Three confessions: we enjoy hunting sims, we’re rather partial to venison, and we once killed a real deer (accidentally. With a Ford Escort). In theory we’re the best chance Cabela’s Trophy Bucks has of getting a decent score around here. In theory.
The trouble is we’re also not a complete idiot happy to spend hard-earned moolah on a game with all the depth and allure of a cow-pie. Truly, this is the worst hunting title we’ve ever played. And we’ve played NRA Varmint Hunter. Much of the awfulness stems from the fact that the devs have forgotten to include any actual hunting. In the majority of the 96 micro-missions players are plonked in the center of a cramped clearing or valley with prey in clear view. Occasionally you might need to flush fowl out of the undergrowth with the aid of an impressively stupid, improbably hydrophobic hound, but usually it’s just a case of aiming at the milling mass of fur and feathers and pulling the trigger over and over.
Not only are the 30-odd species of quarry served-up sushi-belt style, they all appear to be guided by the same atrocious AI routines. Alerted deer gallop toward gun muzzles, birds circle helpfully, only darting critters like the marmots and prairie dogs provide any sort of sport. In a quality hunt sim you’re worrying about wind direction, noise levels, bag limits... Here the only question is whether you’re going to nail twenty woodland chums in the next two minutes or a mere half dozen. High tallies unlock new weapons and gadgets, most of which are totally irrelevant. However much blood you spill you can’t go back and replay old missions, so, unless you create a series of profiles, there’s never more than one mission available. Previous Cabela titles like Big Game Hunter 2006 had RPG openness, game lodges serving as hubs and general stores. Heaven knows why they’ve gone back to linearity.
Previous Cabela titles were also flecked with danger thanks to fierce fauna like bears and wolves. Miss with the old crossbow or Magnum and you could easily find yourself in a dark, gurgly space waiting hopefully for a passing woodcutter. A dash of risk would have helped Trophy Bucks but it wouldn’t have saved it. Nothing, bar a complete rewrite, could have saved this antlered abomination. If you’re in the mood for some rural entertainment search out a Southlogic simulator or one of the early Hunting Unlimiteds (II or III). Even running down deer on country roads is a more enjoyable form of hunting than this.
Jul 11, 2008