I learned something earlier this week when I got a chance to sit down with some reps from Activision to check out the latest build of Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012: this game isn’t nearly as bad as I expected it to be. As a matter of fact, I can actually say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself and might actually pick this game up when it launches later this month.
If you want to read a little more about my experience and impressions of the Nintendo Wii version of the game, check out the next page...
Earlier this week, a couple of members of the Gaming Nexus staff were invited out to meet with some reps from Activision to check out the new Cabela’s games heading to consoles later this year. The meeting was a part of Cabela’s current Mobile Hunting Truck Tour heading across the US. Cabela and Activision have designed a huge, 42‘ trailer that is criss-crossing the US and giving players and press alike a glimpse at the upcoming titles Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 and Cabela’s Survival: Shadows of Katmai. Although both games were on display, I spent the majority of my time playing Big Game Hunter 2012 on the Wii because, quite frankly, I was addicted from the start.
Cabela’s Big Game Hunter series is nothing new to the video game world, the hunting sim has been gracing PC’s and consoles for more than a decade as the first game was released back in 1998. Since the original release, numerous titles have been released under both the Big Game Hunter name and numerous others; overall, Cabela’s has released more than 45 games since its inception on nearly every platform imaginable. Most of the time I looked at the series as being aimed and attractive to a small, target audience. After my experience this week, I see that at least with the new crop of games, Cabela and Activision are aiming to broaden the horizon(s) of their target market and this is a series that could possibly spawn some mass market appeal.
In summary, Big Game Hunter 2012 is an expansive shooting gallery, at least is my impression of it. There is a campaign / story mode, but I will be honest, I didn’t touch it. Instead I spent my time inside of the games three separate gallery modes: shooting range, arcade, and reflex. Those three modes alone were more than enough to keep me entertained during my entire time playing the game.
Although there are minor differences between the three modes, the primary objective is the same: hit your targets quickly and with accuracy. Each one throws a little bit of a spin on the game to alter the overall experience. The first mode that I tried was the shooting gallery. Like both other game types, the shooting gallery moved me through an environment on a set of rails. In this area though I was presented with a wide variety of pop-up targets that would appear all over the screen. It was up to me to shoot as many targets as possible before the end of the course. Things aren’t exactly as simple as they sound; there are some targets that you are penalized for shooting such as doe, which is the game’s attempt to educate gamers on the sport of hunting.
You are also given the choice between two different firearms for your various targets and penalized for using the incorrect one. The game encourages players to use the right tool for the situation which entails using your actual hunting rifle for the big game and using a shotgun for the smaller targets. Using the shotgun on larger game is frowned upon and met with penalties in the long run. There are also numerous environmental objects that come into play in order to liven things up such as exploding canisters and clay pigeons shot into the air in the background. Hitting these things only added to your score which is the overall goal of the game.
The second mode that I tried out was the standard arcade mode. Much like the shooting gallery, the goal in this mode was to simply rack up as many points as possible within a set amount of time. The difference here though is that instead of being presented with practice targets which moved in set paths, you are placed in the wild and challenged to hit animals who are on the run in their natural habitats. Once again, you are given a variety of targets, including some that should not be shot and two different guns to use depending on the target(s).
Although you are placed “on rails” again, this mode features possible branching paths that could be unlocked by targeting hidden signs throughout the environment. If you manage to find and hit one of the signs, you are taken to a special area and given a chance to hit some high value targets for a brief amount of time. Whereas most of the Cabela’s games in the past have put a priority on simply hitting your target at any and all costs, Big Game Hunter 2012 puts an emphasis on being accurate and skillful with your shot selection. You might hit a lot of targets by simply spraying the playfield with bullets, but you won’t rack up anywhere near the score that you would if you take your time and ensure that you hit your desired targets consistently and accurately.
Players are rewarded for scoring consecutive hits in this mode and the point values in crease as your hit-streak does. You are also given target point values to hit within each individual section of the numerous stages. As long as you hit your targets, you are allowed to move on in the stage and given more time to compete.
The final mode of play, and arguably the most challenging was called the reflex mode. this mode was very similar to the arcade mode but focused on your ability to hit specific targets quickly and accurately. In reflex mode, players are given a target animal at the beginning of the round; time is then put on the clock, usually between 10-15 seconds, and you are challenged with identifying and hitting that specific target in the wild. As the game progresses, more targets are introduced and bonuses are awarded for taking the targets out in a specified order, determined by the game. This mode gets absolutely frantic once you progress pass the first few stages.
It is pretty simple when you start out and are challenged with simply hitting a single boar in the background, but eventually you will have to take our a boar who happens to be running frantically from an attacking leopard... and if the leopard isn’t in your target list and you hit him accidentally, you are heavily penalized. Before things are said and done, you are seeking out 5 different animals in a specific order on a screen filled with frantic action.
Yes, these modes are as simple as they sounds but they are also insanely addicting. This game has a true, classic arcade feel to it which pushes you to try each stage “just one more time” in order to up your score from the previous attempt, regardless of the mode being played. This could easily turn into a great party game with friends challenging each other to top one another; they could also play together either competitively or cooperatively as well according to the rep, but I didn’t get a chance to try out either of those options. Instead, I spent nearly an hour simply challenging him to besting each other on the various stages offered in the version on display. Each of these modes was filled with a variety of stages to choose from, which featured numerous different environments ranging from dense wilderness areas, to snow covered tundra, to vast African plains. There appears to be a ton to see and do and it makes you want to come back and play it again and again.
I never “got” the Cabela’s games in the past but I recognize a certain charm in this year’s edition that I haven’t seen before. The game puts a huge focus on making the experience fun and frantic, while also challenging you to improve your skill over time. I cannot believe that I am actually going to say this, but I think that I am looking forward to the game when it launches later this month on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii.