Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2005 Adventures – XB – Review

You have got to love the
fact that there is a game for everyone on the Xbox.  There are games for the
illegal racing enthusiasts and games for those who can’t get enough of flashy
wrestlers and yes there are even games for those who adore sports fishing . . .
one of the most slow-paced sports, mind you.  For those who love the sport of
big game hunting, Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2005 Adventures arrives on the Xbox
but is this game true to the sport?  Yes it is, but for the sake of the review
let’s get into the why.


The game sports three game
modes: Career, Quick Hunt and Tournament.  Quick Hunt allows you to start
hunting right away by allowing you to choose your region type and even the
subregion (more on that a little later).  The most entertaining mode comes in
the form of Tournament mode, which takes you away from the hunt to participate
in events such as skeet and clay shooting, trap setting and cool challenges that
really help in developing your skills as a big game hunter.  Career mode, the
game’s main mode of playing, has you choosing your character’s sex (male and
female of varying ages), appearance and finally stats (accuracy, strength,
stealth, tracking and resilience).  Interestingly enough, Career mode has
something of a story.  You play a hunter who has entered him or herself in the
biggest hunting tournament to earn the Hunter’s Hall of Fame your grandfather
dreamed about winning for so long but couldn’t achieve because of an accident. 
It is up to you to earn this prestige in the name of Grandpa Pete.



Career mode places you in
Jacques Pine Lodge where you visit the park warden and receive tags (a permit to
hunt a particular animal) that show up in your objectives list.  Like the real
thing, the warden gives you a set of regulations that you must follow or get
thrown out of the tournament.  The rules vary from the reasonable (do not
attempt to shoot at a fellow hunter) to the more extreme (no killing animals
with vehicles).  From there you can purchase your necessary equipment and there
is quite a lot to buy.  The items range from decoys you can use to flush out
predators to a moose call or urine scents.  There are tripods that can steady
your aim and even portable towers for when you want a better view of the
terrain.  The weapon list is all standard issue regulation firearms such as
various rifles, shotguns and even bows for when you want keep each kill as
silent as possible.  You can even rent an ATV or a snowmobile to reach certain
spots a lot more quickly since your hunter can get tired.


In the beginning you’re
asked to hunt the small yet dangerous wolverines, a feat that isn’t easy
considering their size and their swiftness.  As you complete objectives, you
gain new ones that range from finishing off a wounded elk to tracking down a
dangerous cougar.  The hunt itself is a long and arduous process that requires
patience, patience and more patience.  Often times you’ll spend several minutes
finding a single track and other times you’ll run into one on accident.  Stealth
is the name of this game and the more noise you make the more easily you’ll
scare off the prey.  A red flag will also indicate whether you’re downwind or
upwind, which naturally can result in an animal catching your scent and either
fleeing or attempt to attack you.


Playing the waiting game
might not be for everyone, of course, but those who stick with the game will
discover that it simulates the sport rather realistically.  Blow your moose call
and a male moose won’t instantly appear, rather it will appear gradually as if
unsure if that sound came from an actual moose cow.  Some animals, like the
wolves, can sometimes travel in packs so their tracks are sporadic and when they
attack (you’ll find that many of the animals, especially the grizzlies, will
turn instantly vicious and hunt you instead).  When you do kill an animal it
immediately turns into trophies, which you must collect right away to earn
points.  You’ll also earn money you can use to purchase new weapons or items in
the lodge.


The good news is that
there are over thirty-six animals to hunt down and a wide variety of regions
(forest, marsh, grassland, desert, mountain and Artic tundra) and subregions (Needleleaf,
Black Spruce, etc.).  This makes for a diverse challenge since the terrain also
plays a part in a hunt.  The bad news, however, is that the actual hunting can
grow wearisome to those gamers that expect instant action and it can also be
somewhat awkward thanks to the sometimes unresponsive controls.  There are many
a time when I attempted to raise my rifle but my hunter responded a few seconds
too late.  The third-person view sees a drop in the framerate while the
first-person view can make reaction time a bit slower. 



Big Game Hunter is both a
great-looking game and also quite a terrible-looking game.  While many of the
environments–particularly the plains and forests regions–are quite spectacular
and filled with wonderfully detailed flora and fauna, there are things within
the environments that look incredibly plain.  Buildings, for example, showcase
some pretty dull textures and there are trees with leaves that are too
pixilated.  Your character isn’t exactly rendered well either–especially when
it comes to the limbs.  Still, the animals look amazing from afar (especially
the gorgeous Columbian Black-Tailed Deer and the impressive Northwestern Moose)
but when the animal approaches too close in first-person view (or when the
camera follows the bullet) you’ll quickly notice the awkward animation and
disjointed limbs.


Sound-wise, the game
masterfully brings us all the distinct sounds of its outdoor setting whether its
out in the thickest forests or the tundra of some artic locale.  You’ll hear the
wildlife really come to life in this game and literally surround you so if
you’re expecting a running soundtrack you won’t find any tunes accompanying you
on your hunt.  The animals themselves naturally make their distinct sounds so
you will hear the howls of a pack of wolves or the frightening cry of a cougar. 
The only voice acting you’ll hear comes from the warden who announces
“Congratulations, you’ve cleared this area.”


Much like the virtual
fishing genre, hunting games like Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2005 Adventures are
an acquired taste but make no mistake; this is one of the truest hunting
simulators to hit the Xbox. This is certainly not for the impatient
trigger-happy action gamer but if you like the idea of laboriously tracking down
and then shooting wild and dangerous animals then this is a game you should
definitely consider checking out. 



Gameplay: 7.0
Equip your hunter with all the tools
and arms he or she needs and take off into the woods with nothing but your
tracking abilities and a good aim.  Everything you might expect from the sport
is present and accounted for but be prepared to stalk about the large
environments for several minutes without seeing a single animal. 


Graphics: 6.9
Visually, Big Game Hunter 2005 is
both graphically beautiful and awful at the same time.  You’ll love the
wonderfully detailed environments but then again certain trees look too
pixilated and building can look just plain dull.  The animals look great from
afar, but when they attack they take on an unnatural appearance . . . much like
the limbs of your character.


Sound: 8.0
While hunting you’ll only hear the
sounds of the great outdoors and the unseen wildlife that surrounds you.  Birds
will chirp and woodpeckers can be heard pecking on tree trunks and the rustling
of foliage can give away your prey.  There is some voice acting but its comes
from a single narrator that tells you when you have trophies or when you managed
to clear an area.


Difficulty: Medium
Tracking smaller game can be
extremely difficult since you’ll have a somewhat hard time trying to locate them
through the foliage.  You might even find it challenging to hunt down the fast
animals like the Lynx and the Grey Wolves that move fast and move about in
packs.  The real challenge, though, comes from the long waits and trying not to
lose a track.


Concept: 7.0
All regulation arms are available to
you (including bows for when you want to hunt Javelina the right way . . . the
traditional way) and so are all the lures, traps and useful equipment that can
help you claim your tag.  The game’s main Career mode has something of a story
and you can even use vehicles on your hunt.  No multiplayer mode but you can
post your trophies on Xbox Live. 


Overall: 7.2
Big Game Hunter is far from perfect
but it certainly does a great job of bringing all the elements surrounding this
sport to life.  There are a number of things that could have been improved upon
(like the controls) but if you’re into the sport of hunting this game will
surely find a lot to like about this game.  Those gamers looking for non-stop
action will have to look elsewhere.