A little while back, I was sent a copy of Cabela’s Big Game Hunter: Pro Hunts for Xbox 360 from Activision’s PR company, Sandbox Strategies, to review for OutdoorHub. Not only did I receive a copy of the game, but I also received the bundle that includes the Top Shot Fearmaster gun controller as well. As a nonhunter, the vast majority of my hunting video game experience has been with games like Duck Hunt and quite a few rounds of Big Buck Hunter at various watering holes around town. Needless to say, I was quite interested in seeing what more of a “simulation” hunting game has to offer.
I actually had the game hooked up at the office upon its arrival. I immediately wanted to get the Fearmaster controller plugged in and calibrated, allowing me to get right into the action. One thing to note: the game does not support one of the more advanced features of the Fearmaster, which is the heart rate monitor. In other games, your heart rate will either worsen or improve your accuracy, but not in Pro Hunts. In the end, however, it ended up being irrelevant that Pro Hunts didn’t support the heart rate monitor. I say that because using the Fearmaster controller was probably one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had playing a video game. It was just too difficult to walk around while using the gun. It’s almost like Activision tried to replicate a keyboard/mouse combo by making it where you have to point your gun at certain points of the screen in order to turn your character. After several rounds of tweaking the calibration settings, I just couldn’t find a comfortable balance. Annoyed with the gun and calibration issues, I decided to use my conventional controller. This is where the game began to shine.
I was finally able to do some “real” hunting after the controller was plugged in. I was ready to take on some hunting advice from pros Jim Shockey, Wade Middleton, and Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo and go out and hunt some big game in four regions of the United States.
It became apparent right away that I couldn’t just walk around all willy-nilly and take pot shots at potential harvests. I had to take the wind into consideration while making sure my potential prey couldn’t pick up my scent. Therefore, some strategy is involved in not spooking the animals. The game does feature treestands and blinds to aid in the task of hunting without being detected. In fact, there were some hunts that required the use of a treestand or blind. That particular requirement upped the difficulty level a bit because I had to climb into a treestand while not having the animal pick up on my scent. I failed on more than one occasion.
My personal favorite feature of the game is the bullet cam. After taking a shot, the camera turns to a special angle that shows the bullet really large on the screen as well as shot stats, which include Time, Speed, Distance, and Energy. Given the fact that you can upgrade your bullets throughout the game, they also show the particular bullet in that view as well. The next part of the sequence shows the point of impact on the animal, plus the damage it does. That cam gives a fantastic view of the internal organs and which shots are hits or misses. There was a time when I didn’t have the right bullet to hit a bear’s vital organs and I kept on getting stopped at the ribs, but once I upgraded to the proper bullet, I was able to finally hit the bear’s heart and lungs.
As previously mentioned, the game features an upgrade mechanism. Guns, bullets, scopes, and binoculars are all upgradeable, and deer, elk, and moose calls, as well as scent masking spray, are all available for purchase with the points received from successful hunts.
Outside of the hunting campaign within the four regions of the country (Southeast, Southwest, Northwest, and Northeast) and the upgrade system, there really isn’t much more to the game itself. There is an online leaderboard that allows you to compare your hunts with others and there’s a trophy room that features the animals from successful hunts and the stats that go along with them.
I think Big Game Hunter: Pro Hunts provides an intuitive foray into the world of hunting while keeping it fun. The strategic aspects of the game keep the hunts interesting by not making it a run-and-gun arcade shooter but more of a thinking game, where one has to look ahead in order to take down their trophy. The bullet cam is a nice touch, as well as the upgrade mechanism. I would like to see an increase in graphic quality in future versions as well more of an online offering. The difficulty of utilizing the Top Shot Fearmaster controller was a bit of a letdown as well. I hope that can be worked out in future versions.
Images courtesy Sandbox Strategies