Way of the Hunter

I’m just going to say this right off the bat: Way of the Hunter isn’t for everyone. In fact, reviews seem to be pretty mixed for this massive open-world hunting sim. However, for the people this game connects with, there’s an amazing hunting experience to be had.

This is an incredibly systems-deep simulation, where you have to not only think about which weapon you need for the cleanest kills, but you also need to spend a lot of time observing animals as they go about their daily cycles. Learning when a certain type of deer tends to visit the river for a drink, for example, is going to give you a leg up in your hunt. You’ll also need to watch wind direction so animals aren’t alerted to your scent, use calls to see if you can trick specific animals into letting their guard down and step too close, and monitor distance between you and each critter so you can dial in your scope for the most accurate shot.

On top of all this, there’s a robust population system, where killing too many of an animal type will reduce that animal’s population, while killing too many high-quality animals of that species will reduce the overall quality of the general population.

There’s a lot to think about, and even the simplest hunts require a lot of prep work. And this means that Way of the Hunter is glacially paced. You can spend two hours prepping for a hunt — scoping out the area, marking specific locations on your map, figuring out migration patterns, etc. — then spend 45 minutes wandering through the wilderness without seeing a single animal. When you’re tasked with hunting a specific type of species with a specific quality requirement, this can be exacerbated to the extreme. I’ve had nights where I spent more than six hours wandering around without pushing forward a single quest.

Way of the Hunter

This is not a fast-paced shooting gallery; it’s a slow and methodical simulation that forces you to spend a lot of time isolated in the woods. And sometimes, you’ll spend more than an hour getting into position and waiting for your prey to arrive, only to miss your shot and send a herd of deer scampering back into the woods. And when animals are spooked, they avoid their normal routines, which means you can’t just sleep it off and try again.

So Way of the Hunter requires patience. If you just want to run out into the woods and blast a wild turkey with a shotgun, and have the whole experience last just a few minutes, this game is not for you. But if you want a digital experience that features long, dull stretches of waiting that are occasionally punctuated with the seconds-long thrill of landing the perfect shot, then you’ll probably enjoy what’s here.

The way I see it, this is something you could easily spend 200+ hours invested in, but 90% of that time is just waiting, watching, and searching. But that’s not as boring as it sounds. The world is massive (with huge explorable sections of Transylvania and the Pacific Midwest) and gorgeous. And there’s something hypnotic about Way of the Hunter‘s slow-paced gameplay loop. When I put this game down, I find myself obsessively thinking about it — mapping out my next hunt in my head, plotting walking routes that take me past as many herds as possible, and so on.

And sure, there are some problems. Texture pop-in on the PS5 is way worse than it should be, and smaller animals kind of teleport around in a herky-jerky way if you’re too far away from them. There are people reporting all sorts of game-breaking bugs, but I’ve honestly not experienced anything more than a slight visual annoyance.

Way of the Hunter

I would also have liked some more music in the game. It would be awesome to get to play music at least when you’re in the truck, and it might even be kind of neat to have earbuds so you can listen to tunes while you’re hiking around the world. You’d just need the option to take out the earbuds when you’re on your hunts because audio cues can be super important. I do think that’s one way to reduce the tedium a little bit, though I admit I mostly just listened to podcasts while I was working through the prep stages of the game, so I was fine without it. It’s just weird when something like Open Country has a richer soundtrack than this game.

Way of the Hunter is exceptionally well-made, despite some jankiness here and there. The firearms are excruciatingly detailed, and they feel absolutely incredible when you’re actually using them. But the slow pace of the game is going to put off a lot of folks who want something more exciting. Way of the Hunter is not an exciting game. Not at all. It’s a super-chill hunting sim that features long stretches of inactivity. But the world is so gorgeous and well-made that it’s nice to just exist inside of it for an evening.

This is something that you might sit down with to relax after work, or that you’ll enjoy with a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning. If you put in the 200 hours I mentioned earlier, it will probably happen over the course of a year or so, as you pick away at the game’s wilderness a little at a time. I don’t recommend binging it for eight-hour stretches (though I admittedly did that for this article), instead taking in the world a little at a time.

Way of the Hunter

Slow pacing can be a real dealbreaker in some cases, but here, it just feels right.

Disclaimer: I was given a review code for Way of the Hunter on PS5, but the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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