theHunter is a free to play PC game that recreates hunting wild animals in as realistic a manner as possible, on an open world area called Evergreen Hunting Reserves, originally based on the islands and surroundings of Washington State in the USA, but which has now expanded to include areas modeled on the Eastern USA, Scandinavia and Germany. theHunter is developed by Expansive Worlds.
The free game features one huntable animal type (Mule Deer) along with one weapon (the .243 Bolt Action Rifle) and subscribers obtain other animals, along with a variety of guns, bows and lures with which to hunt them. There are currently six playable environments, Whitehart Island, Logger's Point, Settler Creeks, Redfeather Falls, Hirschfelden and Hemmeldal. More animals and huntable areas are continuously developed and added to the game.
To play the player first creates a character on the game's website www.thehunter.com, which includes social networking tools and messaging capabilities to allow players to connect and share in-game experiences. Creating a character requires selecting an avatar from pool of thousands of unique faces. The player can receive missions - initially from 'Colton Locke', a character in the game. Completing missions unlocks further missions, and introduces the player to other characters that inhabit the game-world.
Players must use natural cover to avoid detection by the animals in the game. Mule Deer may be hunted for free, and Whitetail Deer and Roosevelt Elk, Turkey, Pheasant, Coyote, Blacktail Deer, Feral Hog, Black Bear, Brown Bear, Moose, Wild Boar, Red Deer, Roe Deer & Red Fox can be hunted by subscribers. Each animal species reacts to different stimuli in different ways. Scent detection for the quadrupeds is their keenest sense, which means the player has to be aware of wind direction or the animal might smell the player's scent and run off. Players must also pay careful attention to the soundscape, listening for subtle signals that indicate the presence of animals in the locality.
The core gameplay revolves around tracking and harvesting (killing) animals with the weapons provided, although a digital camera is also provided for those who do not wish to shoot with a gun. Animal tracks can be found and identified with the "HunterMate" an in-game GPS-like device that identifies tracks, scat, blood trails, and animal calls.
theHunter also features minor RPG elements. As players track and spot each animal their skill in that area improves. Weapon skills can also be improved by scoring successful hits on animals. Improving the hunting skills makes animals easier to track, and a weapon will not suffer as much "wobble" when aimed.