Cabela's Big Game Hunter: Pro Hunts Review (X360)

Hunting Stupid Animals With Creepy Pros

Activision
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Cabela's Big Game Hunter: Pro Hunts exists in a world where every step you take sounds like you're banging metal trash can lids together, animals are considerably noisier than you are, and giant lingering clouds of fart gas constantly betray your position.  It can't decide if it wants to be realistic or videogame-y.  There are aspects that are fun and surprisingly well done, and others that will leave you shaking your head.

  And then there are the real world pro hunters who just come across as sort of creepy here.  Read on for all of the details.

Game Details

  • Publisher:  Activision
  • Developer: Cauldron
  • ESRB Rating: “T" for Teen
  • Genre: Hunting
  • Pros:  Fairly realistic; a surprising amount of content; cool slo-mo bullet camera
  • Cons:  The pros are creepy; "videogamey" aspects clash with realism elsewhere; why is everything so noisy?

Hunting With The Pros

The gimmick in Cabela's Big Game Hunter: Pro Hunts is supposed to be the four real world hunting experts that guide you through the game.  I hate to say it because these are real people, but they're just sort of creepy here.  The character models are borderline awful, and the big bugged out eyes paired with the crazy excitement they demonstrate when describing how you're brutally murdering cute animals is more than a little off putting. 

Gameplay

Other aspects of the game leave me a little uneasy feeling as well.

  The maps you hunt on are large and open, but already populated with tree stands and blinds in perfect spots.  You also have a tablet with precise data on water areas, feeding areas, and bedding areas along with the time the animals will be at each location.  Your tablet even shows you the wind direction and you can see exactly where your scent is blowing so you won't alert the animals.

  You are basically getting the snooty rich person hunting experience where you pay a lot of money to go hunt on private property and are guaranteed a big trophy as long as you go to the right spot and wait a while.  This isn't hunting.  It is just a follow the directions simulator.

With that said, other aspects of the game are well done.  You still have to be careful with how much noise you make and pay attention to the wind direction.  The actual shooting is remarkably well done as well.  When you take a shot the camera shows your shot in slo-mo so you can see exactly how your bullet is impacting the animal.  It sounds brutal and gruesome, but not actually gory or graphic or anything.  Seeing the way the bullet bounces off of bones or penetrates vital organs is really neat and quite educational. 

A lot of hunting games give you some sort of super concentration ability that lets you precisely target exactly where you want to shoot.  Not here.  You really have to be a good shot in Pro Hunts, which makes taking down an animal (even if it is a sort of guided hunting tour rather than really hunting) remarkably satisfying.  One tip I can give you is that the bullet doesn't always necessarily go where your crosshairs are due to elevation and gravity and other things.

  Instead you have to lightly squeeze the trigger which will hold your breath and steady your shot, but also draw a little circle onscreen showing where the bullet will actually go.  Before I realized that all of my shots were usually too high. 

Other things in the game left me scratching my head, though.  For one thing, the animals are really, really loud.  You can hear them (which pops a directional indicator on your screen) stomping around and grunting from 200+ yards away.  I kind of understand that the game would be hard to play without these audio and visual cues letting you know the animals are nearby, but this is pretty ridiculous.

  Also, animal calls are way too effective.  You can use a deer call and have a buck walk right up within 30 yards of your tree stand, staring directly at you all the way, before turning broadside like a stupid idiot to give you a super easy shot.  It is just sort of weird when a game uses realistic things like the precision shooting and putting a lot of emphasis on sneaking around and being aware of your scent, but then does super unrealistic things like telling you exactly where to go and making the animals super easy to track. 

Features

If you can get over the quirks of the uneven design, there is a lot of content here.  I mean, "a lot" a lot.  There are dozens of hunts spread across four regions of the U.S..  You can hunt deer, elk, wild boar, moose, bear, and more along with challenges like shooting rabbits of coyotes and other animals with specific weapons.  You also have a ton of equipment you can buy with the points you earn with each successful hunt.  Multiple guns, ammo types, scopes, calls, and more are all available to let you customize your hunt.  Upgrading from your .270 to a 7mm or other more powerful rifle really makes a difference in the way you hunt.  I really liked just how much stuff is packed into the game.  At a $30 bargain price point, you're definitely getting your money's worth.

Graphics & Sound

The presentation is only so-so here.  The Cabela's games usually have pretty decent visuals, but I wasn't impressed with Pro Hunts.  The textures are mostly simple and ugly and the trees and other foliage is very PS2-era 2D looking.

  As I mentioned above, the character models for the hunting pros are pretty awful, but you only see them in cutscenes.  The animals mostly look okay, at least.

The sound is more of an issue.  Nothing really sounds right.  Every step you take literally sounds like you're banging metal trash can lids together.  Walking through a bush is like you're playing a full drum set with every branch you pass by.  The animals are also just stupidly noisy and unrealistically loud.  Natural sounds like birds and flowing water do sound pretty good, though.

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Bottom Line

All in all, Cabela's Big Game Hunter: Pro Hunts is an okay hunting game hurt by a lack of solid direction as to whether it wanted to be a simulation or not.  The actual hunting and shooting aspect is remarkably well done, but having the game overload you with data on exactly where the animals will be is a bit of a turn off.  The wealth of content and customization options are nice, though, and if you can get over the unrealistic aspects it can be pretty enjoyable.  At just $30, it is also priced just about perfectly to the point where, even with its flaws, I'd recommend it to any hunting game fan.  It isn't the best hunting game on Xbox 360 - that still goes to Cabela's North American Adventures - but you can definitely do worse.