Despite the overwhelming popularity of the genre, I fully admit I've never been able to get in to most hunting games. The ones I've played on the iPhone either seem entirely too basic, diluting the sport of hunting down to basic wild animal shooting galleries with a few gimmicks or attempting to recreate arcade light gun style gameplay by tapping on the screen. In Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2011 [$4.99], Activision takes some steps in the right direction to make a hunting game that's more entertaining than most by injecting a single player adventure campaign in to the mix.
Instead of just choosing a location, selecting your hunting load out, and just shooting whatever animals are on the horizon, Dangerous Hunts has you actively stalking prey. Also, more often than not, your prey is also stalking you. It sounds like the workings of a real cool game, as you're left wandering about the African wilderness after animals that are just as interested in killing you as you are in killing them. Unfortunately, the cool premise is about all there is to it.
Dangerous Hunts is controlled via a dual-stick setup that anyone who has played an iPhone first person shooter should be immediately familiar with. Virtual buttons handle things like changing weapons, reloading, looking down your sights (or scope), and other tasks. Gameplay consists of following various checkpoints on your mini-map, completing tasks that almost always involve hunting some animals, and making your way to the end of the level.
There's a foundation for something really compelling here, especially in a genre that is overloaded with games that don't offer a whole lot of freedom of movement, story, or gameplay. Sadly, the graphics of the game make it really hard to ever feel immersed in the game world. One of the early levels involves slowly creeping up a winding path to a village that has been decimated by some kind of feral animal. After taking a detour to make your way around a closed gate, you find yourself attacked by wild bloodthirsty hyenas.
There's room for lots of suspense here, as the buildup has potential to really lead to something, but the incredibly low resolution textures, barren landscape (save a few low-res trees and shrubs here and there) and the low polygon poorly animated hyenas themselves all ruin it. Following that, you get alerted via your radio that there's a lion nearby. Moments later, he's pouncing on your face, leading up to what could have been a neat quick-time event. Instead, an image of a lion appears on screen and you simply have to tap the circles that appear to kill it.
A second shooting gallery mode is included in the game as well, but it is basically what you'd expect out of a game that really needs a light gun but instead just has you using your finger to tap. Interestingly enough, Activision did bundle OpenFeint with Dangerous Hunts, so there is a bit of replay value to be had if you find yourself getting involved in the online leaderboards for who can mow down the most wolves.
I admit I was totally stoked to hear that Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2011 was coming to the App Store when we first got news, having followed some of the insanely cool previews of the home console version (which also comes packed with its own light gun). However, visuals that look incredibly dated make any kind of immersion impossible and ultimately ruin what could have been a really cool blend of hunting and adventure/survival games for the iPhone.
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