Cabela’s Big Game Hunter Pro Hunts is Activision’s most recent addition to its enormous catalogue of sponsored hunting games. This time, the firm’s adopted a more modern and lifelike approach to the controversial pastime, maintaining many of the aspects of a real-world hunt, but still wrapping it up in an accessible arcade package.
The fast paced action combined with the sprinkling of realism helps to spread the game’s appeal to casual hunting fans and enthusiasts alike. Aspects such as animal body language, hunter scent, and even different types of weapon and ammo are complemented by more accessible features such as a GPS – which shows the probable locations of animals – and feedback on wind speeds and more.
To begin a hunt, you’ll need to select from one of four regions in North America, each varying in environment and wildlife. You’ll then need to pick your gear, which is an important part of becoming a prize hunter. Fortunately, the game won’t ever overwhelm you with options, as the tutorials and hot tips do a great job of getting you up to speed.
When out on the field, you’ll need to track prey, following their foot tracks and learning their general habits. This is often the longest part of the hunt as it can take some time to get a feel for the animal’s patterns and close enough to take a shot. The artificial intelligence is actually pretty smart, and your targets will easily smell, hear, or spot you from afar if you’re reckless.
However, you’ll be guided by commentary from professional hunters, and while it’s a touch naggy at times, this really helps. A clean shot to the head or heart will take out an animal first time, but you’ll need to follow the blood tracks of an injured creature if you miss. This can be a laboured process – especially if the animal runs through water – but it’s very satisfying to finally the finish the kill.
Sadly, you can’t play many of the hunts again, making the online leaderboards a bit of an odd inclusion. You can tackle a ‘free hunt’ at any time, but the objective specific hunts are locked out once cleared. This makes the game feel a bit short unless the long grind of many of the title’s in-game trophies seems appealing. Unlike its predecessor’s, there’s also no co-operative mode.
While the controls operate like most other shooters, there is a little more precision placed on the gunplay. Holding the R2 trigger half way down allows you to steady your aim, and demonstrates where your bullet should hit after factoring in bullet weight and wind. Fully depressing the button will then fire off the shot. You should expect to miss plenty of shots as you acclimatise to the controls, but it all makes sense eventually. Of course, if you’re looking for something more immersive, both the Top Shot Elite and Fearmaster peripherals are supported, although we weren’t able to test either of these.
Nevertheless, being a precision sport, the sluggish frame rate often hurts, making aiming harder than it should be. Moreover, the low resolution textures and awful renders of the hunting celebrities can be tough meat to chew. Still, even though most of the graphical aspects are incredibly lacklustre, the slow motion bullet camera and animal models are at least well rendered.
Furthermore, the strong audio can make up for the lack of eye candy in places, primarily because it accurately recreates the sensation of being out in the wild. While the poor graphics may break your immersion, the realistic bird chirps and various animal sounds certainly help to pull you back in – and will successfully drive your household cat or dog crazy with a good sound system.
Even with a budget $29.99 price point, Cabela’s Big Game Hunter Pro Hunts can feel sloppy in important areas. It successfully straddles the line between accessibility and authenticity, but presentation issues let it down. Still, if you’re eager to experience the basic thrills of bagging a buck without needing to bathe yourself in real animal urine, this may just about be worth the punt.