Hunting in the real world is an arduous pastime. Waking up when everyone else is still asleep and driving off into somewhere that hasn’t seen civilization since your far-flung ancestor Ugg was still wiping his backside with a rock doesn’t exactly instill a sense of joy in many of us. Following that up with hours of waiting around, looking at piles of deformed mud, and the fact that you reek of the deer piss you lathered yourself with to avoid detection doesn’t make it much more inviting either. theHunter: Primal hopes to replace the prospect of a 4 am wander through some tress by bringing the hunt to PC, before lavishly surrounding it with dinosaurs.
theHunter: Primal is a standalone version of Expansive Worlds’ free-to-play hunting game theHunter. Where that game puts you in the shoes of your average trophy grabber and asks you to hunt everything from geese to kangaroos, theHunter: Primal simply wants you to go out there and shoot dinosaurs. All of the action takes place upon one geographically-vast island, dubbed Primal Eden in the game but what we all see as Site B, with you playing a nameless hunter tasked with taking down the most impressive prey you can.
Where theHunter simply sticks you into nature reserves and lets you hunt to your hearts content though, Primal throws you headlong into a survivalists nightmare. This isn’t a game that’s only about shooting Barney in the face. It’s also about staying alive. Four of the five different species of dinosaur on the island will not hesitate to do everything in their power to remove you of those organs you’ve grown so attached to. You don’t come into theHunter: Primal as a hunter. If anything, you’re the prey. The illusion of evolutionary progress goes flying out the window when you’ve got a pack of Utahraptor measuring you up for a pie.
Running around Isla Sorna, or whatever the place is actually called, it is striking just how beautiful everything looks. Shafts of sunlight spear through foliage that wafts lazily in the breeze. Every monolithic tree trunk looks like it’s been unceremoniously plucked from the Cretaceous Period, along with whatever lowly ferns it called friends. Running past the congregation of wooden colossi leads to a volcanic plain or swampy crevice which themselves are breathtaking sights to behold.
Paired with the environmental beauty is a sound design unlike many you’ll find in the world. Insects chirp atop huge palm fronds as the ocean laps upon the rocks with a dulcet tone all of its own. Pulling these together, you do actually feel as though you’ve been thrust back into the age of terrible lizards. The alien biomes we’re all so used to seeing have never felt so homely. theHunter: Primal transports your senses into a world that’s inspired by reality, yet shrouded in history’s all-encompassing mist.
No-one goes to the Louvre to look at anything but the Mona Lisa. No-one honestly stands up and proclaims they buy a burger for the bun. Following that pattern, no-one cares about the scenery of theHunter: Primal. The main event’s the dinosaurs and they don’t disappoint (much).