theHunter: Call of the Wild (PS4)

Growing up in rural Michigan, I spent a lot of time outdoors playing in the woods, building forts, going fishing, and sitting in a blind waiting for a deer to line up for what would be the perfect shot. I spent a lot of time waiting. Listening to the leaves rustling in the wind and underneath squirrels that sounded ginormous (if you spend enough time in the woods, you’ll notice how the smallest of creatures can make the loudest of noises). Sitting in the woods was always so calming and solitary (in the best of ways). Being left alone to my musing and reflectioning was just as much a reason to be out there as the possibility of bagging a buck.

I haven’t had the opportunity to just exist out in nature by myself in quite some time. It seems ironic and totally against the sublimity of the natural world, but sometimes walking through the woods in a video game can just about hit the spot.

theHunter: Call of the Wild is one of those games I like existing in. Call of the Wild is a hunting simulation game from Avalanche Studios and Expansive Worlds and is one of the most realistic hunting sims I’ve tried. You can hunt a wide variety of animals like Roosevelt elk, bears, and turkeys across the game’s twelve reserves. Reserves focus on areas like the Yukon, Southern Africa, and Finland in stunning detail. This is a seriously gorgeous game. There’s a reason why I can spend hours just walking and observing. The natural environments are presented in such a real and detailed way.

Besides the views, Call of the Wild is a thoughtfully designed hunting game. It leans heavily into the sim elements–hunting takes patience, time, and a planned approach. Some have complained that the game is boring. My guess is that they’d do better with an arcade hunting experience. To hunt with any success, players will need to be mindful of how much noise they make, which way the wind is blowing, and lining up an ethical shot. There are weapons, perks, and skills to unlock, a hunting lodge to fill with trophies, and even a good ol’ hound dog (available via DLC) to help you find downed prey. It’s a slow experience, one that lends itself to reflection and winding down after a long day. Call of the Wild simulates many of the facets of actual hunting which is why I enjoy moving through the maps with no intention of firing off a shot so much of the time. Sure, I’ve taken my share of elk and deer, but that’s usually secondary to the meditation of walking down a narrow path through the woods at dawn.

theHunter: Call of the Wild reminds me of childhood, of growing up miles outside of a small town, and of my soul-searching in the woods after finishing my schoolwork and chores for the day. For some, the game will require too much patience and/or be too quiet and slow. And that’s okay. But if you’re like me, the serenity of the woods will welcome you in. So take that hike. Enjoy the sunset. Nature awaits you.

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