Browsing the blog archives for April, 2009

L4D Tips: Hunter

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Hunter – The Hunter is typically the main damage dealer of the special Infected. It is also probably the single most difficult thing to play as in L4D. Effective Hunters will pick off isolated survivors, dealing damage that will further slow down the survivor’s movement, or force them to delay by healing or picking up incapacitated teammates.

Basic Gameplay:
Left Mouse Button (LMB): Nothing.
Crouch (C): You crouch. Your hunter will begin audibly growling when you are crouched. You will also notice the circular progress bar in the bottom right hand corner begin to fill up. When this bar is full, you can pounce.
Left Mouse Button while Crouching: Your hunter pounces forward, letting out a really lound scream. The angle you are looking when you begin your pounce determines your trajectory. The further/higher you go, the more damage your pounces will do. Maximum pounce damage is 25. After you have successfully pounced a survivor, he is temporarily incapacitated while your hunter automatically follows up with repeated rake attacks.
Right Mouse Button (RMB): Claw attack. Negligible damage.
Hit Points: 250. You can take a few bullets, but you will be killed outright by a shotgun blast or sustained automatic fire.
Sound Cues: The Hunter is actually the stealthiest of all the special infected, and he does not seem to make any sound when he is simply walking around. However, when crouched the Hunter will begin growling which makes him audible. Pouncing Hunters will let out a distinctive scream that will make it obvious when you leap. However, no distinction is made between successful and unsuccessful pounce “screams” so the other players do need situational awareness to determine a Hunter who is threatening them versus actively attacking. Since Hunters semi-frequently use the RMB claw attack, hearing the telltale “random scratching” effect is also another way that Survivors can identify your presence.

Advanced Properties:
Angular Hitbox: While pouncing, whether your pounce connects or not is often determined by variations in your hunter’s hitbox that occur based on the angle of your pounce. For example, if you pounce on a perfect horizontal, you can land a successful pounce even if you miss the survivors by a body length or so. On the other hand, if you pounce on a near-perfect vertical, you can miss the survivors even if you land directly on their heads. Most amateur hunters always try for the highest damage pounce possible, but because of this factor they can often miss pounces that should have been successful. Keep this in mind when planning your pounces.

Wall Jumping: When a Hunter pounces, if you are nearby to any non-collision-volume object, you can attempt to pounce off of that object for more distance or height by pressing LMB. The key to this is learning that you need to have your back turned to the object you are going to wall jump from. So, for example, if you are facing a building and want to wall jump off of it, first pounce towards the building, then rapidly turn around so you are facing away from the building and press LMB. You can only attempt to wall jump once per pounce, so if you screw up that’s it. Mastering wall jumping is the most difficult skill to learn as a hunter, but allows him to attack from many more angles and areas than would otherwise be possible.

Pounce Hit Detection: When you are pouncing, and particularly if you are setting up a high damage pounce, it’s good to scope out the area between you and the Survivors. If there are any pipes, bushes, rocks, tree limbs, catwalks, or other obstructions in your way, unless you have practiced the jump before, go for the safest and most reliable angle of attack. I cannot count how many times I have set up a perfect 25 damage pounce, only to land on top of a pass-through bush on Blood Harvest, or hit a 1 inch pipe running along a wall on No Mercy.

Bile Synergy: As of this writing, the Hunter currently does substantially more rake damage (the claw attacks after the pounce) when a Survivor is covered in Boomer bile. This is actually an interesting change, because prior to the change I would always specifically attack the players who had not been covered in bile (since their view is not obstructed at all). At this point in time it can be quite productive to attack players who have been boomed, though, as the extra damage can really add up if the other teammates are not on the ball. There’s no hard and fast rule on who you should attack anymore, so what you do here needs to be an in-game tactical assessment.

The Hunter has two main uses: DPS and incapacitation. It also has a third use, threatening.

Damage Per Second. This is fairly self-explanatory. A well-played Hunter can simply rack up much more damage than the other special Infected in most circumstances. In a Risk Zone, a Hunter starting off with an effective pounce and leading into multiple rakes on a boomed Survivor will quickly drop his HP by a good 30 points or more. If the Survivor had already been worn down at all then you’ve likely put him in the yellow, slowing his movement and making him think about using a medkit or pills.

