Hunting fans now can get their fix on Nintendo’s new platform, as Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2013 is now out on the Wii U. Instead of being featured with a the gun peripheral, Activision have released this version solo, allowing the Gamepad to compensate for the loss. Now, I’m not much of a hunter, but Dangerous Hunts isn’t really about hunting. This title has players simply survive against the wild, bagging bucks and slaughtering bears in the process. Does the Wii U version live up to the past versions of the game, or does it run out of ammo before the first shot is fired? Let’s find out.
Believe it or not, Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2013 attempts to throw together a main narrative for it’s rather short campaign. The story starts off with two brothers and their father hunting. A grizzly bear kills the father – and the two brothers are torn apart by the event. Ten years later, we see these much older characters reunite for one big hunt, where a new adventure awaits in dangerous territories.
Now, for a hunting game – it’s kind of refreshing to see how much thought went into the script for Dangerous Hunts 2013, as you can easily tell how hard the writer worked to make the plot cohesive. Sadly, decent writing can’t save the game from the fact that everything about this mode is cliche – with boring, default drones taking the lead within a slightly interesting setting. Sure, it’s the age old tale of survival and family , but it feels more like a Hallmark movie starring Kevin Sorbo than the truly exciting adventure that it aims for – but never quite reaches.
I don’t think I need to explain the concept behind Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2013, as the title says it all. You are thrown out into the wilderness with a decently sized arsenal, and must hunt and survive to progress forward. There is a wide array of predators you will come across, such as lions, wolves, and hyenas – just to name a few. For the main campaign, players follow a linear path, tackling animals as they appear and picking up any ammo or med kits you may come across. At first, I was a bit baffled at all of the supplies that were conveniently placed among these locations, but after awhile – you will learn that this game cares not about making sense – and instead just wants to create tense situations for the player to survive in.
I’ll admit, there are some great ideas behind this title. Enemy AI features realistic elements such as wolves hunting in packs, leopards using the terrain for an advantage, and other predators acting true to their real-life counterpart. Unfortunately, these glimmers of potential fade quickly, as the engine Dangerous Hunts runs on for the Wii U makes it hard to enjoy even the basics. When using the Gamepad to control your character, movement is easily performed with the left analog, and feels a bit like your standard FPS fare. That is the working part. What doesn’t work is shooting – or precisely aiming to be more specific.
When an animal is quickly approaching, the player can change their weapon to get the appropriate shot off. Your hunter is equipped with a variety of weapons and tools of the trade, but these really boil down to a sniper rifle for ranged shots, a shotgun for close combat, and a handgun for quick and more reliable fire. The handgun works well enough, but the other two leave a lot to be desired. Using the shotgun is a headache as it’s slow and inaccurate, but the sniper rifle takes the cake and comes off as the most frustratingly difficult weapon to utilize within the entire game. You see, to aim – you must use both analog sticks – holding your breath with the right shoulder button if needed. That alone is a problem as these inputs feel awkward when used together. If you run out of air, the zoom fails and you must re-aim towards whatever animal you are targeting. Making matters worse is the wobbly reticule, floating all over the screen to present a challenge as you try to target a vital organ in a predator.
I understand, we need a challenge as simply targeting and shooting would make the game boring. Maybe it was done like this to show the effects of wind, or maybe having the reticule go nuts would make the player feel their own character’s discontent as they take aim – but I personally felt as if the development team punched a hole in an otherwise solid product to create an illusion of a more in-depth, challenging product. The way the animals present themselves also causes a problem, as slow-motion has been implemented into several encounters to add yet another layer of tension. Imagine you are being attacked by a wolf and have a handgun readily equipped. The first wolf is biting your leg, and the others are stalking you from all sides. Your just about to aim, when out of nowhere, the alpha wolf leaps out and lunges at your face in slow motion. You are left helpless as this scene takes place, and even though it is over fast, the damage is usually already done. It may be realistic to a degree, but considering the aim is already poor, you will be lucky to get off a shot inside this sequence due to all of the chaos that is unfolding around you.
If the story mode is not your thing, there are other modes to at least give a go if you are up to a different pace. The first is your standard arcade mode, where prey can be hunted to rack up a high score. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, instead of using the nifty gun that is not bundled with the Wii U version, aiming comes down to using the Gamepad’s touchscreen. Again, this is yet another mechanic that was not implemented well, as landing a kill with the less than fluid aiming process feels as if it’s more about luck than actual skill. Man-eater mode allows for an extra friend to get in on the action, with one player using the Gamepad and the other using the television screen. This plays about the same as the main game, but with hordes of enemies approaching in wave and supply drops being offered during small intermissions. Even though the control difficulties were still present, I can say that this was my favorite mode within the game as the concept is at least on target.
Visuals and Audio
Dangerous Hunts 2013 does do it’s graphics right for the most part. Each animal, whether it be a grizzly bear or a charging rhino looks the part, and the environments are also well done with rich textures and detailed terrain. The humans in the game are a bit less detailed, and come off as generic as a result. The main focus is on the animals however, so most probably will care little about seeing the man behind the gun. I also noticed some framerate drops during chaotic situations, with a good amount of slowdown taking place as you try to pull away from danger. This is not a constant struggle, but it is an issue on top of the already broken aiming system in place, leading to more unneeded grief for the player.
As far as the audio, things are a bit of a mixed bag. Animals sound as they should as wolves will howl before making an appearance, bears will roar, and hyenas will chatter sadistically, setting the stage for the battle that will come ahead. Jacob and Luke (the two brothers), as well as all of the other character are fully voiced. Some of these efforts behind the cast are well done, while others are a bit drab and offer little emotion to a plot that needs all of the help it can get.
Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2013 for the Wii U may be a port of the same game we seen released on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 earlier this year, but without that gun peripheral to fall back on, the flaws overtake nearly all of the enjoyment. I give a lot of credit to the development team for thinking of some truly brilliant ideas to make this experience realistic, but everything comes together like a train wreck as each feature takes away from the next, or to put it in simpler terms – like a snake eating it’s own tail. Sure, there will be some who can swallow it up and overlook the issues, but those wanting an enjoyable hunting game would do best to stay far away from this sloppy port and wait to see what the famed brand has to offer next year.