Although thing have changed, hunting was a way of life for many people over many years. In order to survive, men and women had to track and kill their own food with spears, bows, knives and whatever else they could craft, purchase or find. Food did not come easily, and our ancestors appreciated what they had, though they sometimes went without due to failed expeditions. Scarcity like that forced the abandonment of camps, created homes and other types of shelters, as it was necessary to follow migrating food sources. Failure to do so would unfortunately result in starvation and disease – two sad things that history books tell tales of.
These days, hunting is both a popular sport and a prominent hobby. Though some remote tribes and dwellers still hunt, kill and skin animals to live, most of the sport’s active population is in it for the fresh air, peace and presumed fun. As with fishing, their bounties are eaten on special occasions, but do not make up the majority of their diets. That’s the world in which we live – one where people hunt animals for fun, but not out of necessity. For that reason, there are now laws, regulations and licenses that must be obtained in order to participate. It’s all out of respect for the wild creatures that serve as occasional prey, giving them a chance to flourish and breed when required, so that populations will not dwindle.
Despite the fact that I come from a long line of hunters, I’m not someone who could take the life of an animal. However, I’m not one to shy away from experiencing the art of hunting through digital means. Over the years, I, like many others, have spent time playing Cabela’s licensed interactive takes on methodical, action-packed and intense expeditions. The games provide an interesting opportunity to head out into the digitally rendered wilderness with weapons in hand, eliminating the need for a live creature to track and kill. As such, the company’s different series are surely popular with quite a few other non-hunters, not to mention a relatively large amount of the sport’s video game-loving enthusiasts. After all, they keep making them on a regular basis.
This fall’s most prominent interactive release from the popular sporting brand happens to be Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2013. As an arcade-inspired take on backwoods hobby hunting, the game’s story mode places players into the role of Jacob, a young adventurer who learned the craft from his father, as well as his unfriendly older brother. You see, the pair grew up in the wilderness with their father watching over them, though he liked to send both boys out to hunt by their lonesome, with the rule being that they had to stay within radio distance.
Told through the use of several flashbacks, Jacob’s learning tours provide the most accurate representation of real-life hunting. That’s because they don’t take inspiration from Call of Duty like the rest of the campaign does. Instead, they task armchair enthusiasts with creeping up on targeted creatures, such as deer. At those times, the kill shot is fired from a long distance, thanks to the use of a powerful scoped rifle. However, it’s not as easy as moving the joystick and pressing a trigger button. Instead, Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2013 makes use of a plastic, orange and white shotgun, which acts as a light gun that is read by an included sensor. By creating it, the developers hoped enhance the immersion factor, but the designed controller is more frustrating than helpful.
On paper, the neat thing about the aptly titled Fearmaster peripheral is its included heart rate sensor. However, there’s a problem: it’s incredibly finicky. Even after switching the sensor to easy and lessening its sensitivity, I still had trouble getting it to work properly. Breathing shallowly and holding my breath in order to lower my pivotal organ’s pumping speed was challenging to begin with, but the gun seemed to have accuracy issues. Granted, it is a plastic video game controller, as opposed to a medical device, but the sensor’s advertised capabilities play a relatively large role within this particular experience. As such, it should be easier to use.
During the above-mentioned flashbacks, taking out a highlighted deer requires one to relax and breathe slowly. Once that occurs, the scope zooms in more than usual, displaying red icons representing the creature’s priority organs. As you’ve surely gathered, a successful kill is achieved through a well-aimed shot through one of the target’s most important body parts – its brain or its heart. Failure to do so may spook it off, so it’s important to make sure that you keep still and don’t get overly excited. It’s something that makes sense on paper, and reflects what the real-life experience is like, but it’s tough to get the second scope to activate. In fact, it sometimes did so when I least expected it, including times where I’d moved my hand.
