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Official Review Star Wars: Hunters Review

Star Wars: Hunters might not bring anything particularly new to the ever-increasing field of class-based shooters, but there's a lot of fun to be had here.
 

Official Review

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You would be forgiven for having a bad feeling about Star Wars: Hunters. This free-to-play, class-based, hero shooter was announced by FarmVille developer Zynga in 2021, but a duo of delays and its appearance in the already stacked genre of 'Overwatch-likes' hardly served as a ringing endorsement for the latest event from a galaxy far, far away.

But after all of that waiting, the shooter has finally arrived (as a console exclusive to Switch, no less, at least for now) and it's really rather good. Sure, those who have sampled Overwatch's class-based stylings might find nothing particularly new here, but at launch Hunters is a fast and fun take on the PvP formula that might even serve as a fitting trial for any Padawans of the genre.

So, what's it all about? Star Wars: Hunters is a third-person, class-based shooter. You play as a Hunter from one of three ability types (Damage, Tank, or Support) and team up with another three players online to take on an opposing team across four different game modes. The class balance is the key to victory, with each character bringing a unique skillset to benefit the team and hand out the wins.

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If it sounds like something that you've seen several times before, that's because it is. Hunters doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the squad-based table but as the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't Babu Friks it."

The thing that sets Hunters apart, naturally, is Star Wars. Lightsabers, blasters, and Wookies are all present and correct here, and each arena invokes iconic locations from Endor to the Death Star that are sure to appeal to the Force-sensitive out there. But a high midi-chlorian count isn't necessary to find enjoyment. Set on the all-new Outer Rim planet of Vespaara and featuring all-new characters, there is no pre-reading required to properly understand what's going on. This is a galaxy in which fans and newbies are welcome, with no barrier to entry.

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Originality in Star Wars has, admittedly, often proved to be a mixed bag, but the characters are a joy to behold in Hunters. From a droid that thinks it's a Jedi, to two Jawas standing on top of each other in a trench coat (yes, really), there is a level of silliness to the designs that other video game entries so often overlook. What's more, each feels distinct enough that no one Hunter stands apart as 'the best.' Every option from attack-first Damage characters to healing Supports has its role and, as long as you stick to it, never feels unfairly balanced.

Learning these roles is the difference between winning and losing — dashing headfirst into enemy fire as Rodian medic Skora isn't going to help anyone, but supporting your Tank units to do the same will benefit the whole team — and Hunters does a good job of ensuring that you sample all approaches. It's a first-come, first-served approach in the character selection menu before a match, so you'll regularly have to switch up your tactics if your preferred Hunter has already been taken, and Quests and Events focus on each individual Hunter, encouraging you to try them all out to reap the maximum rewards.

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But once we hit rewards, things get a little poodoo. A Battle Pass-like addition to the free-to-play structure is no surprise these days, though we felt that perhaps a little too much is locked behind the paywall at launch. Aside from the usual character skins, emotes, and weapon wraps, Hunters' 'Arena Pass' also includes exclusive access to an additional fighter, Mandalorian Aran Tal, who is unselectable for those unwilling to pay. There's every chance that this pay-to-play Hunter will become freely available once the first Arena Pass season is up, but keeping that character's tactical approaches only for those who cough up the dough feels a little icky.

Fortunately, there is an advantage to putting in the work in Hunters. Each character can be upgraded with 'Hunter Fame,' granting them rewards including ability improvements and cosmetics. You gain Fame simply by playing with each Hunter, so while paid advantages do exist, the focus remains on play-to-win.

Matches themselves are relatively short, most lasting around the five-minute mark, and while the game mode variety doesn't exactly make each match-up feel completely different, there is enough of an objective change between each to ensure that the grind is never tiresome. These modes will be familiar to those with experience in the genre — death match, zone control, and capture the flag are replicated in 'Squad Brawl,' 'Dynamic Control' and 'Trophy Chase' respectively — though their auto-rotating structure provides another opportunity to try different Hunter approaches for different objectives.

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Finding each of these modes can be a bit of a headache, with frustratingly fiddly home menus and a not-so-obvious highlight icon making navigating through upgrades, rewards, and game selection a trial of its own. However, things are much clearer in-game. The clutter-free HUD means that your attention is always on the action. The controls are responsive and the optional gyro setting for motion aiming is a welcome addition, particularly for those who have reaped its benefits in the likes of Splatoon and Tears of the Kingdom.

It all feels pleasantly designed for Switch (and mobile) and this carries through into the visuals. Unlike Fortnite, Overwatch, or other online shooters ported to Switch where the promise of sparkling HD feels just out of reach, Hunters' visuals work in their simplicity. We were never distracted by textures glaringly loading in the background, nor lost for words at something's detailed beauty. It's a mobile-first Switch game, but come with the right frame of mind and you will be sufficiently whelmed.

Performance, too, has been a pleasant surprise in most matches. Things seem to run at a consistent 30fps in almost every game we have played with minimal 'matchmaking' wait times and loading screens, meaning that it's quick and easy to slip into that 'just one more win' feeling.

Conclusion

Star Wars: Hunters might not bring anything particularly new to the ever-increasing field of class-based shooters, but there's a lot of fun to be had here. If you can look past the fiddly menus and 'Arena Pass' trappings that have haunted so many in the genre, Hunters offers a level of tactical PvP gameplay that is simple to grasp and entertaining enough to warrant mastering. Best of all, it feels right at home on Switch. There's certainly room for improvement but, like ol' Shiv Palpatine, we will watch its career with great interest.

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