The first Kinect title arrives to us with a gun peripheral! If you haven’t heard of Cabela’s, they are fairly large in North America. Here’s a synopsis of what this game is about:
Cabela’s Big Game Hunter: Hunting Party’s exhilarating gameplay hits the “bulls-eye” for fun and excitement! You are the controller as you move through the environment by jumping, dodging and weaving around branches, rocks and charging animals, all while shooting your way through each level with the Top Shot Sport. The innovative Top Shot Sport, included with the game, brings a whole new layer of interaction. This first-of-its-kind technology adds a brand new dimension to the game. For the first time in any hunting game, players will have an opportunity to use their whole body and the Top Shot Sport like they would in real life. The Top Shot Sport includes features like pump-action reload, an adjustable stock and pop-up tactical sight. Join up to 3 other friends in riveting versus gameplay, or go it alone with a progressive single player mode that will take you across the world as you make your way to the ranks of the most elite hunters in the world. 29 entertaining and fun shooting galleries that engage the entire family across 4 dynamic regions including: Tanzania, Mexico, Texas, and British Columbia. Single player story mode and galleries, and competitive hot seat gameplay with up to 4 players. Upgradeable perks with customized loadouts, 4 distinct and game-changing power ups that can be found in-game.
I believe I expected too much from this game. It really reminds me of the hunting games in the bars/arcades that when your buzzed, you and your drunk buddy think you can go shoot anything and end up wasting money trying to beat the game. The good thing with this is you and your drunk buddy can still play a shooting arcade type game in your home, but it may cost you the same or less, depending on how much money you typically spend. There’s really not a lot to it, I picked it apart inside out. The actual gun peripheral is cool, however, the functionality of it is very limited. I feel this game will only be enjoyed by true hunting enthusiasts, although I feel Activision had another goal with this behind their big plans.
I’ll first open up with the gun. It comes in the normal size box that all Cabela games with guns do. It’s in 4 pieces that you assemble. Assembly is not too difficult, it does feel really durable though, so it should survive a few droppings if you are concerned. The gun has several movable pieces. The first is the stock. It is adjustable/sliding, although the only time you will use it is when you are looking through the “reticule finder”. The game itself basically requires you to use the gun off your stomach or off of your hip, whichever is more comfortable for you. I sort of agree with this, as holding the gun up for 10 minutes or so does start to tire your arm, however holding it lower doesn’t really bother you. It does not weigh that much, I’d guess about 1-2lbs maximum.
The next movable part is the bipod, which is really used for angle determination. I originally thought the 2 glowing balls on it would have been used for turning but unfortunately that is not the case. Other than that, there is no use for the bipod except it works as a good stand if you set the gun somewhere on a shelf or something.
Next is the fore-end/forearm/etc. It does move and it has quite some functions in the game such as reloading, changing weapons, activating powerups, etc. It seems pretty solid although I really can’t estimate how long it will last as it does click into something to register in the game.
Lastly, the (what they are calling a scope) is just a flat piece of plastic with a reticule on it, it’s more of a reflex sight than anything. It’s not magnified and it just flips up. The gun does have a type of rail and the sight is adjustable on it, which is pretty cool, so you can move it closer or farther back. That’s pretty much it for the gun. It requires 2 AA batteries that it comes with. It’s packaged nice and neatly. I also noticed there is no indication that the gun is solely for Cabela titles as past Cabela guns have always stamped their label on it, I am hoping this turns out to be a universal peripheral to be used with future shooters to give us the quickness and accuracy that is much-needed.
Onto the game! It is another simplified menu, this time consisting of only 4 main options but you do have to dig around to get what you want. The main section consists of Quick Play, Play Game, Rewards and Options. Multiplayer is under Play Game under a “Versus” mode if you are wondering where it’s at. The menu does not use Kinect at all, you have to use the gun to aim and trigger to select what you want. What’s kind of odd is when you first load it up, you use the gun to get around then it gets to the “Sign in with Profile” point and you have to hold the gun in one hand and then use your hand, kind of awkward, but it works.
This is the quick play mode, it throws you in a random game mode and level for single player. It’s only one level long, pretty self-explanatory.
Within here, you have your real game menu. The first option is to Resume Story, followed by New Story, Versus and Galleries. Resume Story will allow you to go back into the Story Mode once you complete it and replay any level you want. New Story will start you on a journey. There are 4 “Fantasy Reserves” filled with animals and different modes that you go through. There’s really not a story to the game, you are just completing each reserve to get invited to the next. The way the game works is you have a point objective – score a certain amount of points to get through each checkpoint and make it to the end. I won’t lie, it is a fairly easy game and the story mode takes only about 2 1/2 hours to complete.
