I’ve never been hunting in real life. Probably never will. But I get the appeal of it. I just don’t agree with all the killing.
In the world of video games, however, there’s no real harm done. And so I’m happy to sit down with a game like Hunting Simulator 2 with the aim of bagging myself some trophies. It’s so ardent on making you work for your kills and po-faced about you straying from the rules that it probably offers about the same experience as well. Only there’s no danger of you falling into a ravine. Or being gored by a boar. So, hunting in real life: dangerous and bad. Hunting in video games: harmless and safe.
Hunting Simulator 2 lets you live out your perfect hunting life. It presents you with a lodge, so lavish that most of us could only ever dream of owning it, which acts as a base of operations. It’s got a weapon room, many places to display your prized trophies, a shooting range, and more. It’s where every adventure begins, and where you return to when you’ve had enough of tracking and shooting.
“Hunting Simulator 2 lets you live out your perfect hunting life”
Six locations are available in which players can hone their hunting prowess: Roosevelt Forest and Pawnee Meadows in Colorado, Chihuahuan Desert and Bandera Region in Texas, and Czechia Marshlands and Harghita County in Europe. Before players head out to hunt, however, they need to do their homework. Each location has a number of the 33 animal species found in the game available to hunt, but you need to make sure you’ve got the required licenses to do so first. Also, each animal can only be taken down with the right combination of firearms and ammo. Fail to get the basics right, and you might find yourself being unsuccessful in your endeavours, or even worse, fined.
With each environment having its own animals, climate, and unique elements, they all have to be approached differently. The relatively flat and tree-free Pawnee Meadows, for example, is a great place for beginners to start thanks to its long viewing distances and abundance of life. If you can’t successfully hunt something there, you might as well give up. The dry and uneven land of the Chihuahuan Desert, on the other hand, will force players to travel further and work harder for their trophies.
“Just like I imagine it does in real life, hunting in Hunting Simulator 2 requires patience”
Just like I imagine it does in real life, hunting in Hunting Simulator 2 requires patience. You might spend 30 minutes, an hour, or even more following tracks without even a whiff of an animal worthy of looking down your sights for. And even when you do, you’re not guaranteed to bring it down. Often, your prey requires multiple shots before going down, or will simply make a run for it while mortally wounded. In such instances you’ve go to do all you can to pursue them. Locating a blood trail is often your best bet, but it’s not always easy in such expansive, lush environments.
Thankfully, you don’t have to hunt alone in Hunting Simulator 2 – multiple companions are available should you desire to make use of their assistance. Canine companions, that is. Take a dog out with you and you can command them to find tracks or follow a trail via radial menu. Sometimes they’ll go off and do their own thing, too, alerting you of signs of a nearby animal that you might have missed. The more you use any particular dog the more apt it becomes at helping you, although you must show it some attention from time to time. A dog works best when it’s happy, so if you’re not praising it regularly or patting its head, you’re not doing things right.
It’s easy to get drawn into Hunting Simulator 2. You start with a small sum of money which you’re likely to haphazardly blow on licenses and maybe a gun. Only by going out and hunting can you earn that money back and more, which you’ll want to do to expand your hunting endeavours. With more money you can buy more guns of various calibers, allowing you to go out and hunt even more varieties of animals. There’s other equipment you can buy, too, such as backpacks, clothing and sights. And if you really want to go out hunting for specific animals, scents and callers come in particularly useful.
“The worst thing about Hunting Simulator 2 is the snail’s pace at which your hunter moves by default”
There are some issues that hold Hunting Simulator 2 back from being as enjoyable as it could be, however. Its fast travel system is one of them. You can fast travel to and from certain camps in each environment, but you need to find them first. Get yourself lost in the middle of nowhere and you can’t simply open up your map and warp back to the starting cabin; you’ve got to either travel back there by foot, or locate a camp before you fast travel.
As mentioned previously, locating injured animals once they’ve ran off can be an arduous task, too. And you better, otherwise you might be fined for not bagging your kill. It’s also illogical that you can’t put an animal out of its misery without being fined at times. You’re allowed two shots on your prey; shoot a third time and you’ll be fined for being unethical. But is it really unethical to put a limping, dying animal that you’ve followed half-way across the map out of its pain with a third bullet? I’d say not, but the game has other ideas.
By far the worst thing about Hunting Simulator 2, however, is the snail’s pace at which your hunter moves by default. It’s so leisurely it’s painful. Then, if you hit the run button you’ll find they sprint like a maniac. There’s no in between, which makes getting around environments either a painfully slow process, or one that alerts any nearby animals to your presence. The default walk just needs to be faster. You can crouch if you want to be stealthy, after all.
It’s a niche product, Hunting Simulator 2 – it comes with the territory. It’s good at what it does, though; portraying a popular, albeit taboo, pastime. Hours can be spent tracking prey before taking decisive action, and even if you’re not successful in your hunt, the scenery is so picturesque that you don’t really care. Hunting Simulator 2 lets you enjoy the outdoors, indoors. It’s lets you enjoy dog ownership withing having to pick up its poop. Animal murder may be the aim of it, but it’s mostly beautiful otherwise.