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Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2011

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Cauldron
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Adventure/ Shooter/ Sports (Hunting)

Graphics & Sound:

From the first time I held the cold plastic of my Nintendo Light Gun, it sparked a love affair with gun peripherals. Home consoles or Arcade, it has never mattered to me. So, with that being said, I have also played a few of the Cabela's games. Without a truly good gun to hold, they were always left wanting. The immersion just wasn't there without one. Now, take a company like Red Octane, you may have heard of a little game they do with a guitar-like controller, and let them make me a gun. It seems like the perfect combo. Now, I may have a few hang-ups about exactly how well this combination comes together in Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2011, but, there are some really great things going on here. However, there are a few things about the design that did not meet my expectations.

If there were some design elements that were lacking, graphics was not one of them. The look of the animals and the landscape were well done. Animals ran in a relatively life-like manner, even if they did not exactly die with such grace. Most animals, when shot and killed at a dead run, will slump and slide, not pop into the air like a soda can that has been hit. There were some realistic deaths, but most were a little too arcade-like. An animal not killed, but wounded, can sometimes jump and kick as if it had been bitten and wanted to shake an aggressor off. I am not trying to be macabre, I just notice the subtlety.

I would like to have the nice home theater system, with true surround. Hunting an animal with a better sense of direction would be more realistic. Scent is still a hard thing to convey in games, but sound is not and there is some work to be done here. Though overly melodramatic, the voice acting was sufficient to drive the story along. I don't know how endearing the characters were from the voicework, but the story was strong enough to work with the acting.


Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2011 has two main parts: the Story Mode and Gallery Mode. I need to talk about the Top Shot Elite included with the game, for just a minute. My straight-out-of-the-box impression was that this was a well-designed controller. The weight of the gun was nice and the key button placement was even. One of the key things for me, as a big guy, was the stock length. Fully extended was more than enough for a very life-like feel. The scope also moved far enough forward and backward to allow for a very life-like feel. I understand and accept the pump action slide, as opposed to a bolt action, but I'd like to have my cake and eat it too. I want the bolt action feeling and timing to be an important part of my experience. My wife, considerably smaller than I and a south paw, had no issues adjusting the gun to her likings either. Once I got over how far away from the TV I needed to be, and had the thing fully calibrated, I was ok with it. However, the gimmicky red lens on the scope in Gallery Mode made things harder to see, taking away the fun of cross-hairs.

Gallery Mode takes you on a roller-coaster through the wilderness, where you just about shoot everything that moves. Not hugely inspired, but definitely good layman's fun. Playing through one level successfully unlocks the next. This was more fun as a party game, and still will be. The gun is very, very forgiving. While moving through a level, you had the option to switch between a Shotgun and a Rifle. I am sure the idea was to use the rifle for large game and the shotgun for bird, but you can kill everything with one or the other. Power-ups were available for the score conscious. Some of them slowed time, while others allowed you to see game animals better. But, for just good ol' American fun, you mostly just flinch-shoot whatever moves. The gun comes with a red scope that has a function in the Story Mode. In Gallery Mode, it was best to remove it all together and only use the on-screen reticle.

The Story Mode presented a good story. I was very pleasantly surprised as to how much actual story work was done here. Moving with the gun, having to be constantly on guard was a great immersive feeling, that is, until I tried to go up a clearly easy trail that was mysteriously closed. I was not a fan of the pathfinding being an actual puzzle element of the game, but I put this aside because I had an interest in the story. You deal with a secret family legacy that reaches back to Africa. There is a survival horror feeling to the gameplay and even though you're hunting, you definitely feel like the hunted.


Between Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2011's two very different modes, there was a surprising lack of ability to adjust your difficulty. I wanted to change how "tight" the tolerances were for the shooting. I tried adjusting my dead zone and different sitting positions, to little avail. It is a small thing, I know, but I just wanted to increase the realism as much as possible. You are going to run into some movement issues with new players. Using the gun to explore your environment can get a little tricky. If you are the type of person that has issues adapting to new movement schemes or controllers, this is going to take some time to get used to. I thought the ramp up of what difficulty there was progressed well. I didn't feel rushed to be in absolute command of using the gun, and moving, right off the bat.

Game Mechanics:

I had an option as to which system I was going to review Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2011 on. The Wii version seemed like a no-brainer. I purposely decided not to go that route. I assumed, based on previous experience, it would be a solid game as far as the controls went, but I wanted to see what was going to happen on a system that was not "made" for a motion tracked controller. I think that it is too soon in the American market to assume we all have 50" HD TVs and a large living room. In order to get the gun to properly calibrate, I had to back up close to ten feet. It was more than just a little hard to read the font on my 28" screen. When you were playing Gallery Mode, it didn't really matter how tight the aiming was. You could just about shoot at the screen in a general direction and score hits most times. Whenever it came time for a cross-hair shot in the single player version, it was like I had all of the sudden developed Parkinson's, which couldn't possibly be me. It had to be the controller.

I understood the concept of having players move along a predefined and timed track in early Cabela's games. These games were little more than digital shooting galleries. Hunting was barely a discussion in these early games. Even with the introduction of the Dangerous Hunts, there was still a very "On Rails" sensation. This has to change. The expectation of hunting in the mountains has a far greater range and scope than being blocked by a tree limb or a row of stones. The gun movement worked so well that I really had the feeling of stalking something, that is, until I ran into the tree limb of doom. I expected Gandalf to jump out and scream "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" It was cool. Following tracks, blood trails, and even animal calls made for such a great immersive feeling that it really upset me to be so confined.

I know this is not the last Dangerous Hunt I am going to play. So, I enter my plea here. Open up the world more. Allow me to fail, get off course, even die from environmental hazards as well as animal attacks. You did a great job with player mobility, now make me use it. Figure out that more than just boys hunt, especially in my family. Ok, it was a marked graphical difference between the last iteration I played and this one and the gun was fun. There is progress in the right direction. I hope the gun does not sit unused for a long time. I have not yet tested its crossover abilities, if there are any, but it was entertaining. I look forward to more fulfilling Cabela's releases.

-WUMPUSJAGGER, GameVortex Communications
AKA Bryon Lloyd

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