IGN Review of Cabela's Big Game Hunter 2008
Hunting games are always presented with an interesting quandary during the design process. It's no secret that hunting isn't the most active of sports. The majority of your time is spent sitting in one spot waiting for that one prize buck to wander aimlessly into your sights. You get one shot and one shot only at taking down the award winning animal. But how do you make a videogame that encompasses that feeling while still making it fun to sit down and play for longer than three and a half minutes? If it was truly authentic no one would want to play it, but make it too much like a videogame and you've alienated your core audience. Such is the crux of why most Cabela games are released with more of a whimper than any form of a bang.
We're sad to report that Cabela's Big Game Hunter is no different.
The game suffers from the same identity crisis that most Cabela games do in that it offers the experience of sitting in a tree stand - albeit for an unrealistically short time period - but then it tosses in some sort of bullet-time meter governed by adrenaline and a hunter's eye which horrifically brings out your targets by painting the scene in black with your targets shining a bright yellow. I understand that they need to endear the Cabela hunting license to as wide a videogame audience as possible, but when you're fighting a cougar who can take six rifle blasts from pointblank range, and have a hunter that can be mauled by said cougar more than three times, you know something is awry.
The gameplay in Big Game Hunter hinges on players venturing to different lands, meeting the hunting ranger in those different lands, playing a mini-game of shooting little varmints, going off and shooting a certain number of bigger varmints, then going after the trophy varmint. Mission accomplished, reset and restart in a different hunting location. It's about as exciting as it sounds.
There are small deviations along the way. Sometimes, and this is a rare occasion, you'll have to climb up a rock face by feverishly tapping square and circle at the appropriate times, or keep balance on a log bridge by doing the same. Regardless, none of it is all that fulfilling when there are so many other quality titles out there.
One of the few true joys of hunting, more accurately one of the joys that stems from playing a hunting videogame, is completely diminished in Big Game Hunter. The ability to switch between several different firearms without having to worry about lugging around a big bag of equipment as you would in reality is what could really separate hunting games from the real thing, yet Big Game Hunter provides no incentive to explore the firearms at the player's disposal. I played through the game using only my standard rifle, switching to the crossbow and using my duck call only when commanded by the game. I continuously unlocked an arsenal of weapons, but they remained totally unused. Maybe if I started failing hunts because I was using inferior hardware, maybe then I would have felt compelled to switch it up, sadly that never happened.
Another "exciting" part of hunting is exploration, just being able to chart out your own hunting ground and finding where the animals are hiding. Big Game Hunter holds your hand entirely too much with its painfully linear level designs and mission map that literally places a bull's-eye on the piece of land where you can find your next target. Following the one available path to the clearly specified spot on a map isn't exactly what the experience of hunting should be like.
Visually the game is more negative than positive. The bullet cam that the developers included for when you land that one fatal shot is cool enough, though we have seen it before, but the surrounding ambient life and scenery is banality at its finest. The forests are less populated on PS2 than on other systems, but even still there are a few framerate hitches. The tree life also features fewer ambient movements on account of wind and other environmental factors which ratchets down the realism a bit.
As if that wasn't enough going against the visual presentation the texture work is very lackluster and the environments were clearly laid out using the most basic of map editors. Basically you'll see four different colors throughout your Cabela escapades. There's brown, white, green, and light brown. Okay, so that might be a bit of a stretch, but sometimes you'd swear that you're walking around an identical setting with a different color scheme. There are weather effects too, but those just seem like a tool to mask the similarity from environment to environment. Oh, and the animations on the incredibly slow moving animals are also very odd looking.
©2007-11-19, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved