing your character's progression, weapons, and any unlocked skills.
The game uses what I would call traditional hunting mechanics; follow the tracks of various animals, and slowly and carefully make your approach without making any sound. Try to rush to your target, and you will most likely scare it off, and spend the next 20 minutes trying to follow it around the map. There are other times where you never even see the elusive creature and instead hear their warning cries as the scurry off into the distance.
At one point, I begin to track a deer outside of the wooded area, close to a coastline. A bright, clear, sunny afternoon gave way to some heavy late showers, and it was here that theHunter hooked me. After chasing this deer for what seemed like forever, by not only their footsteps but how fresh their droppings were and by studying trampled grass, I found it. Taking aim with my rifle, I pulled the trigger and grazed the young buck in the chest. Anxiety began to kick in, as it immediately ran off over a nearby hill, obscuring my sight. Thankfully, my shot hit its mark, and the deer didn't suffer too long, after following a short trail of blood. I claimed my trophy and spotted the prints of a nearby bear, and my journey began anew.
The game utilizes different kinds of weapons, such as a bow, a shotgun, a pistol, and rifles, but you'll need to unlock them by leveling up. At the onset, you are limited to a rifle, a pair of binoculars, standard ammunition and a couple of lures. Being able to use the better gear will not only help you track down animals more swiftly but more efficiently, especially when trying to hunt something much larger than a deer.
Gaining currency and experience can be accomplished in different ways. Each of two locations includes many mission objectives, some which are quite simple, such as taking a photograph of a deer, while others can get quite complicated, such as hitting a small target area at a set range. There are also a bunch of side quests, such as collecting antlers or taking photographs of scenery. You can always stray from the storyline and hunt anything that moves. If you go down this path, then you have to be aware that not all kills yield the same rewards. The type of animal, rarity, entry point of your shot, and how fast you were able to take down the target influence the amount of currency and experience you receive.
The environment plays a significant part in affecting your hunt. Walking through densely populated flora can alarm your target of your approach. Even wind direction can give your location away by warning animals of your scent. The game has a day and night cycle that changes the movement of the local fauna. In the evening hours, it is harder to spot and follow tracks, but you have to be careful of using too light, as it can scare away animals. Rain and fog can hinder your line of sight, but can hide your presence from your would be trophy.
theHunter: Call of the Wild is a patient man's game. It can take upwards of 30 minutes from the time you start tracking your prey to the time you claim your trophy. Even then, there is no guarantee that you will kill your target, let alone even find it. I started the game without a background in hunting, but I was able to get by with the educational tutorial popups. One of the few things that put me off was the pace of "sprinting." If you haven't unlocked the outposts then getting from one point to another in such a huge map can take a long time. There is also online multiplayer for up to eight players.
Note: theHunter: The Call of the Wild was review using a digital PC copy of the game, provided by the publisher.