Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 (Xbox 360) Review

When it comes to hunting, I am admittedly a novice.  Sure, I have been out in the wilderness at the god-awful hour of 5:00am a few times over the years, but other than a few Grouse birds I have yet to make my first big game kill.  About the closest I have come to killing a Buck would have been back when I played last year’s Cabela offering, Dangerous Hunts 2011.  Much like previous Cabela games, Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 arrives with little fanfare, overshadowed by Activision’s fall/winter powerhouse line-up of games.  Cabela games have not always been a major force in the gaming industry, but they certainly have a following and are able to appeal to that loyal niche market.  Much like previous Cabela games, Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 is not for everyone; however, fans of the Cabela series of games, and even some new wannabe hunters, may find some redeeming qualities with this latest Cabela entry.

Much like Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts, you can purchase Big Game Hunter 2012 alone for approximately 40 bucks or purchase it bundled with the Top Shot Elite gun wireless peripheral for around 80 bucks, so it is a rather significant jump in price to pick up the game with the toy gun.  For those of you who picked up the gun when Dangerous Hunts touched down last year, you can use the same gun for Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012.  The Top Shot Elite gun is a great looking and fun peripheral, but I had some issues with it and at the end of the day I preferred playing the game with the controller.  Yet before I get ahead of myself, Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 does feature a storyline that I will briefly explain.

In the single player story mode, you play as John Sharp, a professional hunter who has been befriended by a rich member of the Order of Orion.  The Order of Orion is a prestigious hunting organization.  As part of this organization, you are taken to a variety of fantastic hunting locations around the globe.  As you progress in the game you are given opportunities to prove your worth and your hunting prowess.  By completing various challenges you get to eventually prove yourself in a final challenge that will secure your place in the Order of Orion.  So as far as the plotline goes, that is about it.

Overall, it is a very basic storyline and offers little in the way of depth.  There is really no character development or plot twists to be had.  That being said, I was quite surprised that the developers included any kind of storyline at all.  Cabela games are not known for their riveting storyline so I have to admit I am somewhat surprised any effort went into a storyline at all, so I give kudos to the team for having some kind of backdrop to a game which is otherwise all about shooting prey, and there is no shortage of that.

Cabela’s Big Game Hunter features two modes of play: Story and Gallery.  Story is the linear single player progression whereas Gallery is where you can jump into a shooting gallery and start blasting away.  There are three types of shooting galleries you can access.  Arcade is where you shoot as many animals as you can in predetermined period of time.  Reflex is where you shoot animals in the presented order for added bonuses.  Finally, Target is where players shoot a variety of targets, including the classic clay pigeon.  The gallery is a great way to jump in and start shooting without any fuss or delay.  It is also great to play with a friend as the pair of you can compare points to see who can be the superior sharpshooter.

I spent the bulk of my time with Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 in the story mode and playing with the controller.  As I suggested above, the Top Shot Elite is fun peripheral as there is something about playing a game where you can point a gun peripheral towards the screen a fire away, much like I did when I played Duck Hunt on the NES as a kid.  Part of the problem I had with the Top Shot starts with the calibration of the gun, which did not work out quite as well as I expected.  There is an option in the game where you can adjust the positioning and speed of the on-screen targeting system.  Yet whenever I looked down the sight of the Top Shot, my sight did not line up with the target reticle.  It did not mater how much I tried adjusting the calibration, the sight never seemed to line-up.  Perhaps it was due to the positioning of the included sensor bar that detects your gun.  I play on an older JVC DILA HDTV and placing the bar just beneath or just above the screen is not as easy as it seems.  Nevertheless, regardless of the placing of the sensor bar, my sights did not line-up and frankly it irritated the snot out of me.  I found the best practice was to avoid looking down the gun sights altogether and simple follow your reticle on the screen.  This seemed to yield the best results with the gun.

