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, in the Wii version, 13 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.
Here's the best reason to play.
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 tools aside from an impressive loadout of weaponry, including 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. Again, 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. Near 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. 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, since otherwise it's more a matter of luckily stumbling into one.
Shooting at waves of angry bears.
What's really disappointing here is that the gameplay is so simplified that 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 almost 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 spines, 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 even players looking for a mindless hunting experience 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.
That being said, since this is the Wii version, you're obviously dealing with a different input device than on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. You can use your Wiimote and nunchuk, though the game also supports control schemes for the Wii Zapper and, if you bought the bundle, the Top Shot peripheral. The latter peripheral is shaped like a shotgun, with a slot for the nunchuk near the stock and the Wiimote near the end of the barrel. It definitely looks cool, and it splits apart at the base of the barrels like an actual shotgun would for reloading. The Top Shot even has compartments for bundling up cords so they're not spilling all over the place. Though there are sensitivity sliders for your aiming, moving the cursor to the sides of the screen to turn your character was jittery at best, which didn't make the campaign any more enjoyable. The Top Shot controls are also uncomfortable, requiring you perform a weird tilt to activate your hunter sense and use button combinations, like holding C and pressing down on the thumbstick, to perform basic actions like crouching, or double-tapping the thumbstick forward to sprint. By holding the C button and flipping the shotgun barrel down and back up, you can initiate a reload, which is somewhat interesting, though it often throws off your screen orientation. Reloading by pressing the A button works best. Of course you can just swap between the three control schemes to find one that fits best, but it's still odd that the controls of the pack-in peripheral are so unwieldy. At least there's no waggle.
These type of control limitations certainly don't help when the game mixes things up by tossing at you more dangerous beasts such as bears and mountain lions. These things charge, and to defeat them you'll need to circle strafe (though I doubt you can pull this off with the Wii controls) 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 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 far better on the Wii using something like the Top Shot peripheral since all you need to do is aim and shoot. These can be activated at glowing circles in the main missions, but you're better off checking out the 13 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, so there's a tiny bit of depth there. It also features an Unreal Tournament-esque announcer who calls out "combo" and "double," which is just bizarre given the context. Still, it's fun, and it's an experience that fits perfectly with the Wii's input device. In this version you can also set to active up to four players at once, which basically just means the game will cycle through a gallery and tracks scores up to four times and declare a winner at the end, which can be fun with a few friends or family members around.
With this version you also get a more diverse mix of shooting gallery challenges. Instead of shooting animals like ducks and squirrels before a timer runs out, you can also face off against waves of rampaging bears while a timer counts up. The round only ends if enough bears can make it to your location (the front of the screen) and swipe at you enough times to kill you. It's the same deal for leopards. In another where you need to shoot Wapiti, there's the added wrinkle of getting docked points for shooting females. Again, like the score announcer, it's bizarre, but it could be entertaining for someone looking for a Duck Hunt-like experience.
The visuals in Big Game Hunter 2010 aren't anything special on the Wii, but relative to other titles on the system they're not all that bad. One unfortunate side effect of the general level of blurriness and lack of detail makes it more challenging to navigate environments since the path through isn't always clear, which means you'll be spending more time using the special hunting sense to locate waypoints. An inconsistent framerate is a perpetual source of annoyance in this version as well. Sound effects tend to be pretty decent, with gunfire effects that sound powerful and deliver a momentary jolt of excitement in an otherwise dull game. The chugging guitars seem out of place.
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