Review: PBR Out of the Chute (Nintendo Wii)

PBR Out of the Chute
Genre: Alternative Sport
Developer: D2C Games
Publisher: Crave
Release Date: 10/28/08

What sport has been grossly under represented in the video game industry? Bull riding. Now some of you might think that I’m being sarcastic, but I’m 100% serious here. There might be those that think watching Bull Riding is some redneck thing, but in a time when extreme sports are popular how is bull riding any different? Bungee jumping and sky diving both have their risks, yet neither has the immediate danger of trying to stay on top of an animal that weighs nearly a ton and whose main goal is to buck you off. The question is not so much how anyone can enjoy watching bull riding, but where they keep digging up guys who are insane enough to even risks their necks doing it.

While there have been snowboarding, skateboarding, and other extreme sports, as far as video games go there’s hardly anything to be found for bull riding. There was a game on the Commodore 64, and two PC games called Professional Bull Rider, but it’s been years since a decent attempt has been made to make a home console game based around the sport. Over the last decade this sport has grown leaps and bound, thank in most part to the dedicated efforts of PBR (Professional Bull Riders, Inc). What started out as a group of 20 bull riders has grown into an international group of riders and is considered one of the fastest growing sports today.

Part of the problem is how to fully recreate the experience of trying to stay on top of an animal that weighs about as much as a car, and do it within the 8 seconds that is alloted for bull riding. Can PBR Out of the Chute accurately recreate this experience? Or is it a cash in on a growing sport?

Read on.

Let’s start with what you’ll first notice when you turn on the game. Once you start a game you will be asked to create a profile. When you create a profile you have to select between one of the bulls or one of the riders. If you select a rider, you play as the rider, if you select the bull, you guessed it, you get to play as the bull. Once you select a rider or bull you can choose to re-name either bull or rider, though if you choose to the stats reset.

When you select either one you can choose between Quick Ride, Career Mode, Multiplayer, or different menu options such as viewing the tutorial or options. Quick Ride is just as it sounds, you choose a rider, a bull and a stadium and then go for a quick run. Career Mode runs you through one of the PBR seasons. In Career you will go to different cities and compete in different events hoping to get a high enough score to continue onto the World Finals in Vegas. For each city there are 3 rounds, the 1st Round, the 2nd Round, and the Short Go. In a regular PBR event during the first and second rounds every rider gets a chance to earn a score, then in the Short Go the top 15 scoring riders get on more chance to prove their the best. There can be up to 75 riders at these events, but in PBR Out of the Chute ,there are only around ten riders, so you pretty much make the Short Go every single time. The rider with the highest score is declared the winner of the event and then the game moves onto the next city.

Since each of the rides last only eight seconds the career mode can speed by in the course of 30 minutes whether you play as the bull or as a rider. While during any event you can watch the other rides, there’s no real reason to do so, and it’s sort of boring watching the computer play. You can skip all the other rides and keep the action moving quickly, but it’s all over really fast. This is sort of a blessing if you choose to rename a character and are trying to build their stats up since it will take multiple trips through the career mode to max out any of the stats.

Still, the whole thing is sort of cut and dry. Many similar games at least let you create a new character that has to try to earn their way through the ranks, or tries to let you relive historic moments of the sport. With PBR Out of the Chute, the only option is to ride, then ride again attempting to beat a certain score. There’s no story, or anything else to draw you into the career mode except to unlock movie clips.

The presentation of the game is also sort of cut and dry. The colors of the game seem washed out, and graphically it’s not too bad, but it also isn’t really challenging the Wii system at all. The game features a lot of low textures and simple geometry. While the arenas look different as a camera is panning into them, during the actual game one dirt floor looks like another, with one of the major differences being where barrels are located. The game animated okay, though it’s clunky in spots, and considering how harsh a bull can throw it’s rider it would’ve been nice to see something like ragdoll physics used in the game. Instead when your rider gets thrown or dismounts the bull it looks more like they float in the air for a moment.

The last time I went to a rodeo was when my wife dragged me with. She loves horses. The bull riding caught me by surprise because it was impressive to watch, one of the most impressive things about the riding was how much personality these bull have. It sounds strange, but when you witness a large animal buck someone off their back and then take a victory lap around the arena with its snout proudly in the air, it’s wild. Sadly there’s not much personality for either the bulls or their riders. You can definitely tell the riders apart when you see their face, but you can’t tell the difference between any of them during the action parts of the game.