Another issue I had with the gun was the control.  I found moving my character around with the gun problematic.  Walking is accomplished using the left thumbstick, which strangely enough is used with your right hand if you are a right-handed gamer, or rather right-handed shot.  Looking around is accomplished by moving the barrel of your gun around.  Every slight move with the gun reacts in a movement on screen.  Simply moving your character from one landmark to the next was a royal pain in the arse because of the troublesome controls.  It was ultimately the reason why I switched to the controller.

Shooting and reloading your gun is accomplished with ease.  Likewise, zooming in, crouching, and activating detection mode was not a problem.  Detection mode is a nice little addition to the game as this mode helps you detect important story elements.  This can include animal tracks, hunting blinds, and areas that could give your position away.

Shooting animals in Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 is just as rewarding as it has been in the past.  You can earn extra points in the game to upgrade your firearms and gear by completing the optional challenges.  Much of the game involves proceeding from one area to another while accomplishing various types of shooting challenges.  Whether it be shooting a Buck, or blasting birds away with your shotgun, the game never seems to get too repetitive or stale.  There is a decent amount of variety and the difficulty level was much greater than I expected.  Having played my fair share of first person shooters over the years, I expected to be much more proficient that I actually was.

Cabela’s Big Game Hunter does feature a multiplayer component that is available in the gallery.  Players can play simultaneously or up to 4 players take turns in the hot seat.  Hot seat lets you take turns with up to three of your friends taking control of the same controller or gun.  Unfortunately, there is no online play, but there are leaderboards where you can compare your score with others online.

Overall, the visuals in Big Game Hunter 2012 are much better than I expected.  This is not to say it is perfect and free of any glitches, but rather it is a decent looking game and certainly on par with Dangerous Hunts.  When you consider the 40-dollar price tag for the game (without the Top Shot Elite) Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 is very good value and it does not appear the game was visually sacrificed due to a lower development budget.

As for the positives, the lush, vibrant, and rich wilderness areas look fantastic.  The mountainous environments are stunning at times and the reflections coming off the water is incredibly life-like.  You can see the reflections from the surrounding trees and ripples in the water.  Likewise, the animals look great and move just like their real life counterpart.  Each animal seems to have their own set of behaviours and they react differently from one another.  The level of detail is very slick and it certainly brings a level of realism to the game.

Although the game is somewhat linear in nature, it never feels like it is as the open wilderness and forest like areas create an open atmosphere perfectly suited for a hunting game.

As far as the negatives, the human character animations do lack some detail.  You do not see a great deal of human characters in the game, but the little you do get to see are simply underwhelming.  Additionally, I did notice the odd clipping issues scattered throughout the game at the times.  Some animations would slice through other animations.  Not a major concern but more of a small annoyance.  The menus are very basic and presentation wise Cabela’s Big Game Hunter could have been much better.  Yet at the end of the day, the in-game visuals are, as I mentioned, better than advertised.

As far as the games audio package is concerned, Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 is nothing special or innovative.  For starters, the music is very forgettable and does not seem suited for the game.  Additionally, the narrator, who sounds like an old whiskey drinking gold prospector, delivers some of the most cheesy sounding dialogue I have heard in recent memory.  One aspect of the game, which drove me crazy, was the dialogue you hear in the games loading screens.  During these loading screens the volume blares at high levels as the old prospector rambles on about some story you could really care less about.  When the game returns, the volume returns to a normal level.  As for the rest of the games sound effects, Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 delivers.  The gunshots sound great and the sounds of animals running through the wilderness was bang on.  All in all, Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 is not a bad sounding game but it is not a great sounding one either.

Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 is a title sits on both sides of a coin.  On one side the game has some great shooting elements and surprising visuals that make one realize some hard work went into the game; however, the lack of checkpoints, lack of online play, and a wonky Top Shot Elite (gun peripheral) controls are all sore points.  That being said, at the end of the day if you are a fan of the franchise, or you are an avid hunter looking for a quick virtual hunting fix, then Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 may just be for you.


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