By: Jeff Cater
Cabela’s, the store, was often a place of wonderment for me to visit as a child with giant displays of great bears and wolves, and even a huge fish tank. Cabela’s has also now been pumping out games for a number of years to hardcore hunters and casual gamers alike, but does their latest release, Big Game Hunter: Pro Hunts, hit the mark?
The controls are easily the best feature of the game, being immediately familiar due to the game’s first-person nature. If you’ve walked around in any game and aimed down the sight of a rifle at the same time you’ll be perfectly comfortable here. Gadgets and “Hunter stance” are bound to the directional and face buttons, respectively.
Unfortunately, the aim sensitivity of the right stick never feels right, as it always seems to go a few inches to the left or right from where you’d like to shoot; it never fails. Pro Hunts also uses the pressure sensitive triggers to get that perfect trigger pull, which is a touch weird at first.
Pro Hunts is a pretty decent thing to look at while you’re holding still or just surveying your surroundings, but everything gets pretty ugly while moving around thanks to a low frame rate that frequently dips.
With everything jerking around and stuttering across your screen it’s hard to admire how the trees sway in the wind, or how the bushes… sway in the wind. The various wildlife are animated pretty well but also fall victim to the frame rate issue, so deer seem to sometimes gallop erratically rather than prance around as deer actually do.
The frame rate issues also take away from the actual quality of the wildlife models used. Every animal is modeled and textured very well, indicating that this is actually a damn decent looking title that’s severely marred by technical difficulties.
On the audio front, Pro Hunts is filled with sounds seemingly pulled right from nature or one of those sleepy-time relaxation CDs, whereas the menus and cinematic sequences are bedded with country rock music. That’s right, cinematic sequences.
Guns sound true to form and powerful, and rustling through bushes sounds quite good. Stealth is a large part of the game, to which hearing even the smallest noise is tantamount to the positioning of your character.
In this edition of Cabela’s Big Game Hunter, you’re able to hunt all over America after qualifying in different regions. This can be done by completing various “mission” hunts — for example, sack a boar between 350 and 600 pounds, or 10-point buck minimum. Side missions include shooting arrows through foxes and other similar activities.
The game is incredibly difficult to please, however. If you whiff on a shot or don’t take down your target with a single round, you might still complete the session but be penalized for not being a proficient hunter. Penalties come in the form of the straight-up robbery of your hard earned in-game currency, so it almost feels like a deer hunting version of Dark Souls that constantly makes you dig your own hole.
Pro Hunts does give you the tools to succeed, but due to the frame rate issues and the accuracy of the controller it’s MUCH harder to place a kill shot than it should be.
If you practice and exercise extreme patience, however, you’ll find getting that perfect heart or double-lung shot to be most satisfying; even more so because the game treats you to an X-Ray depiction of bullet flight and entry (ala Sniper Elite v2), complete with details of velocity and power behind your shot.
With a little more effort devoted to evening out the frame rate and control issues, Cabela’s Big Game Hunter: Pro Hunts could be a fantastic hunting game. In its current state, however, it is hard to recommend outside of diehard series fans.