Testing «Way of the Hunter»: a hunting simulator to truly test your patience

Philipp Rüegg
Philipp Rüegg
Zurich, on 12.08.2022
Translation: Patrik Stainbrook

Sneaking around for hours or lying motionless may not sound particularly exciting. Yet «Way of the Hunter» manages to excite even me, a simulator newbie. If only the whole thing didn’t require so much patience.

There I am, lying, in waist-high grass on a small hill in the middle of a forest. Not moving a muscle. For almost an hour. But that stupid white-rear deer, or whatever its name is again, just won’t show up. As if it knew I was struggling with my last bit of motivation. I’d done everything right after all. Spying it drinking by the river bank. Waiting for the right time of day. Positioning myself upwind so the animals wouldn’t smell me. At a safe distance for a clean shot. I think I’d have a better chance of shooting a wild animal in real life, despite my miserable results in the obligatory 300-meter shooting category. The hunting simulator «Way of the Hunter» requires patience, and lots of it.

These elevated cabins allow you to easily explore the area.
These elevated cabins allow you to easily explore the area.

A game to slow you down

«Way of the Hunter» contains two areas at over 140 square kilometres each. Alone or with up to seven friends, you can go hunting throughout the Pacific North-West coast or Transylvania respectively. The campaign slowly introduces me to the hunter’s life with various quests. In the beginning I barely manage to shoot a few badgers and pheasants, later deer, elk and even bears join in.

The game takes me by the hand, but even the second mission already isn’t a walk in the park. I do get some help, like being to leave the car if I don’t want to scare the whole forest. So we continue on foot to the area marked on our map. I can forget about running, by the way. Apparently, my character stomps through the forest so loudly that even animals at the other end of the map take fright. But a leisurely pace also has its advantages. I can marvel at the incredibly detailed world designed by the Slovak studio Nine Rocks Games.

Thanks to the dynamic day-night cycle and various weather effects, a breathtaking panorama is on display at any time of day. Even the animals, if I ever get to see one, move realistically and prick up their ears when I’m too impatient to sneak up on them. The PC version I tested had my PC panting quite a bit at the highest detail level and 4K resolution. However, since «Way of the Hunter» isn’t about fast reflexes, it also plays wonderfully at 40 fps.


Visually, the game is a feast for the eyes.
Visually, the game is a feast for the eyes.

On the way to the hunting ground, I find the first tracks thanks to my hunter’s sense. Hunter’s sense can be activated at the touch of a button. This highlights footprints, piles of faeces, blood stains, and grazing, sleeping and drinking areas in colour. Those who like it more realistic and are looking for even more deceleration can deactivate the function partially or completely. But I’m not that masochistic. However, it bothers me that Hunter’s sense makes your entire screen darker. If you’re like me and have the sense enabled virtually all the time, there’s a constant veil over the game. And you can’t really do anything about it.

Anyway, the game tells me that the tracks are from a mule deer. So that’s who I’m looking for. What the game doesn’t tell me is which direction the tracks are pointing. Fortunately, even I can tell what’s in front and what’s not when it comes to deer hooves. As opposed to badger tracks: they’re about as legible as a Jackson Pollock covered in dirt. However, for my current hunt, tracking isn’t necessary anyway because the target location is marked on my map as mentioned. Later, I have to find the habitats of my prey myself.

The colour of the blood reveals where the animal was hit.
The colour of the blood reveals where the animal was hit.

Inspect first, shoot second

I still leave Hunter’s sense active, as it also marks animal sounds. Without it I’d be hopelessly lost. They’re hardly audible otherwise. In the marked area, I slowly stalk my way through the thicket until my Hunter’s sense tells me that there’s a herd of deer 250 yards away. My super sensor also tells me the sex of the animal and its condition right away. Usually at this point, it promptly changes from calm to startled. Come on! I was so quiet! Unlike most hunters, I send two bullets after the animals quickly jumping away. But even if I had hit something, it wouldn’t have done much good.

«Way of the Hunter» puts a lot of emphasis on realism. In order to get a good selling price for a shot animal, or even to stuff and display it in my lodge, I have to hit it clean. In most cases, a shot to the heart or lungs is all that is needed. A shot to the head is considered unethical. Hitting a running animal cleanly is virtually impossible. In addition to hit accuracy, impact speed also counts. This is determined by your type of rifle and distance. I find all this info in the encyclopedia along with resting, eating and drinking cycles. If I rush blindly into the forest, the most I can do is marvel at a few pine cones.

It’s worth consulting the encyclopedia before your hunt.
It’s worth consulting the encyclopedia before your hunt.