The sound is only decent as well. The background music is fine and the announcer sounds good, but the only time you hear the announcer is when you are actually in the chute. Why not during the 8 seconds of the actual ride? I’d think it would heighten the tension. The noises for selecting things are just obnoxious, the noise for selecting difficulty is a car horn. WTF? A car horn? What does that have to do with bull riding?

When you actually get into one of these modes and start playing there will be three difficulty levels to choose from. Easy, Medium, and Hard. The Easy mode is far too easy, this requires very little actual interaction from the player. Medium provides a decent enough challenge, while staying the bull isn’t that hard on medium, scoring the most points is where the game will challenge you. Then there’s Hard mode, which honestly is the best way to play the game, despite being mind-numbingly frustrating at times. Hard mode has the advantage of using a meter for both the rider and the bull. When you fill this meter up you can either slow down time as the rider to get better control, or as the bull speed things up into a thrashing frenzy that few can survive. Those small additions really change the way the game is played, and also deliver probably the closest experience to actually trying to hang on for 8 seconds, because while 8 seconds doesn’t sound very long, it feels like a long time when you’re trying to keeps your rider on the back of the bull.

There are two separate control schemes in the game, one for the rider and one for the bull. The bull mostly uses the Wii remote. Tilting the remote to the left or right will cause the bull to buck in that direction. Lifted the remote and tilting it either left or right will cause the bull to jump and roll its hindquarters in that direction. Pressing the C or Z buttons will cause the bull to rear up. Putting all the to use within an 8 second time frame is a little hectic, but after awhile it’s also a little too simple and there’s some lag between making the motion and the bull carrying it out on screen. If this was some other game that might not be so bad, but when you have just 8 seconds to try and buck off the rider any lag is bad lag.

As for the rider the nunchuck controls most of the movements. As the bull moves it’s pretty much just trying to react and anticipate what the bull will do next. Do you lean back or move forward? Is the bull going to buck to the side or not? Will all go racing through your head. There is a grip meter that depletes and a grip button that effects how much the grip meter wears down. There’s a spur button, which is something you’ll want to practice before using since it can earn you bonus points if used properly or cause you to get knocked right off of the bull. A big difference between the rider and bull is that once the 8 seconds are over you have to dismount the bull. This is done either by flicking the remote up, and then down again once the rider hits the ground for bonus points, or by pressing the 1 button instead. As the bull you’re given time to tear around the arena flattening the clowns, rider and whatever else gets in the way for bonus points.

This is an E rated game, so when you maul the rider and clown you will not see blood or anything. Actually while it’s fun, I’m a little appalled at how lightly the game treats the bull stampeding over the rider and clowns. Getting trampled or gored by the bull is a serious risk; I’ve even met someone who has lost an eye because of it. The fact that you can earn bonus points for a rampage is odd.

In addition to the single player modes is a multiplayer mode where you can even have someone play as the bull and another person play as the rider, which is actually a lot of fun. Other than that there are some awkward videos of a rodeo clown telling jokes and some unlockable riders and bulls. All of the riders and bulls are named and look like their real life counterparts, including PBR 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi and the likenesses of real bulls like Chicken On A Chain. Not kidding.

Overall if what the developers set out to do make a game that tried to virtually re-enact what it’s like to try and stay on a bull for 8 seconds, be respectful to the sport they were covering, and do so at a budget price, then I think PBR Out of the Chute is a success. However the bland graphics, repetitive nature of the game, poor sound effects, occasional awkward control and the fact that it lacks features that are in many other sports titles keep Out of the Chute from being a very good video game. If the growing attendance and TV ratings are any indication, there are certainly enough fans of the sport out there that will be interested in a game like this, especially at a budget price. If they make another game I hope they focus a little more on the reasons why it’s entertaining, and some of the dangers involved.

The Scores:
Game Modes: Poor
Graphics: Poor
Sound: Bad
Control/Gameplay: Decent
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Great
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Decent
Appeal: Decent
Miscellaneous: Above Average

Final Score: Mediocre Game

Short Attention Span Summary:
Remember when the first Tony Hawk game came out and cause a lot of kids to rush out and buy skateboards? This isn’t anything like that. However at a budget price PBR Out of the Chute does a decent job representing the sport of bull riding. There are better video games out there, but no other bull riding games, so if you are interested in bull riding then this game should entertain you long enough to get your money’s worth.



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