In the story mode, you are introduced to Perks, hmm wonder where that name came from Anyhow, there are 4 perks you can choose from, you can only equip 2. I go into the detail below about them. Once you choose your perks, you start your first hunt. The entire game is on rails so you won’t have any freedom unfortunately. In the first couple of missions, you are introduced to all of the basics. There are powerups in the game that have different functionalities, such as rapid fire, health, slow time, etc. You also have 2 weapons, a regular rifle with a scope and a shotgun. When you first start out, you only get 2 bullets per gun, so you do a ton of reloading, which reloading is cool at first, then becomes a nuisance. As you progress though, you eventually max them out and each can hold 6 bullets. Also in the beginning levels, you can pretty much just shoot anything. Later on though, they start restricting you to give you a bit of challenge, but it’s not much. Certain animals will be tagged and mostly all females cannot be shot. Last note, you get 3 retries per section. Each section is more or less a checkpoint.
The shooting grades it gives you is neat. You are basically awarded points on where your kill shot is and the distance from what I could tell. You want to go for a clean kill which is through the heart, how it determines this I believe is luck to be honest, as even with a gun, you still can’t aim perfectly. If you do land a heart killshot, you are awarded bonus points. If you land a head shot, you still get some points but it’s not a clean kill so you are penalized. Regular body shots just give you normal points. The whole game is a one-shot-one-kill methodology except for “bosses”, which have a life bar. There is also a multiplier in effect to increase your score, you can have a max of a 6x multiplier, but missing one shot or killing something you’re not supposed to, makes you start over.
The game has a complete arcade atmosphere and feel to it. The bosses are typically larger animals such as bears, rhinos, lions, etc. They have a life bar and will charge at you and try to kill you. It usually takes about 15-20 bullets to kill the bosses. I did mention earlier you have 2 weapons. The shotgun is used for close combat or birds. I did try both weapons on a boss and noticed no difference in damage though. Speaking of the birds, when they start flying you have to use your shotgun to get points. If you don’t and use your rifle, you are subtracted 1 point for each kill and reminded that you’re not very sportsmanlike.
The first time through your story, you are only introduced to hunting modes and survival modes. There is an arcade mode that you have to unlock. Special game will have a gold trophy/lock above their head and if you kill them, you will unlock it. It’s fairly simple, but they mix them or hide them so you really don’t pay attention. Ones that don’t unlock the arcade mode will unlock other gallery levels for you to play. In hunting mode which are the majority of the levels in story mode, you will have to do other things as well. They integrated Kinect controls into it so it’s only basic gestures, but they are still there such as ducking, jumping, dodging left and right and kicking. You can kick close combat attacks as well, in case you are reloading or something, but you have some magic foot that kills them in one kick. Also there is no character or no rendition of your legs so timing it seems to be difficult, then it’s hard to tell if you kicked or not.
The last few parts you will experience in hunt mode is the cover system, which really is just to hide (I would love to see how this works in a game with return gunfire), but you have to step to the side the cover is on and the game will inform you if you were successful or not. Then you can literally lean around the corner to take out your prey. Another mode is the sneaking mode, which if you get down on one knee (I tried crouching but it didn’t work all the time), puts you sneak mode and you have stay down until you are in cover. Once in cover, you can either stand up which will alert them of your presence, or lean over while kneeling and take your shots. I thought the way it worked was really sweet. The last mode you will encounter is the scope mode. This triggers you to raise your gun and look through your scope, this activates the scope in-game, although it’s all pre-determined. Unfortunately you can not use the scope on command. It works, I was just hoping it was more free will. Here’s a video of one of the levels, I made sure the scope mode was in it so you could see, I hovered over to show the accuracy of the gun:
That’s pretty much it, the game takes you through all 4 fantasy reserves. There’s no special ending or anything, it’s all of the same stuff, wash-rinse-repeat. I was hoping it would have gone in-depth as other Cabela titles such as leveling up your character, changing/upgrading weapons, etc. but it’s a full-blown arcade atmosphere. The survival mode in the story mode is just shoot everything and make it through, it’s not like the other survival mode in the galleries as I explain below.
This is the multiplayer area for the game. You can choose any level you have unlocked/completed and this can be played with 2-4 players. You do take turns throughout the level though, which I don’t know if its annoying or not, but it’s primarily due to how they have you compete. Player 1 will first do a section from whatever level and get points. Once Player 1 reaches the checkpoint, then Player 2 plays the same thing (seems to be an advantage for Player 2). At the end of Player 2′s checkpoint, whomever has more points get 12 match points. I believe the grading scale works as 1st = 12, 2nd = 8, 3rd = 4 and 4th = 0, although I didn’t try 4 players. You then continue taking turns trying to score as many points as possible until the end. At the end, your match points are added up and whomever has the most wins. Fairly simple, I just don’t know about the taking turns mid-game yet. Unfortunately this is the only multiplayer mode the game offers, I am fairly surprised to not see any type of mini-games in here.
