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What the Hunt: Showdown trailer gets right about multiplayer gaming

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It all comes down to voice chat

Hunt: Showdown is a first-person horror game where you team up with others, or play alone, to hunt monsters while fending off human players. It’s a tense game that’s currently out in early access on PC and is coming to Xbox One.

The trailer for the game at the top of this post isn’t new — it was originally released back in February of this year — but watching it again during Microsoft’s press conference this week made me realize how many things it does well, and why so many modern game trailers feel so silly.

Let’s look at how much is being communicated by the voice chatter of the players that runs through the entirety of the trailer. The fact that it’s there at all makes it immediately clear that this is a multiplayer game, with a focus on teamwork. There’s a solo mode in the game, but that’s not the best way to play. You’re going to want to bring some friends, and sharing information throughout each round is crucial.

So the implicit message, that squadding up is the best way to play, is there without it being beaten into your head. But even better is the fact that the voice chat in the trailer sounds like real voice chat, not the sort of aspirational, role-playing talk that infects so many other multiplayer trailers out there. Ubisoft is particularly guilty of this, and its trailers border on the cringe-inducing because of it. Watch the gameplay trailer for The Division 2 from E3 this year to get a sense of what I mean.

No one talks like that while playing a video game, and the extra level of artifice makes the rest of the trailer feel cheesy and even insincere.

The trailer for Hunt: Showdown, on the other hand, nails the slightly bored, air traffic controller voice many players use online. It also doesn’t gloss over one of the truths of online gaming with voice chat: The more stressful the situation is, the less articulate players often become.

It takes a lot of practice and mindfulness to continue to share information when you’re scared, in the midst of action or just stressed out, which means that most players say less even as the volume of their voices increase. I do the same thing; it’s hard to take a breath when you’re being attacked in order to explain, in comprehensible terms, where you’re being attacked from and by whom.

By not playing up the sounds of a stressed voice in either direction — with either too much still being said or everything devolving into screams — the game sells itself as a fun, playable experience with enough scares to keep you interested.

I kept trying to figure out why this particular trailer made me want to play the game so much, and a day later I really do think it’s due to the realistic use of voice chat as a sales device. This sounds like a real gaming session and, even better, it sounds like a gaming session you’d want to join.