Hunters around the world often talk about the “thrill of the hunt”, but Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2011 brings a whole new meaning to this saying. Seeking out a great spot to hunt and long waits for that perfect shot are nowhere to be found here, as instead hunters will be fighting for survival in the deep wilds of several locations around the world. The hunter has become the prey, so be warned: this hunting trip may not end well.
The Cabela’s hunting games have been going strong for years now, and have found a decent following among hunting enthusiast, as every years release ups the ante in realism and scale. Dangerous Hunts contains the series' typical on-rails light-gun shooting gallery modes but also has a full first-person shooter story mode that strays far from the usual hunting titles of the Cabela’s series past, and is worth a look from gamers who aren’t fans of the hunting genre. Dangerous Hunts turns up the intensity several notches and will keep hunters on edge throughout the entire 4-5 hour story mode.
The story mode follows a family of hunting enthusiasts who have seen some close calls with the deadly creatures of the wild for ages. The scarred father takes his two sons into the wild as a rite of passage for one of them (the player-controlled character) to kill his first elk. The graphics are immediately outstanding as the snow covers the ground and trees all around, and the vegetation and leaves flow in the breeze as the snow slowly falls to the ground in fantastic HD. The forest not only looks great but sounds it too, as animals call in the distance and the snow crunches under each step taken; the audio presentation is top-notch and continued throughout the game. Within very little time the elk will be found and taken down, and the rite of passage is to be taken by eating the heart of the freshly downed elk. This starts the journey that will take the family deeper into the frozen forest and as far as the African Savannah in search of a mysterious beast who is killing off humans for pleasure.
Venturing deep into the wild, hunters will find themselves hunted as they trek where few humans have gone before. In the wild, humans are food for the taking and animals attack on sight because of this. The levels are fairly linear affairs, but the lush scenery is constantly changing throughout the entire story mode, keeping things fresh. Travelling quickly as in most FPS games is a sure-fire way to become a quick meal as animals lie in wait in bushes, trees and even in the waters that must be travelled. The many animals faced from the lions and tigers of the Savannah to the snakes and alligators in the swaps all move and react fiercely to the hunter's presence instantly, and will oftentimes attack in packs with life-like rage. Only with using the Hunter Sense (an X-ray type view) to see afar can the animals be taken down without a fight, granted the shot taken is accurate. When the animals do attack, and they will often, smaller animals of the forest start to flee for their lives from the screams of the attacking animals all with believable animations and sounds that create a palm-sweating, heart-pounding event nearly every time. Slowly traversing an area with tall, thick grass as animals attack from every angle is a nerve-wracking experience, and the relief felt when finding open grounds is a breath of fresh air, even if it’s a short lived one.
Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2011 offers three unique control methods to experience the game, with each different control method bringing a unique feel to the game play. The standard DualShock controls offer the standard FPS set-up that fans of the genre will feel instantly at home with, and work just fine for the Story mode, but the Shooting Galleries are a mess trying to move a cursor around on-screen with an analogue stick as they are obviously made for light-gun support. Move controls work perfectly throughout both modes of gameplay as the Move and Navigation set-up is used for the Story mode, and using Move to manoeuvre the cursor around the screen to aim, as well as panning the camera works wonderfully here, even without customisation. Shooting Galleries are a perfect fit for Move and of course work perfectly here as well, with the only noticeable drawback to using Move being that the cursor detects even the smallest movements, so the cursor seems to always have a slight shake to it, but never enough to cause an aiming issue. The Top Shot Elite light-gun peripheral was crafted by Red Octane (of Guitar Hero guitars fame) specifically for the Cabela’s games in mind, with dual analogue sticks and buttons built into the peripheral itself, creating an all-in-one controller capable of navigating full 3D environments and shooting all at once. The scope uses a red lens that when activating the Hunter Sense creates an impressive 3D effect for finding hidden items and predators, and sliding the pump to reload just feels better than pressing a button. Moving the screen around with the Top Shot Elite works the same as with Move and takes some practice to get used to, but works surprisingly well in the Story Mode, and as it’s a light-gun the Galleries are practically a given. The downside to the Top Shot Elite is that it’s physically tiring to use as even after an hour of playtime our arms were burning, and had us swapping over to Move for continued play. Players using either Move or Top Shot Elite will find the most enjoyment out of Dangerous Hunts.
Dangerous Hunts 2011 does have its share of issues, and the most notable one is not having the ability to dodge attacks in the Story mode. In scripted sequences, sweeping the cursor across the screen when prompted initiates a dodge, but in unscripted events when animals are attacking from all angles that ability just isn’t there. Strafing and shooting as quickly and efficiently as possible is the only way to get through these brutal segments, and can be frustrating at times when having to replay segments repeatedly. There are also a few occasions where some graphical pop-ups occur, and the linear nature to the game creates some invisible walls when getting off the main path. Trophies are a mixed bag as well, with the Platinum requiring some extremely difficult tasks to obtain, so trophy hunters looking for an easy Platinum need not apply here. Overall the game shines with high production values and great controls that make these few flaws easy to bear.
Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2011 could have easily been a cheaply made game packed with a cool looking light-gun to snag uninformed hunting fans. High production values bring the thrilling story mode to life, creating a survival horror feel that is well deserving the “Dangerous” title. Top Shot Elite and excellent Move controls make this game truly enjoyable, and the upcoming PlayStation Move Sharp Shooter looks to be a great fit here as well. Whether competing with friends in the multiple Shooting Galleries or trying to survive the deadly animals of the wild, there is fun to be had and thrills to overcome. Just come prepared, because this hunt could be your last.