Seeing that my prey has made a run for it, I teleport back to the lodge without further ado. This usually resets the position of animals and I can start the game all over again. I needed a total of five attempts, creeping up to my goal for 250 metres by the last one. I hold my breath, or the corresponding shift key, aim at the heart and pull the trigger. The herd runs away, and unfortunately my deer as well. However, it is limping. I hit it, but not cleanly, or it would’ve tipped over on the spot. Fortunately, it’s in an open field, so I don’t have to follow the blood trails for long. Finally! My first real hit. When claiming the prey, I see a snazzy 3D X-ray animation of where my bullet hit the animal.

After an animal is shot, I see where it was hit and how fast the bullet impacted.
After an animal is shot, I see where it was hit and how fast the bullet impacted.

I could now prepare and set up the killed animal in the lodge. I know that hunters also contribute their part to conservation, but the display of animals is somehow repugnant to me even virtually. Fortunately, decorating your home is optional.

A bit of role-playing for gamers like me

After completing a quest, I can accept new orders. Someone wants foie gras. As producing foie gras involves animal cruelty, the customer wants me to hunt some wild geese. These orders and other kills earn me money, which I can use to buy new weapons, scopes or decoys. Additional role-playing elements are provided by «Advantages». I unlock them by performing various activities enough times. For example, if I have crawled three kilometres, there’s a bonus thanks to which I can move 15 per cent quieter in the future. If I hit a heart or artery ten times with a chambered rifle, I can hold my breath 25 per cent longer. These upgrades are perfect for someone like me who always needs some assistance in simulators. «Way of the Hunter» and I aren’t really harmonising yet.

The game isn’t my first foray into the world of hunting simulators: I tried out «The Hunter: Call of the Wild» five years ago with a real hunter. The lessons I learned have apparently long since faded. I’m just too impatient. Even when I set the game to easy, the animals are constantly taking off. No matter how hard I try. Which brings us back to my white-tailed deer hunt from the beginning.

Sitting or standing, I just can’t hit the animals any other way.
Sitting or standing, I just can’t hit the animals any other way.

In the meantime, I’ve even unpacked a book. A REAL BOOK. I use it as entertainment while lounging on the sofa and occasionally scanning my TV for animal signals. I’m really trying to be patient. By the time I’ve almost given up hope and mentally already click on «Uninstall», something stirs at the edge of my screen. It’s my deer. Hunter’s sense says that the animal isn’t feeling watched. I’m in a perfect shooting position. Only a few blades of grass disturb my view. At some point, years of shooters have to pay off, no?

I wait until the deer turns its side to me. Breathe out – in game and IRL. Aim at the chest and press the left mouse button. BANG! Next to me, a flock of birds takes flight. Only the stag remains standing. Did I miss? No, a moment later it slumps lifelessly to the ground. Yes. Jackpot. I sprint to my prey. I’ve already flushed out the forest anyway. There it lies. What an animal! Somehow, «Way of the Hunter» is still fun to play. But wait. When I go to claim the animal, nothing happens. Instead, I read, «Claimed by landowner». I can’t believe it. I don’t have a hunting permit for this area. All that waiting. For nothing. Whyyyyyyyyyyyy?

Verdict: idyllic, relaxing, but a little too slow for my taste

Oh well. I should’ve known about the hunting permit. It said so in bold red letters as soon as I entered the area. But come on, landowner gave me this job after all. So it’s obvious that I’ll also hunt the animal in their territory. Never mind, then. It wasn’t meant to be.

The car is primarily used to discover new areas and unlock quick travel there.
The car is primarily used to discover new areas and unlock quick travel there.

Despite everything: «Way of the Hunter» has its charm. It’s relaxing walking through vast hunting grounds and locating animal sounds through the rustle of the forest. I also don’t mind having to explore habitats and consulting the encyclopedia to find out which weapon is appropriate and what the daily routine is like. Regrettably, needing to move at a snail’s pace for minutes at a time when hunting to prevent scaring my prey is a bit too much patience for me. But fans of such simulators should be prepared for that. If you can deal with that, there’s probably no more beautiful or extensive hunting game than «Way of the Hunter». In this spirit: happy hunting.

Simon and I will be streaming the game on Monday, August 15 live on Twitch starting at 1 p.m. Get a book or some crossword puzzles ready.

«Way of the Hunter» is available for PC, PS5 and Xbox Series S/X and was provided to me by THQ Nordic.

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Philipp Rüegg

Being the game and gadget geek that I am, working at digitec and Galaxus makes me feel like a kid in a candy shop – but it does take its toll on my wallet. I enjoy tinkering with my PC in Tim Taylor fashion and talking about games on my podcast http://www.onemorelevel.ch. To satisfy my need for speed, I get on my full suspension mountain bike and set out to find some nice trails. My thirst for culture is quenched by deep conversations over a couple of cold ones at the mostly frustrating games of FC Winterthur. 


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