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The Hunter is a free-to-play PC game that recreates hunting wild animals in as realistic a manner as possible. The initial setting is on an open world island based on various locations, including the islands and surroundings of Washington State in the USA. The free game features one huntable animal type (Mule Deer), and subscribers can unlock other animals, along with a variety of guns, bows and lures with which to hunt them. More animals are planned for future game versions.
To play the player must first create a character on the game’s website www.thehunter.com, which includes social networking tools and messaging capabilities to allow players to connect and share in-game experiences. Creating a character requires selecting an avatar from pool of thousands of unique faces, and adding a name. Once a character is created and the tutorial completed, the player can receive missions — initially from ‘Colton Locke’, a character in the game. Completing missions unlocks further missions, and introduces the player to other characters that inhabit the game world.
Players must use natural cover to avoid detection by the animals in the game. Mule Deer may be hunted for free, and Whitetail, Blacktail, Roosevelt elk, Turkey, Coyote, Feral hog, Pheasant, Black bear, Moose, European wild boar, Roe deer, Red deer, Red fox and Brown bear can be hunted by subscribers. Each animal species reacts to different stimuli in different ways. Scent detection for the quadrupeds is their keenest sense, which means the player has to be aware of wind direction or the animal might smell the player’s scent and run off. Players must also pay careful attention to the soundscape, listening for subtle signals that indicate the presence of animals in the locality.
The core gameplay revolves around tracking and harvesting (killing) animals with the weapons provided, although a digital camera is also provided for those who do not wish to shoot with a gun. Animal tracks can be found and identified with the optional “Huntermate” an in-game GPS-like device that identifies tracks, scat, blood trails, and animal calls and grunts. At August 2009, over 200 animals appear on the island when a game starts, located with an element of randomization.
Hunting areas added since May 2011 are: Settler Creeks (rugged North American mountain forest with abandoned homesteads); Redfeather Falls (rough Canadian mountains and swamps); Hirschfelden (German highland farms and forests); Hemmeldal (Northern Swedish snowy mountains, swamps and icy lakes), which is also the first reserve to allow hunting during snowfall; Rougarou Bayou (Southern United States). Subscribers can choose to start anywhere in these hunting areas (provided they have a tent, otherwise a hunting lodge can be chosen to start in a list of two or three in each reserve), and at any time of day, between 5 AM and 6 PM.