IGN Review of Cabela's Big Game Hunter 2010
Anyone looking at Cabela's Big Game Hunter 2010 to satisfy their desire for a virtual hunting experience should direct their attention elsewhere. This game has about as much to do with actual hunting as Cruis'n USA does with accurately simulating racing. That's not a knock against the product -- it's a gameplay style choice by the developer. But considering it's got "Hunter" in its title, it's easy to see how people could get the wrong idea.
With that out of the way, we can talk about what Big Game Hunter 2010 actually is, and that's an arcade-style shooting experience that takes you through twelve story missions and offers seven shooting gallery challenges. A narrative is built into the game to string things together in a more meaningful way, though none of it is particularly memorable. You play as marksman Jack Wilde who's in the process of being recruited by an organization called The Royal Ancient Order of Orion. They stay in contact with you via radio, dropping you into new territories across the world like mountainous regions of Canada, the deserts of Argentina, New Zealand, and Tanzania, amongst others. You're then told to find various animals, and it's your duty to kill them if you ever want to be accepted by the hunting world's high society.
The process of tracking down European Hare, Fallow Deer, Red Stags, Indian Water Buffalo, Snow Sheep, and many other types of wildlife is fairly straightforward. You don't have animal calls or many other hunting tools aside from an impressive loadout of weaponry, which includes a rifle with a scope, a bigger rifle with a scope, a .44 Magnum pistol with a scope, and a shotgun (surprisingly without a scope). If you're thinking that sounds a little bit like overkill... well, you're right. Remember, this game is not trying to be realistic.
Each mission progresses in a linear fashion. Though the maps are built with high rock and invisible walls set a decent distance apart, they're still essentially corridors that funnel you from one grazing area to the next. During the later stages things do open up a little bit, but you'll never spend too much time trying to locate your prey. The occasional animal track or tuft of fur lodged in a tree can be picked up as well, but in general, since the maps really aren't that large, walking or sprinting around until you see the spooked animal icon pop up on your user interface will get the job done.
Yet even with such enclosed spaces, there's an easier method for tracking animals. Wilde's hunter senses can be tapped into at any time without restriction, which highlight waypoints to the next animal on your list. They also highlight tracks and signs of animals, branches that cause noise if walked over, and show hiding spots around where the animals are located that offer up percentage bonuses. These types of things are important if you want to get gold medals on each hunt, since the higher you score the more points you receive, which is added to an experience meter to level you up. At higher levels you're awarded more weapons, including a crossbow, and you also open up the next mission. In other words, if you want to see all the game has to offer, it's a good idea to use hunter vision from time to time to spot high percentage zones to fire your shot from.
What's really disappointing here is that the gameplay is so simple there's next to no sense of accomplishment for doing anything. Regardless of which type of big game you're trying to track down, they're frequently standing still out in the open -- as if being handed to you like fast food meals at a drive-through window. You pull up, look down your scope, and a display will pop up over males showing their spine, lungs and heart. If you hit the heart, that's an extra bonus, and you'll get points for distance and the type of weapons you're using.
Even with these variables, there's basically nothing to differentiate hunting deer or water buffalo. Every hunt feels the same, and the experience is so shallow and stripped-down that it's difficult to imagine players seeing Big Game Hunter 2010 through to the end of its short run. As long as you don't sprint directly at your targets and possess the most basic of aiming skills, you're going to succeed in this game.
The game does try to mix things up by tossing more dangerous beasts at you, such as bears and a mountain lion. These things charge, and to defeat them you'll need to circle strafe and unload round after round until they hit the ground for good. Sometimes they'll pounce on top of you, at which point you can tap a button repeatedly to shove them off. If they catch you with enough swipes it's even possible to get killed, though you'll then respawn just before the attack occurred.
While slightly more exciting than the majority of the gameplay, the excitement doesn't last because, again, there's so little to the gameplay and so little challenge. At times your character will also slip off logs while traversing terrain, requiring you to mash buttons to get back up to safety. It's initially surprising and grabs your attention, but you'll soon realize it's just a transparent attempt at making missions feel like they have more variety.
Really the best parts of the game are its shooting galleries, which are essentially a take on Duck Hunt and Oregon Trail. These can be activated at glowing circles in the main missions, but you're better off checking out the seven shooting galleries accessible from the main menu. As the action begins a timer counts down and waves of ducks and rabbits -- whatever the particular challenge calls for -- will stream out from the sides. You're given multipliers for kill chains and bagging two animals per shot with the ultimate goal of getting a new high score. It's fun, and it's an experience that fits perfectly with a gun peripheral, which is more the territory of the Wii version.
The visuals in Big Game Hunter 2010 were a strong point on Xbox 360, but on PlayStation 3 they aren't on the same level. You'll still be treated to some pretty landscapes and semi-realistic looking animal models, but an inconsistent framerate is a perpetual source of annoyance along with frequent flickering shadows and pop-in. Sound effects are fairly strong, with gunfire effects that sound powerful and deliver a momentary jolt of excitement in an otherwise dull game. The fuzz of the chugging guitars that grind into action at each mission's outset seems out of place.
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