Hunting Anubis turns the dogfight into a brutal, stealth cold war

Killers are often described as cold and dark, but only in a figurative sense. The metal shells and ceaseless pursuit of the drones inhabiting the near-future of Hunting Anubis beg for the simile to be taken literally.

You battle for the skies of the 21st century in this combat flight sim. Two teams of stealth fighters whittle down each other’s stock of aircraft, one at a time. Your greatest weapon is not ballistic but just being out-of-sight: flying down low, dangerously close to the black waters, in order to reduce your visibility on the enemy’s radar. You can add further credence to your disappearance by employing a cloaking device.

With such an advantage comes a cost. Batteries recharge at a fast rate, but high-energy actions like cloaking, firing your main guns, using the afterburners, and targeting your stalkers with homing missiles or a hacking device (depending on your class) will exhaust your energy supplies. Once it’s gone, you risk death: your systems shut down for four helpless seconds.

While that seems pretty hair-trigger, this isn’t adrenaline-soaked dogfighting, despite how accessible its combat is. Instead, it’s the tense unknown of the cold war shifted a few decades into the future. You survive by outsmarting the enemy.

The rippling black-and-white landscapes and darkened sky of Hunting Anubis fits James Bridle’s notion of the New Aesthetic, merging the digital with reality. What you’re seeing is a representation of your craft’s sensor input, as well as satellite feeds.  

All of which makes for a pretty severe aesthetic. What Hunting Anubis is lacking at the moment is more populated landscapes. The only map currently available is an open lake surrounded by hills. Apart from the drones there is nothing hazardous in the airspace.

You survive by outsmarting the enemy. 

The reason for that is a bug that has prevented the game’s creator, Orihaus, from importing his complex cities into the game without drastic framerate drop. This means that the large maps with remote outposts and tall cities, which allow for hunting and hiding, won’t arrive until later.

This is understandably frustrating for Orihaus, who spends his time procedurally generating maps offline and then meticulously assembling structures within them. His current pursuit is trying to obtain heightmap data, but navigating the government websites to find exactly what he needs has proven tricky. His intention is to use real heightmaps of (say) Iceland to produce a map vast enough that players truly get lost in the neurotic interplay of predator and prey.

You can play Hunting Anubis here.