In furtherance of my recent Gamerscore binge, I decided to branch out a little bit and explore a new game genre for me — hunting games. I rented Cabela’s Big Game Hunter for the 360, and just got done getting all 1000 Gamerscore a little while ago. I have to say that I was fairly disappointed with the game and the hunting game genre. As someone who basically knows nothing about the topic (never mind the fact that I also lack interest, for the most part, on the topic), I was disappointed that there wasn’t really any pedagogical material in the game relating to hunting — there was a brief weapon/gun encyclopedia, and that’s about it. There were no tutorials on hunting technique, or the use of the various lures and other items you can get in the game. In short, it seems unlikely that anyone would learn anything useful from this game.
In essence, the game boils down to essentially a corridor shooter where nothing attacks you (with the exception of the “rival hunts,” against creatures like bears, leopards, and lions). The checkpoint-to-checkpoint action is broken up occasionally by shooting-gallery segments, and the occasional frustrating mini-game, but that’s about it.
I wound up going through the game twice, because I missed one of the optional mission objectives the first time through. You can’t go back and play prior missions once you’ve completed them, so I had to replay the game in order to get the “full completion” achievement, which was worth 120 points. (I initially had the auto-save functionality on, which prevented me from backtracking. I recommend playing with auto-save off.) The game is pretty easy, and all of the achievements can be obtained (even in easy mode) in a couple of hours if you know what you’re doing, and keep track of what you need to accomplish.
The game has a general lack of polish — most quadruped animals move with exactly the same gait, and do not react in realistic ways to events around them. Animal bodies vanish in front of your very eyes, and the animation in general is not very good — your character can run full speed up a very steep slope, but uses the same animations as he does when running over flat terrain. There are invisible walls and arbitrary walkmesh blockers everywhere — half the challenge of the game is trying to figure out how to traverse the terrain to get to your next objective (which is clearly marked on your map). I think I got more joy out of calling it “Marmot Blaster 2K8″ than from actually playing it.
I’m once again reminded of the “Mass Effect Hard Landing” article that I mentioned awhile back. Big Game Hunter definitely exhibits a lot of signs of changed/curtailed plans, as mentioned in that article. The first mission contains a mini-game (rock climbing) which is never used anywhere else, and has a cutscene of an animal (a bear) menacing the player — something that’s never done again in the game. Dialogues with NPCs are much shorter and less frequent towards the end of the game, and the last couple of missions are almost devoid of any spice or polish. The last “boss,” a lion, looks decent, but many of the other, previously-encountered creatures don’t look very good. There are weird statistical anomalies, such as how many animals that I’ve shot are exactly 10 years old, according to the saved statistics. (This includes things like hares, for which a 10-year life span in the wild would surely be several standard deviations from the norm.) This strongly suggests to me that there was default data used to set up creatures that, in some cases, was never overwritten with proper values. I could probably point out a dozen more things, but you get the idea.
The game also gets my personal vote as having the most worthless paid downloadable content that I’ve yet seen. You can pay 350 Microsoft points to receive another rifle, and the ability to hunt another creature (some kind of sheep) in “instant hunt” mode. Now, you can get some very good Live Arcade titles for only 400 points, so the value of this offer is, to say the least, extremely suspect.
Oh well. Another 1000 points are in the bag, so it’s on to the next game.