Monday, September 14, 2009

Demo Monday: Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2010

dude untuck those pants from your socks okay I booted into Xbox Live this week looking for the most ridiculous demo I could find – I either wanted to find something really different, or something I could hate. That doesn’t sound fair, I know, but it’s way easier to write a post about something that’s goofy or bad than about something that elicits a “meh this is okay I guess.” I could always try to play something good, but let’s be realistic. It’s the middle of September, and unless they move Christmas to the end of September there isn’t ever going to be a bumper crop.

Luckily for me, I was greeted with a veritable buffet of ridiculousness. What was I in the mood for? Transformers: Rise of the Fallen? Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes: Could This Game Possibly Have More Titles? I could pick almost anything I wanted – the spinner landed on Cauldron and Activision’s Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2010. Oh boy!

My first impression was that this game did not want to make you feel bad about killing animals. On the box is a consternated-looking thing with bigass antlers, a roaring bear, a snarling mountain lion, and an effete-looking ram. Thing game isn’t about killing Bambi’s mom – any red-blooded American man would be doing a favor by putting these creatures down, halting Mother Nature’s relentless attack on God’s children. The fact that you spend most of the demo capping deer and ducks is of no consequence – these animals are vicious and must be put down.

The game dresses hunting up in a quasi-futuristic high-tech coat, as though hunting isn’t just guys in puffy orange hats perched in trees drinking Miller Light for hours on end. You’re being scouted for the Order of Orion, which is I guess the most premiere of all the hunting societies around. These guys aren’t fucking around – they have satellites and radar and all kinds of stuff. One might think that having all of this high-tech equipment on-hand just to kill caribou would take the sport out of it? But one would be wrong.

So you use your Hunter Sense (which conveniently illuminates your target via a glowing beam from the heavens) to find animals, and then you shoot them. Shooting invokes a bullet time-esque sequence that follows your bullet from the tip of your gun to the guts of whatever animal you just shot at, and I guess if you’re into that sort of thing it might be sort of cool.

All of this is punctuated by your character (Jack) talking to himself, saying stuff like “looks like it’s from a mature buck!” and “that’s going on the wall!” He is a sensitive and three-dimensional character, or at least, he is sensitive in that the slightest breath of air sends the scope of his gun going all willy-nilly and he’s three-dimensional in that he is rendered in not two but three dimensions.

Graphics are basic and pretty enough – how often do we play a game where the sky is colored Sky Blue instead of Post-Apocalyptic Grey? – but framerate chugs for no readily apparent reason. Animals look real enough, but not so real that you instantly want to hate yourself for killing them. The environments are nice enough, but ultimately too sterile to engage you in any meaningful way.

What did make me want to hate myself was one minigame in particular, one that evokes memories of Duck Hunt but is way less fun. You stand on the bank of a river and shoot ducks with a shotgun. Unlike when you kill deer, you don’t walk over afterward and collect your trophy. You’re shooting ducks over a river with a pretty quick current. Their bodies can only be dropping into the water to be swept away. In short, you’re a guy, standing on the bank of a river, killing three dozen ducks for the fun of it. I’m the meat-lovingest guy I know and I typically think that the people at PETA need to dial it back a bit, and I thought that this sequence was in pretty poor taste. Nice work, guys.

So, Big Game Hunter is sort of a stealth-based first-person shooter where most of the targets don’t shoot back and present no threat to you, the hunter. Or, maybe, Big Game Hunter is a hunting sim where your Hunter Sense and futuristic technology take all of the fun out of the entire enterprise. Either way, I can’t recommend this one to anyone but people who are really gung-ho about hunting, and honestly, how many people reading a site like this are really gung-ho about hunting? That’s what I thought.

Cauldron’s Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2010 will be available on September 29, 2009 for the Wii, Xbox, and Playstation 3 for $39.99. Played single-player demo until killing ducks made me sad.