Activision is bringing the latest installment of Cabela’s Big Game Hunter series to the XBOX 360, Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii on September 27th. I was fortunate enough to makethe trek down to New York City to get a hands-on preview of the game and discuss it with MacMillan River Adventures star and WWE legend Shawn Michaels as they take the game on a national tour.
First off, we played the Wii version of this one and the graphics weren’t really on par with those expected in this console generation. From what I’ve seen, however, graphics aren’t really the selling point here. Everything is clear, with no real texture issues and the game-world allows for great ease of play and huge environments.
I know many of our readers aren’t familiar with what ends up being the arcade mode of the game, or rather, they don’t think themselves familiar. In fact, they probably have seen a good deal of what this game has to offer in a pick up and play environment. If any of you frequent any number of bars where Big Buck Hunter, an arcade cabinet similar to this game, is located, then you have experienced, or, at the very least seen, this game in action. For this free-flowing mode, you pick a game and a locale, partner up with a friend, or play against one competitively. Then you just run through the location of choice shooting animals to gain as many points as you can. This mode of the game is essentially a rail shooter, and while that isn’t the most popular genre out right now, this is a well-done version that is quite fun, particularly for, say, a group of college friends on the Wii. As HBK can attest, practice clearly helps make you better – he wiped the floor with me!
While arcade mode was fun, the meat of the game is in the open world Story Mode. For Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012, you freely hunt through several locations in competition with other world-class hunters for the most impressive prey. As you search, you have several tools at your disposal, including multiple guns, a scope and tracking mode. As Shawn Michaels noted, the game strives for realism here, offering multiple hunting styles, from hiding and awaiting your quarry, to moving around and searching for them. While doing this though, you have to remain silent or the game will hear you and run away. Michaels impressed upon me the realism of having to hold your breath as you shoot, paying attention to the wind so that you can both ensure the prey doesn’t smell you and adjust your shot accordingly, and aiming for vital organs (lungs preferably) instead of the head so that you will have a proper trophy. The choices here are limitless. Do you climb for a high elevation shot and risk being spotted or do you take a lower shot with more concealment for both you and the prey?
All of this is controlled with the Top Shot sawed off shotgun, which houses your controller. The gun works beautifully, with a scope atop to help aim your shot, an analog to move, a simple pump reload, and the ability to switch guns with the flip of a directional button. Everything is fast and accurate. Even in the short time I played, I was able to accurately do everything I intended. Any error that caused prey to escape or notice the player was very clearly that of the user. Again, practice helped here – switching between tracking, using cover, stealth and so on quickly became intuitive, especially given the opening level tutorial to get the player up to speed.
Overall, Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 probably doesn’t have the story and graphics to win any game of the year awards, but what it lacks there it more than makes up for in gameplay. This is a game a wide variety of audiences will enjoy, especially with the gun packaged in. As before mentioned, this is one I can see being a hit with the college crowd, or something for an older gamer to really be drawn into. I fully plan on picking this up for my step-father, a hunter, who has a Wii so my mother can use Wii Fit type games. Even with the gun, it’s got a MSRP of what other games normally cost, and without, it’s an outright budget title at $30 for the Wii and $40 for PS3 and 360.
One final note – Cabela is expanding their game library to a new genre, the third person shooter, with a new game called Survival: Shadows of Katmai. In this one, the player, a famous hunter, is trapped in Alaska during a storm and the animals go insane and begin attacking. This utilizes vehicle missions, platforming, and, most impressively, many of the mechanics of the hunting games to create what’s certainly a game to watch.