Hunting Simulator 2 (Series X|S)
Release date: 11th March 2021
Approximate size: 14.5 GB
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
Screenshots: Xbox Series X
Before Hunting Simulator 2 the only hunting game I’d played was Call of the Wild, and I’ve been looking forward to a new game in the genre. I’d initially thought about picking up the original Hunting Simulator 2, but decided to wait for the next-gen build, which was fortunate, because like their other recent Series X|S release, Nacon doesn’t have a Smart Delivery system in place, so if you already own Hunting Simulator 2, you’ll be expected to pay the full price to upgrade to the Series X|S version.
Starting off Hunting Simulator 2 you’re given a brief introduction before you’re in your main lodge ready to set out hunting, the lodge is pretty empty initially, but as you gain new weapons and those all-important trophies, your home lodge will slowly populate to become the ultimate hunter’s lodge.
You’ll start off with enough funds if you want to upgrade your weapon and enough to buy a few licenses.
For each location, you’ll need to pick up a license for the game you’re hunting, likewise, you’ll need to ensure you’re using the allowed calibre ammunition, so the beefy 30-30 ammo might drop a Grizzly bear with a single shot, but if you use that against smaller targets like a Couger, you’ll pick up a hefty fine.
This means you’ll want to pick up a large bag to allow carrying a second weapon, which will allow you to carry two calibre weapons helping to cover a much wider range of game, so you can pick up multiple species while you are out on a hunt.
Colorado is the first location and an ideal place to start out,
Pawnee Meadow has wide open plains, where you can see animals from distance, and while they’ll notice your slightest move it’s a great place to get to grips with the shooting.
Roosevelt Forest is a stark contrast, with dense vegetation, more tree’s and plenty of ridges that your target could be hiding just behind, Roosevelt proves a great place to master tracking your prey, and patiently following an animal to get that all-important first shot.
Tracks are discreet enough to miss but have a small glimmer so with an eagle eye you’ll be able to follow them, thankfully you can have a trusty companion, starting with a BEagle and opening up other breeds, my dog called Bert, would not only help me find a track to follow but also try to lead me towards points along the track where a deer might have eaten some vegetation or left some droppings for me to find.
There’s also locations in Texas with the Chihuahuan Desert and the Bandera region as well as two maps in Europe, the Chechia Marshlands and the Harghita County in Transylvania. each area offers a slightly different challenge and a different selection from the total of 33 breeds of animal.
Before you spend that early windfall, you might want to run a little reasearch, unknowingly I purchased a rifle and ammuniation which was too big for smaller game, but took 2 good shots for something larger like an Elk or a Moose, this resulted in many hours lost tracking my wounded pray, which is easier with a good hit, thanks to the consistent blood trail left behind, but all too often, I’d lose that track and end up having to move on to another target and upon wanting to leave the area, I’d have another fine to pay off.
Thankfully after a little research, I found the Winchester Model 94 and 30-30 a better match for the big game and then picked up a Rec7 rifle for dealing with Cougars, and smaller targets. The next visit to Roosevelt, I heard the sound of a nearby Grizzly bear, shown by a small white icon on the screen, I slowly moved towards it, working parallel to its own movement until I found a clearing, I stopped, pulled up my 6x zoom, and sure enough, the bear came over the brow of the hill, directly in front of me.
A single shot with the Model 94 and the Bear dropped before it had a chance to run. This was a real game-changer (pardon the pun) and I found future hunts much more rewarding, which helped me to start building up some funds to further increase my collection of weaponry.
In all, there’s plenty to work through, with over 160 weapons, accessories and clothing items, but the real target seems to be finding the largest (and most mature) animals, and keeping them as a trophy rather than making the sale to build up funds.
These trophies then start to fill blank spaces in the lodge, and should you come across a bigger, or better target you can always swap them out for your new trophy.
Sadly, beyond these collections, there’s no real sense of progression, there’s no skill tree like you find in Call of the Wild, and while I fully enjoyed the hunt in Hunting Simulator 2, after a dozen hours or so, it started to feel a little repetitive, with no real goal and once you’re dropping large game with a single bullet from a weapon like the affordable model 94, there’s not quite the incentive to buy other weapons which in many instances, are less effective.
Thankfully the overall presentation of Hunting Simulator 2 is impressive, the jump to 4K and 60 frames per second may be the only significant jump from the standard Xbox One version, but it often looks stunning, light pouring through gaps in trees, shadows traversing across the landscape and the clarity of spotting an animal hundreds of metres away through layers of trees, there are a few textures pop-in occasionally, but it’s barely noticeable and with great HDR and lighting performance it all combines to make this the best looking Hunting title I’ve seen.
Animations of the animals are mostly all very good, the weapons look great and the reload animations are impressive, and any clothing you purchase can be seen as you handle your weapon or kneel to pet your companion.
Unfortunately audio isn’t quite such a strong point, gun-fire sounds powerful and accurate, as do the calls of the animals, however, I found animal calls a little too quiet forcing reliance on those little monochrome icons that pop up, the surrounding ambience is a nice filler but I found it repeating a little too often for it to become really immersive.
There’s no denying Hunting Simulator 2 is a good game, and while returning fans will feel a little cheated with the £49.99 Series X|S upgrade, for fans of hunting who don’t already have the Xbox One version, there’s a satisfying hunt to experience.
Sadly though, it doesn’t quite catch Call of the Wild, which is not only cheaper, (and also on Xbox Game Pass) but also has a far better progression system with a greater feeling of reward, as well as upto 8 playe ronline co-operative.
In all it leaves Hunting Simulator 2 in an awkward position, it’s more expensive and less feature-packed than its main competitor, and while the performance on Series X|S is fantastic, it’s hard to suggest unless you’ve already tired of Call of the Wild and never got round to the Xbox One version of Hunting Simulator 2.