The gallery mode is kind of your single player mode to replay any levels you’ve completed. The galleries have the 4 main areas but there are sections in each main area. This is where DLC is added as well (there’s a free one right now plus 2 additional). The difference in here from the story mode is that survival is regular survival mode (doesn’t end until you die) and the DLC. I just noticed more animals in the gallery mode than the story mode on the other missions. Survival mode is cool at first, then it becomes annoying. You go in a big circle, over and over and over. With each lap you make, it takes one more bullet to kill each animal, so the one-shot-one-kill finally goes away in this mode. That was the only welcoming thing I seen in it, but after you start doing laps, it’s beyond repetitive and really becomes annoying.
The only mode that I really liked and preferred over them all were the arcade missions. Unfortunately there are only 4 of these because they are attached to the perks. It’s kind of like a puzzle game, as you are given a set of animals that you have to kill in order. The 2 later arcades are a bit trickier as you have to be fast and not kill them at first sight so you can plan accordingly. I would have rather had more of these modes as they offered a challenge. Check out the video below, you can get an idea of how it works. I missed one target so I show you how the turning works using Kinect, notice my icon indicator moves left and right while I’m holding the gun down:
The Rewards section is more for informational purposes only. You can go to trophies, which is just stats on everything that you’ve bagged. Top scores shows you the highest scores from online as well, so at least there is some online competition somewhat. Photos keeps a track record of your photos, although I have no idea how it determines what ones it saves. The last one is Perks, which just shows you what the perks are and that you can level them up. Getting into the Perks, there are 4. Each offers something different:
- Shotgun Spread – first shot from a full shotgun is a double-barreled blast
- Second Wind – When you have a 5x multiplier and get a 6x, your health is restored
- Powerup Mania - Random powerup at start of level
- Forgiveness – One extra retry from start of a level
What I don’t get about the perks is that first, you can only use them in story mode, fine. They are only enabled when they are at level 4, which is the max level. What doesn’t make sense is that throughout the story, you can only level them up to level 3. Once at level 3, you should be done with the story and have unlocked the arcade levels. You then have to beat the arcade levels to just unlock level 4 functionality. Once that’s unlocked, you then have to equip them and replay a story level to get them upgraded to level 4. Overall, this system they used is pointless to me. You don’t really to get to take advantage of them and it’s more or less just to get you playing a little longer than you normally would, as the achievement is worth 80GP’s, kind of disappointing.
The options are fairly basic as well, you can change the audio/video, recalibrate Kinect or the gun and view the credits. One mention of calibration of the gun, in the beginning of the game it has you run through a calibration. You have to line up the 3 balls/lights to the game and follow a duck around to calibrate it. After that, it throws a reticule in each of the 4 corners for screen calibration. What is cool about it, is it actually works, when you look through the sight, it does line up exactly on the TV with the in-game reticule. You do have to calibrate every time you start-up the game though.
First, the Kinect controls, for the most part Kinect detects most movements fine, but you don’t do much moving. The only gestures that you can do are duck, jump, kick (trees, animals and powerup crates), moving left/right into cover, path choices and dodging. There is one level which I found really stupid to be blunt. There’s a log over a chasm that you have to cross, it says to put the gun in one hand and then balance to walk across it, you know the normal Kinect balance gig. The problem with it is it doesn’t work very well. It took me a few tries to pass it and there’s no checkpoint in between the 2, so you may get frustrated. I found by holding my gun like the picture with 2 hands and just leaning side to side seemed to work better. Why this is in this kind of game, I have no idea, seems like a last-minute add-on. As I mentioned earlier, I assumed the balls on bipod were for turning in the game, but unfortunately that is not the case. They did use the same method that Puss In Boots did with the camera focused on the center, and as you move left or right, the camera pans with you so you can view “around” the center point, which I portrayed in my one video. The concept is cool, it kind of works in this game, I just think it would have been better overall if you were free to move around and do what you want though.
The gun itself is used for aiming, shooting, reloading, changing weapons and using powerups as well as to trigger the scope areas. It is really sensitive to movement so it works good, I would say it’s on the same level or better than to pressing a button to reload and aiming with a thumbstick, it just feels so much more authentic/realistic than using a regular controller.
I was really expecting something different so I am a bit disappointed it wasn’t more. The game is a 5, but the gun does enhance it so I gave it a 6. True Cabela fans that have every Cabela title will probably want to add this one as well, but for the casual gamer, I don’t see this making it big. There’s many other casual games that are a lot better and only cost half the price. You may want to wait until the price drops to pick this up if you can wait.
My honest opinion is that Activision, more than likely, did this as a research project, to see if they could make it work and to see if it would sell at all. Let’s be honest, the only thing keeping them afloat is the Call of Duty franchise, and that’s on the verge of becoming stale (MW3 makes it #8, Guitar Hero died after #6) so they probably want to add/try something new. This would probably be the best method as long as it works. I do give Activision kudos for trying something completely new and the gun itself seems solid, we’ll see if they break it off the Cabela series and start selling it separately and/or make other games that work with it, but I definitely think they are onto something here and it should make a very interesting future for Kinect.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Cabela’s Big Game Hunting Party
Scoring policy: What do these game review scores actually mean?