Having recently played through the 2005 season of Cabela's Deer Hunt
I looked forward to going up against some more aggressive animals. I wanted to face the kind of prey that can turn the hunter into the hunted, or at least something more exotic than deer. My prayers were answered with Cabela's Big Game Hunter 2005 Adventures
. The title is best described as a hunting adventure game with a heavy emphasis on simulation. The career hunt mode has been made more linear and given a story line but if you've played a Cabela
game before, this game offers little in terms of surprises.
After popping in the disc, gamers can select their character from the typical assortment of young, middle-age, and older males (and a few young women too). Each hunter has five attributes that contribute to their overall skill at taking down game. In the beginning there are free attribute points that can be allotted towards aim, accuracy, strength, stealth, resilience, and tracking. There are also a decent number of cosmetic options concerning the hunter's skin and attire.
The difficulty levels of Big Game Hunter are more about patience than skill. The easiest setting marks animals on the map with red dots that can be seen through physical barriers. This reduces the amount of tracking and difficult stealth game play. Knowing the location of animals also takes away the need for items like calls, feeders, and decoys. Gamers can simply head towards the dot and pull the trigger.
If you've played a Cabela hunting game before, then Big Game Hunter will feel like a well worn, familiar trail in the woods. Most of the items, controls, and regulations are exactly the same as previous Cabela installments. The major change comes with the addition of a story line and a more cohesive presentation of the hunting challenges. At the start of the game a text box explains the back story behind "the ultimate hunting adventure." Apparently, your grandfather Pete was involved in a quest to enter the hunter's hall of fame by crossing the country and killing an animal in each of the nation's 65 different regions. Before making the last three kills, he slipped down a hill and broke his leg. It is your job to follow in Grandpa Pete's footsteps and win the trophy in his name.
In keeping with the adventure game style, Adventures 2005 has moved many pre-hunt aspects from the menu to in-game locations. After choosing a character, you begin outside a hunting lodge where the first objective is to go speak to the game warden and attain tags for animals in that region. Each lodge also acts as a hub where players can purchase items, rest, view trophies, and get advice on completing their next hunt. Outside of the cabin there is a firing range and a designated area for sighting new weapons. Vehicles can also be rented in front of the cabin for a hefty price.
Once a hunter has acquired their tags, they are given an objective for each area. Maps and objectives can be viewed on the PDA at any time and have convenient markings for trails leading out of an area, camping sites, and lodges. As hunters travel into a new area, their objectives include taking down a specific animal. After completing this requirement, trails lead to the next location populated with a different type of beast.
Gamers will also run across fellow hunters that dole out info leading to secondary objectives or more impressive trophies. Overall, the setup is more immersive than simply picking a region from the menu screen. The secondary objectives make the game more interesting and offer bonuses to dedicated hunters.
In terms of game play, 2005 Adventures has the exact same elements from other Cabela games, slightly tweaked for a more exciting experience. The trusty stealth meter is back, but the animals are not nearly as sensitive as the skittish creatures in Deer Hunt 2005. The wind indicator allows hunters to stay downwind from prey and the human shaped health meter turns increasingly red if players injure themselves by crashing an ATV or falling down a steep ridge like their gran-pappy.
Without a vehicle the most important onscreen indicator is the stamina bar. Even the most resilient characters will quickly lose the ability to move after running a short distance through an environment. Stamina depletes so quickly that if a hunter suffers an injury its better to restart the mission rather than slowly hobble back to the cabin.
After playing the latest Deer Hunt game the visuals in Big Game Hunter are a bit of a let down. I was pleased with the higher density of plant life, but the art style calls to mind a forest made of LEGOs. The soft wavy grass in Deer Hunt has been replaced by jagged underbrush. Sometimes, getting too close to a rock formation reveals see through textures, and strange pixilation effects. Spotty visuals aren't usually enough to ruin a game, but since the core game play is so similar to Deer Hunt, it will make sense to most gamers to purchase the better looking offering.
On the plus side, the sky swirls with moving clouds and there is a nice differentiation between the six distinct environments of game. The animals are well rendered with realistic animations for stationary and flight phases. There is a first-person and third-person view for traversing the world, although you may want to stick with first person to avoid the goofy side stepping movement of the main character.
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