There’s no point to Hunting Simulator 2, and that’s exactly why I love it. There’s no denying that there’s a sheer lack of direction with developer Neopica’s long-anticipated sequel, but it’s hard not to think that was by design.
While most games these days force you into overwhelmingly populated open-worlds littered with markers, side-quests, and more menus than a food court, Hunting Simulator 2 takes its time – it’s slow, methodical, and drops you into one of 6 sunny maps with little more than a gentle nudge.
This freedom, while unusual, is incredibly refreshing, allowing you as the player to do whatever you want, and whenever. Want to go for the biggest trophy from the outset? Why not! Want to go after some ducks and work your way from there? Great! Want to just wander around and see what you come across? Sure, that’s a strategy too. Hunting Simulator 2 doesn’t require you to do anything, as you can play the game how you want. There’s no objectives or main missions, and you’re left to your own devices to track and find animals, find out if you have the right calibre to take it down and cause minimal damage, and exchange your kill for credits to buy new guns, licenses, or items. Licenses are the only thing holding you back.
But, you may think that in itself is the carrot on the end of the stick, but Hunting Simulator 2 gives you enough money from the get-go to buy essentially the best gear available and take on just about any hunt, so the desire to chase any weapon or aesthetic add-on is purely for your own completionist satisfaction.
The process of hunting in itself is a truly satisfying itch-scratcher too. You can select a canine companion from the outset, who can be commanded to find tracks or get onto the scent of a potential hunt. The dog-buddy system works well and definitely provides that digital companionship you need in an otherwise lonely game – which is part of the point of hunting – and adds an extra bit of gameplay management to the experience.
Now, the shooting mechanics aren’t up to scratch to that of a top-tier, triple-A shooter (it is a hunting simulator after all), but the recoil, focus, and attention to detail makes it an enjoyable element of the game. Of course, you can’t just gun-down your prey as you spot it – you’ll need to work your way into a good position (usually getting some high-ground), while also making sure that you target the animal on a spot which causes the least damage to the pelt, otherwise you’ll get less credits for your kill.
Visually, Hunting Simulator 2 might not blow you away, and does have some small blemishes when really close attention is paid, but the realistic movements, unpredictability, and animations of the animals really do sell the experience. Hunting Simulator 2 might not be for everyone, but if you have the slightest interest in the world of hunting, want some freedom from the usual ‘go-here, collect this’ routine, and want too blow off some steam, it’s hard to think of a better game to play at the moment.
Hunting Simulator 2 is available on Xbox One, PS4, PC, and Switch.