These days, hunting is always a controversial subject, even in the virtual world. But given the fact that video games often have you “hunting” a variety of different targets, ranging from human to animal to extra-terrestrial, nobody should find anything too offensive about Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2009 . In fact, the series has mostly operated in the shadows in past years, selling to real-life hunting fans and never making it to the top of the sales charts. The first next-gen entry in the series is unlikely to fare much better, but you never know… See, they’ve decided to institute more in the way of action and adventure in this title that clearly appears to be a FPS; the blend may appeal to a wider variety of gamers, provided the gameplay mechanic is solid. However, despite this hope, Cabela still wishes to cater to the bush-beatin’ folks who love the thrill of the hunt. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
You will play as Flint Adams (fitting name, no?), and at the start of Career mode, you will enlist the help of Sergei, who accompanies you into the forbidding Russian landscape. As you will soon find out, Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2009 attempts to instill more in the way of realism (to a point, anyway); you will only be 100% successful if you keep your distance and let your rifle do the talking. However, if you push your luck and get too close, you’ll be forced to defend yourself in an intense hand-to-hand encounter. Essentially, this process will focus on the Sixaxis motion controls in the PlayStation 3 version, as you must respond to the on-screen commands by tilting the controller in the correct direction. If you do this fast enough, you will emerge from the life-threatening conflict with your skin still attached. If not…well, you see where we’re going with this. Flint isn’t stupid enough to wander into the wilderness without other forms of protection, and your knife will come in handy very often.
As for the available weaponry, the game will feature what an avid hunter would expect: the Career mode offers you the option of a long-range rifle, short-range firearm, and a simple sidearm (for use mostly with the aforementioned up-close-and-personal encounters). The good news is that this particular hunting game won’t be as barebones as past titles; the player will actually be able to upgrade these weapons throughout the course of his or her travels. Not only will you be able to purchase more powerful guns, but you’ll also be able to add things like recoil dampeners and different scopes to the firearms you own. Not surprisingly, the game will send you all over the world as you seek out the most prized skins and pelts, and you will go toe-to-toe with some of the earth’s most fearsome creatures. Therefore, your adventures will get progressively more dangerous, which means both your skills and your inventory need to increase. Just don’t lose your cool out there in the wild! Patience, young hunter, patience.
And thankfully, the details don’t end there. More depth and general appeal will be found in features like Hunter Sense, which will give you the edge when tracking some of the more elusive animals. Simply by clicking the left analog stick, you will engage the Hunter Sense: time will slow, much of the surrounding wildlife will suddenly glow in your vision scope, and you will suddenly notice certain valuable tracking signs (tracks on the ground, bits of hair stuck to branches, etc.). You’ll need this ability, because the animals are by no means brainless; you will have to battle their instincts as well as their claws because if you get too close, some prey can even smell you coming. Hence, another nifty little feature called scent cover that will help you hide your sweaty human scent. You dirty hunter, you. And lastly, if things are really getting hairy (pun intended), you can turn to your always-useful adrenaline power, which will allow you to slow down time once again. This time, though, it’s not for the benefit of tracking concentration, but for bullet-time-like slow-mo to drop charging foes.
Okay, so authenticity goes out the door a little bit with that last gameplay option, but so what? Still cool. Throughout this preview, we’ve been talking about the Career mode, but even though it’ll be the obvious focal point, there will be other gameplay modes. The only caveat is that you must unlock Bonus and Action Zone as you progress through Career, so when you first start out, there’s only one choice. But if you’re wondering, neither the Bonus or Action Zone mode is realistic, so if you’re looking for an exact hunting sequel, you may be disappointed. But as we mentioned earlier, Cabela really does wish to add another level of depth and flavor with the new gameplay additions, and that’s to be commended. Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2009 will be out in only a few weeks time; it’ll hit store shelves on September 23, and if you’re a hunter in real life, this one should be a good buy. Of course, it’s probably no substitute for the real thing, but you can’t take to the woods every weekend.