Way of the Hunter is the latest in the hunting game genre, released on August 16 by Nine Rock Games and THQ Nordic for PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Playable solo or in co-op, you will become the new owner of Bear Den Ranch, taking over from your grandfather, and explore large open-world environments with gorgeous habitats and rich animal populations.
The game features a nice simple menu for setup and beautiful graphics on the initial loading screens. Once in the game the graphics are very polished with great level of detail. The first missions are the usual tutorial-based objectives, and it features a simplistic and easy to follow HUD for mission tracking. There’s also the option to fast travel around the map which is always a handy thing to have.
Way of the Hunter has two open-world hunting territories – one in the U.S. and one in Europe – each 55 square miles (140 km²) in size. The Pacific Northwest map features a lush valley with deep forests and ice-cold rivers where you can hunt some of the most popular US game. Animals such as white-tailed deer or waterfowl, go toe to hoof with an elk or moose, and challenge dangerous predators like the American black bear or the grey wolf.
While warming up on the range, I had to zero in the rifle scope at 50, 100, and 200 yards. I was able to hit all three in the kill zone first try (of course he did!). The first real mission out in the wilderness is to take care of some badgers. After the first kill and upon collecting the remains, you are shown your trajectory of the bullet and how it entered the animal. This is great feedback for helping you to hone your skills for the perfect kill shot.
It turns out, hitting moving targets in Way of the Hunter is much harder than it looks – who knew!? If you hit an animal in the wrong spot, it will run off at pace, bleeding along the way. Depending on how far away you were for the initial shot, it’s easy to lose sight of the animal, so it’s best to place a market at the shot location as a reference point. Once there you can activate your hunting sense, but only when you’re standing still which means tracking can be quite difficult.
Activating hunter sense highlights blood trails with detail such as colour, amount and impurities, footprints, and need zones like eating, drinking, and sleeping spots. Need zones will start to be added to your map for ease of finding animals later for specific missions. Once the animal succumbs to the injury, you will eventually find its body but if it was a glancing wound you could be searching for a lot longer. Having finally made some kills, I realised I was aiming too high and missing the kill zone which meant much more practice was needed.
After making a few kills and selling them to restaurants or taxidermists, you will earn enough to start upgrading our rifles, scopes, and other devices to assist you on the hunt, like animal calls. Call devices can be used from a max distance of 200m and help attract specific animals. A line at the bottom of the screen gives you an indication of when you can use the call again without spooking the animal, and these can be upgraded with perks.
The atmosphere and ambience of moving around the wilderness is immersive with lots of animal sounds. Using the car was too loud and spooked the animals, so I generally moved around on foot and via fast travel points as I unlocked them. As I adventured further, it did not feel like these sounds are just the same sound clips on repeat, so this game has a much more realistic feel to it.
You will also come across various cabins which offer height advantages for you to scout further, as well as a laptop in each to progress the story but also to summon your vehicle, and these are all fast travel points too. Underlying the hunting gameplay is a very family orientated coming of age story about the struggles of a family hunting business, which had a warmth to it that I enjoyed.
Overall, Way of the Hunter is a great hunting game that did not feel too drawn out and the whole thing left me feeling very zen. This is a game I will be coming back to regularly and many hours will be spent looking for trophies and meat orders for restaurants. I highly recommend this for hunting game fans.