IGN Review of Cabela's Trophy Bucks
Games branded with the Cabela label are typically cast aside by the bulk of the gaming world for being oppressively slow, boring, and maybe even slightly mean for their extreme prejudice against the slow-witted, totally defenseless wild life of the world. The games range from extreme simulations where your hunter sits in a treestand for hours on end in hopes that one prize buck strolls haplessly by, to other Cabela games that feature you fighting a yeti using bullet time. Cabela's Trophy Bucks attempts to bring players the best of both worlds, whether it succeeds is another matter entirely.
Rather than going with the usual slow-paced gameplay that other Cabela games have used, Trophy Bucks decides to simplify things a bit, while at the same time trying to inject some excitement into the play experience. The game does this by giving players a set of power-ups that are awarded for nabbing a prize buck or nailing the perfect one-shot kill. These power-ups range from heat vision that looks like it's straight out of Predator to slow-time which blurs the edges of the screen in the game's most stylized visual effect. The gameplay isn't nearly challenging enough to actually require you to utilize the power-ups so they feel much more like a needless additive than a necessity to success.
But what is every Cabela game really about? Killing the most helpless, majestic animal you possibly can. While Cabela certainly lets you do this, the act of killing a five-star (the best in the game) buck doesn't quite feel as satisfactory when you realize that you're running over a small hill as you pull the trigger. It's sort of like playing a first-person shooter with truly mindless enemies. To make matters even less realistic there's the Hunter's Sense ability. It's not a power-up so you can use it as often as you like, and because of that it nearly breaks the game entirely.
By depressing the left bumper on 360 or L1 on the PS2, players are given targets over all of their future prey. Whether they're behind a tree, a mountain, under dirt--wherever they are, you'll be able to see them and, more importantly, shoot at them. That means that fleeing deer are never safe; they could be running through a thick forest in hopes of finding safety, only to have you use Hunter's Sense and pick 'em off from the distance. There were several times when I never even saw my actual target; I just used Hunter's Sense and started firing. At most this ability should have been governed for thirty seconds of use per hunt, rather than at the player's whimsy.
The biggest problem with Trophy Bucks actually isn't the power-ups or Hunter's Sense; in fact the act of hunting the range of animals--you'll stalk deer, geese, ducks, bunnies, and even squirrels--is pretty fun, but it's the overall technical shortcomings and inadequacies that ruin it. Try maneuvering through the environment, something that you'd think would be easy. After all, you're just walking for crying out loud. Sadly you're constantly maneuvering around invisible barriers that not only make the playable area claustrophobically small, but they also make it annoying to do the simplest of tasks. Luckily fleeing animals will occasionally get stuck on these barriers too, making it all the easier to plant lead in their side.
Then there's the design of the single mode of play, Career Hunt. That's right, no arcade mode or multiplayer of any kind in Trophy Bucks. Career Hunt has absolutely no continuity to it. You are randomly warped to different hunting spots within a state until you clear it. There's no indication for how close you are to completing a state, no graphic that pops telling you that you've completed a state. Heck if there were no achievement pop-ups you'd have no idea when you've completed a full section of the game. When you do complete a stage (not a full state, just a stage) you'll be given a gold, silver, or bronze medal depending on what kind of a score you achieved, but there's really no incentive to getting a gold medal on stages except for the achievement that you'll earn. You don't get any fancy new guns or attachments, just a shiny gold medal to call your own. Ladi-frickin-da.
Other mishaps within Trophy Bucks include a graphics engine that makes it all-too-clear that they simply ported the PS2 engine, upped the resolution on a few textures, and put into an HD format. To make matters worse, the framerate actually chugs as you turn around the environment. For how small the environments are you'd think that they could've held the framerate at 30. And I haven't even mentioned the fact that there's a noticeable load time when switching between weapons and enemies that disintegrate into a cloud of feathers.
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