All of the present day stages take place in Africa, where Jacob has followed his older brother to. A hunting trip of sorts, it ends up becoming a dangerous expedition, wherein every single animal in the area is out for blood. Yes, you read that correctly – even elephants and zebras end up attacking a jeep early on in the campaign. It’s as if the developers wanted to make their own war shooter, except without human enemies. The animals act as unique substitutes, but the way in which Jacob must quickly shoot them feels inhumane. That feeling is then heightened during the moments where quite a few creatures attack the protagonist in pack-like formations. As an animal lover, I found some of the sections to be slightly sickening, mainly because of the way in which the animal kingdom is treated.
Throughout the African segments, players must traverse dangerous landscapes while being treated like prey. Survival is dependent on quick and accurate shots, many of which will come from the barrel of a powerful shotgun. There’s next to no time to waste, and rifles aren’t very helpful, though Jacob’s trusty pistol is a great secondary asset. You’ll be turning around quickly, shooting things left, right and centre, and will even have to quickly press a button in order to turn around and use slow-motion to take out backstabbing predators. That mechanic actually uses the same pivotal organ shot system that was discussed earlier in this review, providing the easiest way to take out a dangerous wolf, lion, hyena, mountain lion, monkey, or other rabid animal.
Simply put, the campaign is action-packed yet forgettable; that is, apart from the amount of digitized murder it forces players to commit. The storyline has some interesting facets, but it could’ve been presented in a much better way. It’s tough to keep track of things, which is accentuated by the included voice over quality, as some lines were recorded at such a low volume level that they’re hard to understand. Increasing the audible level is certainly an option, but the weapon sounds are quite boisterous, so they’d need to be adjusted in the options menu.
If the controls were better, the main mode would be much more entertaining than it is, but it’s quite difficult to accurately control Jacob’s movements. As Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2013 is, at its core, a first-person shooter, it requires the use of a joystick for movement. For that reason, the developers decided to add one to the top of the Fearmaster. Moving forward or sideways is accomplished through understandable tilting movements, though steering the character through directional means is much harder because he moves wherever the gun’s icon is aimed. Getting the hang of those mechanics takes quite a while, and they never become easy to use. That’s especially true when jumping is required in order to progress, as the first-person platforming is quite annoying.
Although the peripheral fails when it comes to accurate movements, it definitely succeeds as a light gun. Firing bullet after bullet into oncoming predators is easily accomplished through the use of what is an accurate set-up. It’s unfortunate that the platforming and movement mechanics weren’t handled as well, because more time in the proverbial oven would’ve done them a lot of good.
Expectedly, Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2013 doesn’t have a large focus on multiplayer. Up to four friends can take on shooting gallery challenges, all of which happen to provide the most fun this experience has to offer. Additionally, two players can work together to take on arena challenges that can be found under the Maneater icon on the title screen. Those task solo and co-operative players with taking out waves of foes, with objectives added in as both primary and secondary distractions. For example, one round may ask the users to find a key, while another may force them to protect an injured civilian from danger. Needless to say, there’s replay value to be found within both of these side options, though the story mode’s noted control issues make their presence known within the Maneater challenges.
While the aforementioned dialogue issue is a major detraction, it’s not the only downside to be found within the game’s presentation facets. Although the animals look OK, their animations aren’t as realistic as they could’ve been, which takes away from the gameplay experience. Then again, the entire game looks dated and lacks polish, and those two cons are made worse by artificial intelligence issues that cause foes to repeatedly walk into walls or fall off of platforms. Don’t get the idea that this isn’t a playable game, though, because it is. It simply must be said that those who purchase it will have to make mental concessions instead of going in expecting a visceral and audible treat. The animals do make rather realistic sounds, though, and the gunfire effects are solid.
As a combination of different styles of gameplay – from first-person shooting to platforming and shoot ‘em up gallery mechanics – Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2013 is merely a half-decent title. What’s presented on its labeled disc is somewhat interesting and has its moments, although it’s nothing special or particularly noteworthy. If you’re a hunting enthusiast or someone who loves these types of games, then it’s worth purchasing. However, considering that the full bundle costs eighty dollars, it’s hard to recommend the game to those who only possess casual intrigue.
This review is based on an XBOX 360 copy of the game that we were provided with.