IGN Review of Bass Pro Shops: The Strike
When people think of the holiday gaming season, fishing titles are likely far from their minds. Yet here I sit with Bass Pro Shops: The Strike in my lap, complete with rod and reel controller. The Strike is a simulation fishing videogame, the likes of which have yet to be seen on this generation of consoles. It includes more fishing accoutrements than even the most diehard fisherman will know what to do with; it's just too bad that the core design is as flawed as it is or we could've had the next SEGA Bass Fishing on our hands.
The list of equipment and accessories that you can use in your fishing adventures is probably the strong point for The Strike. Fishing aficionados will relish the ability to pick different gauge lines from separate manufacturers and make the crucial decision of whether to use jerk bait or a spoon (among many, many others) to land the big one.
The basic game design is simple. You begin by creating your character with a limited list of options and then decide whether you'll play in arcade mode (easy) or Bass Pro mode (hard). When I first saw the two options for difficulty I assumed that the latter would limit your instruments when looking for and catching fish. On easy you have a fish finder, GPS and readouts for line tension and fish stamina. I was expecting these to be absent in pro mode but that's not the case. It seemed like the only real change was the level of competition which was a disappointing realization.
Another big disappointment for me was the career mode itself. The structure doesn't make a lick of sense and was clearly built to needlessly lengthen the play experience. When you select one of the ten lakes in The Strike you'll have to first earn enough reputation points before being able to enter into the lake's tournament. What do those reputation points do? Not a thing. Making matters worse is the fact that the amount of reputation points needed increases for absolutely no reason with each subsequent lake. Smaller fish will only net you four reputation points and when you have to clear 90 overall points to get into a tournament, the exercise can get more than a little grating.
Once you actually make it into a tournament you'll realize that you're doing exactly what you did in the pre-tourney free fishing, but now you have a limited amount of time and are competing against three other anglers to see who can land the most weight from their top five fish. The tournament itself isn't terrible, but it would have been much more painless to simply give the player the option to hop directly into the competition rather than having to painstakingly catch arbitrary fish that have no bearing whatsoever on anything else in the game unless you happen to land one of the legendary or reward fish which will net you achievement points.
But if you're a true angler (fisherman) the monotony of the tournament structure might actually be worth it if the act of landing those big bass was fun. While I won't go as far to say that it's a strong point for The Strike, it's not half-bad despite suffering from the monotony that infects other aspects of the game. Much of the fun is brought by the rod and reel that's packaged with the 80-dollar version. The feeling of jerking up on the rod to start a cast and releasing the trigger at just the right time to get the perfect cast is enjoyable but once you've cast and re-cast and caught fish after fish you'll wish that they'd done something to spice it up.
Fishing goes like this: complete the aforementioned procedure to launch your lure and then drag it through the water until it attracts a fish, set your hook by jerking on your line and reel the sucker in. To reel in your catch you need to manage the tension of the line without it breaking until the fish loses its stamina. All of this information is displayed on screen so you'll always know exactly how much stamina the fish has as well as the tension of your line.
There is a little too much information on the screen for my taste. I would've much preferred if there was no stamina meter and you had to simply feel when the fish was out of energy through feedback on your controller or reel. As it stands the fishing is very much a "wash, rinse, repeat" affair and it gets stale all too quickly. The developers really should have found a way to change the experience that goes beyond switching up your equipment based on the fish that you're going after.
Besides your career you can also participate in the Bass Pro Shops Invitational once you've completed all of the standard tournaments, you can quick fish and you can participate in challenges either solo or with up to three friends. The challenges come in two flavors: boat racing and casting challenges. The boat racing has terrible physics and poorly programmed obstacles in the form of kamikaze logs. Casting is ho-hum at best and has you launch your lure through targets in the water to score points. The truly mind-numbing aspect comes when you try to play with a friend. You'll likely feel like you're playing on the NES as there's no simultaneous split-screen (forget about online multiplayer) of any kind. You can't even use separate controllers. It's pretty embarrassing, actually.
The visuals in Bass Pro Shops: The Strike are abysmal and deserve to be counted among the worst on the system. It's clear that the graphics were ratcheted down in order to scale to the Wii and the end result is a mess of poorly designed textures, a stuttering framerate and details that will make your stomach turn. I shouldn't be happy when water actually reflects the objects around it (something The Strike struggles to do properly), but when you see the rest of this game you'll understand why I am.
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