Hunting games have always been an interesting genre of gaming. Rarely do they appeal to anyone outside of the fans of the actual sport, and most often they feel like cheap spin-offs of first-person shooters. The latest Big Game Hunter breaks the traditional mold by creating an arcade like atmosphere and completely avoiding a narrative almost altogether. This will likely deter some of the original fans from the game, but it also makes it much more streamlined for the attention deficit crowd. Personally I found myself more intrigued by the faster pace, but that doesn’t mean the game comes without some issues.
What little bit of story is here revolves around your character aptly named Jack Wilde. You will play through twelve missions that each have various animals to hunt and some shooting galleries thrown in for good measure. Your main goal is to obtain acceptance into the Royal Ancient Order of Orion, and you will have to prove yourself in each of the story missions. The plot is lackluster and feels more like a catalyst to move you from place to place, but at least the voice acting is tolerable. It is also refreshing to not have to go back to camp like in other hunting games to get new gear, or simply to waste time. This game moves at a brisk pace and I truly appreciate that.
Each level is built in linear fashion and has you simply moving from one animal to the next with the quintessential mini game thrown in around half-way through. Thankfully even though there are multiple animals per stage if you fail to nab one (and eventually you will) you don’t have to start the entire level over. Instead you can select each one individually from the stage select screen. You are awarded experience points based on finding animal trails, how you take down the animal and even the distance. Medals are earned for each one and you can go back to try and obtain higher scores if you want.
Overall the game is built like a straight-forward arcade game and personally it made the experience that much more interesting for me. I am sure that hunting aficionados will have some issues with the lack of depth, but it is hard to argue with the entertaining pace. The only disappointing aspect with the design for me was the linearity. There are expansive areas, but you are never rewarded for going off the beaten path, nor do you have the option that often. Levels are built for you to venture down one direction the entire time and going outside of that often leads to invisible walls.
Those looking for the thrill of picking up animal tracks and actually taking the time to find the animals will also be disappointed. The inclusion of Hunter Sense completely eliminates any strategy in finding the game. Holding down the shoulder button shows you all you need to know about where to go, where to take cover, and even where to find hidden animal tracks. This is the only tool you have at your disposal outside of your weapons and frankly it is the only one you will need. Again this boils the game down to the simple action of moving from point A to point B and simply taking a good shot.
This is where the only strategy in the game comes into play. Once you discover an animal you need to get some good cover, pick your desired weapon, and then take the shot. Points are based on distance and accuracy as well as where you hit the prey. Heart shots are usually the best but you can also aim for lungs, brain or spine. Any of them will take out the animal but all are worth different points ultimately deciding your medal earned. Cover also plays a factor as each spot gives you a boost. Getting close to an animal without alerting them will earn you kudos, but distance shots take much more skill and patience.
In addition to the standard hunting there are two other facets to the game. The aforementioned shooting galleries take center stage as being the most exciting by far. These are strewn across various levels and are akin to the glory days of light gun gaming. Unfortunately I highly recommend turning up the sensitivity on the aiming; otherwise you will have a hard time keeping up with the numerous onscreen animals. These can be accessed from the main menu and are actually more challenging and fun than the actual hunting. The other diversion is the “boss battles” you will encounter with the more deadly animals. Here you will be one-on-one with a ferocious creature such as a mountain lion or bear and have to fend for yourself. These keep the action intense and mashing buttons apparently deters a lion from gnawing your face off. Once again skill is not a focal point here as traditional circle-strafing will get you by just fine.
Visually the game actually looks quite good for a budget title. The developer has put some work into creating lush landscapes and decent models. The invisible walls are the only real deterrent and the occasional texture pop-up, but overall the game looks fairly decent considering. Sound effects are average by today’s standards with decent rifle sounds and steady voice acting. The presentation feels very cheap and dirty, but it gets the job done.
Big Game Hunter 2010 is a stray from the norm, but for someone like me it is a welcome one. The fast-paced action keeps things from getting too boring, and the medals and high scores actually strive to keep you coming back to improve your performance. The lack of depth and strategy will likely disappoint fans of the genre, but if you take it for what it is, it is actually quite enjoyable. Leaderboards and perhaps some more structure would have taken this game to another level, but as it stands this is a solid budget title that fans of the genre will likely want to take for a spin.