As with all special Infected, knowing the maps is one of your best assets. There are several areas in No Mercy (NM1, NM2, NM3, NM5) that are effective pounce locations and can net you 10-25 damage regularly without high risk of failure. Always strive to take advantage of these locations, but you must also understand that Survivors expect you to do this as well. Mixing things up and attacking from “safe” but unexpected venues can catch the Survivors off guard and net you more in rake damage than you could have gotten with an excellent pounce and just a few rakes. This is particularly true if the Survivor you’re raking has been boomed.

Incapactitation. Although the Hunter is frequently the focus of DPS-strategy in L4D, there are some areas where providing cover for the Smoker or Boomer can frequently result in much more effective damage output as a whole. For example, the rooftop after the lifts in NM3 is an incredible location for the Smoker. If Survivors fall down off of the roof, they take additional damage, and the other Survivors either have to split up to rescue their comrade with minimal damage, leave him to take tons of damage but move together, or all backtrack in order to rescue one guy. These are not good choices for the Survivors to have to make, and so the Smoker is a key piece in an effective Infected strategy here.

Incapacitation refers to using the Hunter in order to stop Survivors from firing at a more valuable teammate (Smoker, Boomer) momentarily. In this NM3 example, assume that one Survivor just got smoked and is about to be dragged off of the edge of the roof. The nearest Survivor will attempt to shoot the Smoker and save his teammate — If you are working together you will pounce that Survivor and temporarily incapacitate his offensive ability, allowing your Smoker buddy to do his job. This may also serve somewhat as a distraction, as the other Survivors on the roof will probably stop to shoot you first, buying a few more seconds for the Smoker to deal damage.

Incapacitation is most obvious when the game gives you 3 Hunters and either no Boomer or no Smoker. You can have 3 Survivors knocked down and unable to help the others, while one final guy has to free all three teammates.

Threatening. Threatening refers to the use of the Hunter in much the same was as a Boomer can stall opponents. However, threatening is only likely to work against new-moderate players or uncoordinated public game teams. Threatening takes advantage of the fact that a pouncing Hunter is a very audible threat, and most players psychologically feel a need to hunt down every last special Infected they see or hear, even if that special Infected is not in a generally threatening position. You can actually lure players toward you in many cases. If you’re especially lucky, this will be a lone Rambo player, and you will be able to pounce on him and get serveral rake hits on him before his allies turn around and free him up. In any case, you can often make the Survivors backtrack and delay by providing them with a known threat behind them, which gives your teammates more time to spawn or set up. If I know the Survivors are approaching a risk zone where a Boomer or Smoker is crucial, I may attempt something like this just to buy another 5 to 10 seconds.

Play Tips and Tricks:

Unlike the other Special Infected, the Hunter is really challenging to use and requires more than simple map knowledge to be good. The only way you will get good is by playing one a lot, practicing jumps and finding the ones that you can pull off with regularity. It also helps if you are able to read your opponent’s movements. Pulling off high damage pounces is almost always a result of assessing the situation and knowing what they are going to do. That guy with an Uzi? He is probably going to crouch and fire if a swarm comes. You know he won’t be moving for several seconds, so pounce him if you’ve got a clear shot.

As with all the special Infected, you really want to keep the Survivors in risk zones and outside of mostly-enclosed areas where they are usually relatively safe from pouncing. However, if you’re in a location where you have no other choice, you can potentially run up to the Survivors and melee them (which might be more effective than attempting to pounce and instantly getting knocked off). Places like NM4’s elevator are typical locations for this behavior. Another thing to keep in mind is that Survivors who are nearby to the Survivor you pounce are temporarily incapacitated for 0.5 seconds and knocked away. Although you cannot often use this to your advantage, it is potentially useful if the Survivors are near a ledge, as you might be able to push one off with the knockback from your pounce.

Another trick for enclosed areas to be aware of is that forced-crouching (when you are on top of something but there is not room to stand upright) will not trigger the Hunter’s growling sound cues. Use this to your advantage if possible when setting up close-quarters ambushes. This is probably the only truly stealthy attack the Infected can pull off, so it will most likely catch your enemies off-guard.

One last tip: When playing with a Tank, your primary role changes from doing DPS to simply incapacitating the other Survivors. The Tank needs the cover you can provide by disabling that Survivor’s gun, or the extra second delay that will allow him to get into the face of the enemy. If you can incapacitate the Survivor with a molotov at the ready, even better.