Crytek has released a video to announce that its unique monster hunter has now gone live in Early Access:

A few months ago I covered Hunt: Showdown, Crytek’s newest project, before it was playable by anyone. Just last week the project took a big step towards completion and entered Early Access on Steam. I was lucky enough to gain access to the closed alpha, and I’ve put down some of my thoughts into the following:

The game is really, really cool. A co-op monster hunter with stealth gameplay and PVP elements, it’s full of tense moments. Of course, being fairly early still in the development stage, playing the game was itself a struggle sometimes. Performance issues were everywhere, as well as problems with matchmaking, server lag issues, and there were plenty of other bugs. But the fact the game was fun enough to look past all these testing-phase issues is a testament to its promise.

After finally making it into a match, the first thing I noticed was the atmosphere; it was very impressive. Set in an area of once-settled swampland being retaken by nature, the map is covered in abandoned farmhouses, shacks, churches, poorly-lit barns, and other such structures. In accordance with its 20th-century setting, overturned wagons and oil lamps can also be found scattered about.

Things feel eerie; the undead former inhabitants of the swamp roam aimlessly, some wielding knives, others with caged heads wielding torches. Players also need to watch out for more dangerous AI: packs of red-eyed hellhounds patrol the hills, as well as a crying woman reminiscent of la llorona, with the power to poison the player using swarms of mosquitoes. Two heavy classes of AI enemies exist as well, one armored with what seems to be plantlike overgrowth, the other a hulking mass of leech-covered flesh.

The environment, creaks, squeals, crunches, and moans as players explore, and I honestly found myself a little spooked while playing the night map. Distant shots getting closer, monsters plodding by on creaking catwalks; I was always on alert, and the dev team really nailed the atmosphere.

Combat with the bosses one is supposed to banish, the Spider and the Butcher, was stressful when I didn’t know the meta, and routine once a more experienced player taught me how. My first encounter with the spider was with a friend, and we both ran around frantically dodging its poison spray and trying to predict its next move. Also, the sound work on the spider is next level. If you hate spiders, it’s not the boss for you; the eight-legged skittering of a man-sized arachnid you can’t see in your headphones even made me a little uncomfortable.

Fighting the Butcher was a similar experience. My friend and I were screaming at each other to aggro the 8-foot-plus, pig-headed hulk wielding a flaming scythe and chasing us around the dark confines of a barn at night. It was a really enjoyable experience, a mix of fear and pure fun, and finally defeating him felt rewarding. The current meta is to aggro the boss, Spider or Butcher, stand right outside their haunt’s door and just plug away with your weapons until they’re dead. The bosses can’t leave their barns. It’s an efficient way to exploit the game’s current mechanics, but it really ruins the fun.

Some issues: the game needs serious resource optimization, so that players without top-notch rigs can get more than 20-40 FPS at low graphics settings. It also needs matchmaking and netcode improvements, as lag, server timeouts, and matching errors were commonplace.

Still, I think we’re looking at something unique. Crytek has opted to avoid the gaming universe’s current battle royale rage and instead chosen to craft an immensely atmospheric co-op monster hunter with strong PVP and PVE elements. I think Hunt: Showdown is unique, something truly hard to find in the current state of gaming.

If you’re interested, the game is available on Steam Early Access for $29.99, which I consider a fair price for what the full game is promised to be. Keep in mind we are still in early development stage, and enjoy!