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Way of the Hunter: Matariki Park Review

Way of the Hunter: Matariki Park Review

Sometimes, we work too hard — be it to meet deadlines, make a bit of extra money, or just take our minds off of something else. If this keeps going for long enough, however, the results may be uncomfortable; this is the situation previous Way of the Hunter protagonist, River Knox, who finds himself within the newest DLC, Matariki Park. Will this be a successful reprieve, or would you have rather stayed home?

This time around, we find ourselves in the picturesque landscapes of New Zealand, in the titular Matariki park — named after the Maōri name for the Pleiades. River Knox is sent here by his grandfather due to concerns for the young hunter’s overworked health. The park itself is owned by a mysterious woman named Andy, who contacts our hero intermittently via walkie-talkie, though there is an undercurrent of intrigue as Andy seems to have their own plans for the resting River. An additional familiar face also joins on the hunt, as Grandpa Knox has also invited Aurora Shores protagonist Jackie Mackovich to the sprawling holiday destination. In an interesting departure, you will be playing as both River and Jackie depending on which main story mission you are on, though the two share inventories and weapons, so the difference is minimal.

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C-Can I come too?

As one can expect from New Zealand, the visuals of Matariki Park are absolutely stunning. Each of the eight zones offers a different kind of landscape to explore, ranging from mountainous fields, grasslands and thick rainforests to picturesque deserts and open fields; I could not help but be spellbound by every new area I ran into! I even went as far as standing on a hill watching the sunrise just to see how the colours of the land shifted from the azure hues of night to the bright oranges of morning. As with Malachi’s DIY swings in Tikamoon Plains, both Jackie and River are able to collect unique stamps found near some of the park's iconic locations. Along with the vibrant scenery, the DLC also adds a number of new creatures to track and hunt.

While you will see many familiar trails and droppings from previous DLC, Matariki Park is not without its own unique inhabitants. Notable additions are the fluffy Himalayan tahr, the majestic red and sika deer, and the diminutive European rabbit. Something I really like about this series is the way it includes small tidbits of educational material without it being completely overt. For example, two distinct species you can hunt in the game are feral pigs and wild boar. Though similar in appearance, they are actually not related as such, with the latter being related to European wild boars and the former to escaped domesticated pigs gone wild!

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OK, this bridge is NOT OSHA-certified!

While most of the things I have enjoyed in the series are still here, one facet I had hoped would be gone has made a return: I simply can’t see! I mentioned this particular issue when reviewing the base game, but I find it increasingly irritating when I am tracking a certain animal, following tracks and sounds, only to be unable to locate it within the thick brush or because it and its animal friends are behind a small mound. I understand this is part and parcel of hunting, but the amount of times my quarry got spooked before I even saw head or antler made me quite aggrieved. This may be a matter of eyesight (I do wear glasses) or skill, so I can’t be too mad, though having a way to temporarily highlight creatures wouldn’t go amiss!

The audio design of the game is as on-point as ever, with ambient sounds fitting the locations perfectly and caves having audible echoes. I was especially impressed with the animal noises this time around, as I felt they were easier to detect and recognise. I do wish the Sika deer would calm down, though; those things howl like they're dancing on LEGO! In terms of visual design, the area is equally impressive. As the park is supposed to be a resort of sorts, it is fitting that the area is littered with beautiful areas, sights to see and multiple small buildings in which to sit down and take in the atmosphere.

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That is some early 2000s ground right there!

In terms of performance, however, Matariki Park falls somewhat short: more often than not, I noticed quite a lot of pop-in in the graphics, with some areas never rendering properly at all. Other minor visual quibbles followed me on my playthrough, such as the first-person view in the car flashing oddly and some hunter-sense indicators never disappearing. While small and manageable on their own, they did take away from the experience. Other than the visual oddities, I had no major bugs or crashes, though my GPU did scream louder than the deer whenever I arrived in an open area.

Though this is only conjecture, Matariki Park seems like a conclusion of sorts. Having two previous protagonists meet up, discuss future goals, and having been through their respective adventures — going as far as putting a spoiler warning in the beginning in case you haven’t played the earlier stories — it feels like I’m playing the game’s epilogue. This isn’t a bad thing, mind you, as giving the characters a chance to reflect is an interesting approach, and the interactions they have are fun to listen to and keep the game interesting.

It is still a visually stunning game.

Being a fan of the series, I enjoyed my time with Matariki Park. Though the DLC doesn’t offer much innovation in addition to a new location, a deployable stand, new animals, and some fun interactions, it offers enough to keep it entertaining. The absolutely stunning views and locales of New Zealand are gorgeous, the missions are fun, and the points of interest offer some interesting sights to see, creating a solid experience. The visual bugs and the lack of new and interesting hunting changes to gameplay do take away from the enjoyment, however, and made some of my favourite activities hard to enjoy. I would still recommend getting the DLC if you already have the game, but it does not represent the best Way of the Hunter has to offer!

6.00/10 6

Way of the Hunter - Matariki Park (Reviewed on Windows)

Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.

Matariki Park offers some absolutely fantastic locales of New Zealand to explore, new animals to hunt, and fun sights to see. Though there were some unfortunate visual glitches, the experience as a whole is one I recommend to fans of the series!

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Martin Heath

Martin Heath

Staff Writer

Professional Bungler

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