Hunting Simulator 2 review: Doggone it

Hunting Simulator 2 arrives a few years after a lackluster showing from the first game in the series. This new addition to the franchise aims higher with updated graphics, an array of licensed gears, and canine companions. In the end, the four-legged friendships you develop along the way are worth remembering. Hunting Simulator 2 feels like a step back in a few ways from its predecessor and feels so far behind its competition that it is hard to recommend for hunting fanatics or players looking for a more casual experience.

The lay of the land

The rolling plains of Colorado, drenched in the never-moving sun.
The rolling plains of Colorado are drenched in the never-moving sun.

The time you spend with Hunting Simulator 2 will be divided among a set of environments in Colorado, Texas, and Europe. Each of the hunting grounds offers a unique look and assortment of potential wild game targets. In total, there are more than thirty types of critters that you can track down and shoot, with some overlapping between environments. A lavish hunting lodge is provided to you at the outset and serves as a central hub for all hunting excursions.

From within the lodge, you can use your laptop to buy equipment such as rifles, bows, clothing, and accessories. Additionally, all licenses required for legally bagging your kills must be purchased from the computer prior to heading outdoors. There is a dedicated room for customizing your desired loadouts, which is helpful as each environment and type of prey have their own requirements for ethical claims. Different clothing types will have advantages in different locations and are the biggest factor in how visible you appear to wild prey. There is a nice array of licensed gear that is sure to appeal to real outdoorsmen.

Dropping into the wilderness

The in-game map will become populated with the camp sites, blinds, and stands you encounter while exploring.
The in-game map will become populated with the campsites, blinds, and stands you encounter while exploring.

Once you find yourself equipped for a trip, you depart the lodge and select the location at which you wish to hunt. You will start out at base camp where you can claim kills, refill ammo, or call upon hunting companions, also known as dogs. Canine companions are easily the best part of Hunting Simulator 2 and the only real selling point it has against its competition. The available breeds offer unique benefits depending on your target prey. As you spend more time with the dogs, they slowly begin to level up their skills and eventually become a critical tool for helping you quickly hit bag limits. Your dog can be given a custom name and order to complete tasks via a selection wheel. They will find evidence of animal tracks or poop and can be ordered to flush small game out of hiding. Certain breeds can fetch kills, specifically in the case of retrievers and waterfowl.

Once you leave base camp, you can take in the sights and sounds of the environments. The visual presentation is adequate enough but is a far cry from what you may find in The Hunter: Call of the Wild. The size of the hunting areas is also very underwhelming, as you can traverse from one side to the other in a couple of minutes. It kills a bit of the immersion when it feels like you are hunting in a small box. The European areas also feel rather empty compared to the densely forested area of the first Colorado map or either of the Texas options. You can select specific times to hunt but Hunting Simulator 2 does not offer dynamic time passage, further lessening immersion for those aiming to replicate real hunts. That said, the weather effects on display do work very well, even if they remain static for the duration of the hunting period. 

Wasting time in the tree stand 

Fail to hit this deer in the right spot and you will be fined.
Fail to hit this deer in the right spot and you will be fined.

When it comes to the moment to moment gameplay in Hunting Simulator 2, the assembled systems don’t come together in a way that feels exciting for a casual hunter or in a realistic fashion that would appeal to a sim fanatic. You can find tracks and other animal markings, but the simple act of interacting with them is needlessly difficult as you have to line up the mouse to find the arbitrary point where the interaction button prompt shows up. Sometimes, simply trying to claim a kill becomes a mild chore when the animal decides to die on a different creature’s marking. The haphazard placement of marking can also make keeping your dog fixed on your intended target tough to manage.

There is no UI indicator that lets you know how visible you are to prey, how much noise you might be making, or where the wind is blowing. There are sprays you can buy that will show wind direction, but this solution is awfully clunky compared to the 3-part triangle indicator found in Hunting Simulator 1 that quickly presented useful information. Each area will have blinds, stands, and campsites you can find while wandering around. The campsites allow for fast travel around the map, but the overall playing area is so small that this mechanic has limited function in practice. Any kill you claim auto-warps to the base camp and you must hoof it back there to claim your animals if you want to be paid (or end up being fined).

The in-game economy is a bummer and feels like a weird mix of free-to-play and premium game. Some licenses only allow a small number of kills before they expire and must be repurchased, requiring repeat trips to the lodge. A few of these only allow for a single kill. While out on the hunt, it feels like there are so many more ways to be fined or lose money than there are to make money. If you use the wrong firearm on a certain animal, you get a fine. If you shoot a female, you get a fine. You will get fined if you put too many bullets into specific animals — so much of a fine that the penalty is higher than what you make for selling the carcass. You can also be fined for not claiming kills. This system does not increase the fun factor and is seemingly included to artificially pad playing time.

Wrapping up

Congrats on snuffing out this bobcat!
Congrats on snuffing out this bobcat!

Like much of the game design and presentation, the overall polish leaves much to be desired. The simple character movement feels clunky at all times. Some environment interactions don’t make noise when they should (like when you walk through bushes) and your dog’s movements will often fail to affect prey as they should. Many types of prey don’t even render in the scene unless you aim down your weapon sights. On the PC, just using the menus is a drag as you need to hit escape to open menus, but are required to use backspace to close them or back out. Opening the in-game map always zooms into your position, making quick, repeated map checks feel like a time waste.

Ultimately, there are better options out there for those itching for a hunting game fix. Hunting Simulator 2 earns points for its selection of licensed firearms and novel hunting companion system, but little else. The whole experience feels unfinished and the lack of attention to detail works to undermine the genuinely good traits it has. 4/10 sad duck calls

This review is based on the PC Steam release. The game key was provided by the publisher for review consideration. Hunting Simulator 2 released on June 25 for Xbox One and PS4. It will launch for Steam on July 16.

Chris Jarrard likes playing games, crankin’ tunes, and looking for fights on obscure online message boards. He understands that breakfast food is the only true food. Don’t @ him.