The Not-Dear Hunter
Because, the movie, and the… I’ll be waiting below the cut. I’m so sorry.
I’ve never not wanted to enjoy a game before. I’ve never not wanted to be good at a game. Even games I’ve completely given up on improving at – every strategy game ever, basically, and soon ARMA II, once I realise how awful I am at it – it wasn’t for lack of enthusiasm, just lack of brains.
Then I played The Hunter, a deer hunting game. Not because the idea of shooting deer appealed to me (you might remember my horrified reaction to accidentally murdering a zebra with a jeep in Far Cry 2; I was approximately four seconds away from giving the fallen beast a 10-shot salute, until an enemy car careered around an outcropping, or something) but because it’s (technically) a first-person shooter, running in the same engine that powered the mighty, and mighty pretty, Just Cause 2.
And it’s free. So, why not.
HERE IS WHY.
I AM A MONSTER.
Is it grounds for concern that killing a pixelly mule elk gave me more pause than killing thousands and thousands of pixelly humans? Probably. But it did. Most likely, it’s because the deer can’t shoot back. And also, they aren’t Nazis or evil space aliens. (Or ARE THEY? No.)
It might be the scarcity of targets. You can go incredible lengths of time without even seeing a deer, never mind shooting one. A kill will usually add up to a good half hour’s play, though you might get lucky and find a pair of deer trotting along together. (Though even then, managing to kill both without letting one scarper off into dense woodland is tricky.) Most of your time is spent with your HuntMate GPS thingy in hand, solitarily searching for some tracks or droppings, keeping a keen ear out for any calls or rustlings. It’s deliberately slow-paced, closer to – say – an outdoorsman’s version of Thief than Crysis-with-deer-in. Which is almost certainly realistic, but I can’t say for definite because I have no idea how to hunt deer because I find the idea repellent.
And yet. And yet.
And yet The Hunter is so very compelling to play. The ceaseless walking should be monotonous, but it isn’t, because the verdant landscapes are a constant delight to wander through. Finding the little glowing red hemispheres that indicate tracks never fails to elicit tangible excitement. Shaking the little deer call noisemaker is always entertaining in a strange and childish way.
And then comes the time to pull the trigger.
And then you wonder if your going for the headshot when the game explicitly tells you that shooting the targets in the heart is the best way to kill them says something about you as a person.
And then you wonder if maybe you should subscribe to the game to unlock the full hunting license…