Illfonic thrilled with how fans are playing Predator: Hunting Grounds

How people are playing a Predator game released during the COVID-19 pandemic is "extremely exciting" for the studio that made it.

That studio is Illfonic, an American developer that made a name for itself with 2017's Friday the 13th: The Game - another slice of loving fan service for a cult '80s film franchise. 

Predator: Hunting Grounds centres on 4v1 battles where four players control human soldiers trying to take down one player who controls the mighty titular alien beast.

The game has gotten mixed reviews resulting in a current 56 rating on Metacritic, but it certainly has its fans.

Loads of highlight videos started getting uploaded to YouTube by players as soon as the game was released and some of them thrilled the team at Illfonic. 

"People are posting videos of them doing super spectacular stuff we never experienced while we've been working on the game. That's been extremely exciting," says Tramell Isaac, vice president of art at the studio.

"There's been some Eureka moments with how people use the tools and tactics of the game. I'd never thought of some of the things they're doing, but it works for them and they enjoy playing it that way. And we enjoy seeing it."

It's not just exciting new tactics that players are showing Illfonic - they're also helping the team finetune the product's all-important gameplay balance.

"Real people, not game developers, will dictate what's balanced and what's not. We did a really good job presenting a product that's balanced, but the emerging gameplay is different than all the playtesting we did," says Isaac.

"So the players provide us feedback and we'll make it better as we move forward."

Predator: Hunting Grounds interview: Tramell Isaac, vice president of art at Illfonic.
Predator: Hunting Grounds screenshot. Photo credit: Illfonic

Playing as a soldier means as an individual, you're much weaker than the Predator. But with teamwork and strategy, it can be vanquished and that can be hugely satisfying.

But playing as the Predator can provide a different kind of satisfaction.

"Getting people frazzled, I really like that part of playing as the Predator. Disrupting their flow is what I get a kick out of," says Isaac.

"You can see your effect on their behaviour as you're using tactics to separate them, spin them off into the woods and then take them out one-by-one. I love seeing them react to that.

"And I'm talking trash to my friends the whole time when I'm playing as the Predator."

There's a broad range of weapons and skills the Predator can use in the game and every player will favour a different set.

"My favourite combo is the war club and plasma caster," says Isaac.

"I love using the pounce to deliver AoE (area of effect) damage, then getting in there with the war club and bashing some heads in."

Illfonic thrilled with how fans are playing Predator: Hunting Grounds.
Predator: Hunting Grounds screenshot. Photo credit: Illfonic

Schwarzenegger fans have a special affection for the original Predator movie and while the star doesn't lend his likeness to the game, there is much of the original film in it - from how the Predator's vision and tools work through to the faithfully recreated music and sound effects.

But there are key elements of the film work that Illfonic most wanted to bring to the game.

"Suspense, teamwork, tension and the atmosphere come to mind when you think about that '87 Predator movie and those factors were the most important to our game," says Isaac.

"That original movie is a lot like a first-person shooter. They went into the jungle not knowing the Predator was there and we've captured that in the game. As a soldier, you go in with a mission to accomplish - but the Predator then reveals itself and you have a whole new set of goals.

"I think we've nailed all of the main bits of the original movie and distilled them into a video game."

Following Predator and Friday the 13th, fans of a certain age may be hoping Illfonic moves onto an Aliens or Terminator game next.

"We definitely want to keep bringing content to Hunting Grounds and expanding on that. But who knows? The future looks bright for us and if things line up, you might get your wish."

Predator: Hunting Grounds is out now for PlayStation 4 and PC.