Sunday, November 4, 2007

Review: "Cabela's Trophy Buck" misfires, but I did get a free subscription!

When my Uncle Matt goes hunting, he has some funny stories to tell. If his trips are anything like "Trophy Bucks," I would think I would rather join PETA.

The game, published by Activision, puts gamers in a virtual world filled with hunting. You can hunt ducks, bucks, birds, small game and varmints (No, Bugs Bunny isn't in the game ...) all over the U.S.

You can unlock different regions as you progress in the game. Region One is Northwest U.S./Canada, Region Two is Southwest U.S./Mexico, Region Three is the Eastern U.S., Region Four is West Central U.S., Region Five is South and Southeast U.S. and the final, Region Six, is Midwest U.S.

You have just one mode - career. You also have several goals you have to meet. You can earn Game Animal Slams (when you have hunted each species of a certain type of animal), Series of 3 hunts (you play through the six regions, with four locations), with additional hunts open for good performances at each location, and Medals (depending on your skills during hunts).

It can be very confusing because there isn't a save feature. And I wasn't clear on reloading my career data. The interface is as mean as the game you hunt - it's very simple looking, but ...

You have an array of weapons to choose from, ranging from bows and handguns to shotguns and my personal favorite, a Kalashnikova 1947. I wish ... but they do have a .30-06 Autoloader (pronounced “thirty ought six”) which is perfect for reaching out and touching game. While these are some good weapons, give me a slingshot and I'll do some major damage.

As you progress, you unlock weapons and upgrades. The "Power-Ups" are what makes this game sick. You can unlock "Slow time," "Freeze animals," "Thermal Vision," "X-Ray Vision," "Laser Bullet" and "Quick Draw." Pretty sweet power-ups, but shoot - add a few of these - your choice - Desert Eagle, Uzi, a Barrett M-107 .50 cal sniper rifle, a rocket launcher and a Gatlin gun - since we are adding cheats and all.

The graphics are impressive. I was taken back when I started playing the game, and was ready to chase game all over the map! The fowl fly like real birds - the rabbits dash like they are about to be lunch - and the bucks run like Bambi's mom - RIP. Which leads me to the major gripe I have with this game ...

The environments are so promising - the sounds are sweet, and even the controls are forgiving, but ... you will find yourself caged just like the game you are hunting. You think I am playing ... and in some stages, you can walk around - but others, you are just along for the ride. You are dropped into a scenario - a 10-point buck and some young bucks - and you shoot. That's it. You can try and chase them but right after they leave, the hunt ends and you get your score. Do what?

What I love - and most gamers will agree with me - about video games are open sandbox. If you are making a hunting game, confinement is the last thing virtual hunters need. Linear is one thing and some games thrive on that - but not this one. This title is well-made and begs to be open sandbox. Put gamers in the middle of nowhere and let them hunt what they want to hunt.

The worst hunt I experienced? Hunting ducks. My virtual hunting dog (and no, you can't shoot him - trust me, I tried) run them out and I tried to get out of my hiding box to get them. Sorry ... not an option. I ended up redoing the hunt a few times and finally passed.

If hunting is this confined, I'll just stick to video games. I know there are regulations set by the wildlife department, but not letting a gamer roam - and the lack of multiplayer - so hurt this title.

Maybe the next installment will allow gamers to participate in online hunts - like a hunting club - or even roam free on their offline hunts. Sadly, this title's missteps have given it a fatal gunshot wound.

There is a bright spot to the game - selected packages include a free year subscription to "Outdoor Life."

Why should I care: If you love hunting, and don't mind hunting minigames on your 360, check this title out. If you have GameFly, rent it first to see if you like it or not.

The good: Cool upgrades, stunning outdoor environments, intense sounds, a good amount of weaponry and a free, yearlong subscription to "Outdoor Life"

The bad: You can barely roam - it's a hunting game! No multiplayer, which would have helped this title big time - and a very confusing interface

The ugly: One level of this game and I promise, I thought PETA was gonna come down on me like I was Ron Mexico, aka Michael Vick.

Overall: 4.5 (out of 10): This game is promising - don't get me wrong, but it is hurt by not having the ability to roam. The weapons are good, but the upgrades are sick. If you are gonna to have things - cheats - like that, why not add a BFG? Regardless, maybe Activision will make the Cabela series like "Call of Duty" but in the wild?

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