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Cabela’s Alaskan Adventures Review
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The hunting genre is not exactly ripe with games on the current generation of consoles. You won’t ever see a hunting game rivalling the likes of Call of Duty and Final Fantasy in the Top 20 chart and it’s likely you won’t even find it on a shelf in a gaming store. No, hunting games have found their home in the bargain bin of the gaming world. You see, hunting is fairly popular in America and, while it’s a fairly niche market, a calibration between Cabela’s and Activision has seen a series released.

Perhaps the easiest summary of the Cabela’s series of games is that every game, upon release, is sold at the budget price of £19.99 ($£29.99). The games developer, FUN Labs, had already developed 7 Cabela’s titles prior to Alaskan Adventures, ranging from Deer Hunting to a 4×4 Off-Road Adventure before starting work on Alaskan Adventures. In fact, it’s the only series of games they’ve ever produced. So it’s surprising that the series still hasn’t grasped even the most basic concepts of gaming at the 8th attempt.

As soon as you start the game up it screams ‘budget game’ right from the very start. An artistic menu with cheesy music eases you into the game you’re about to play. Creating a character is a joke. You get the choice of being black or white and then given three templates of a hunter looking like he has just soiled himself. You can choose his age, beard size and weight before you’re whisked off to Alaska.

Your ‘Alaskan Adventure’ begins on a snowy looking pier and once you complete the tutorial your character (I went for a fat bearded black guy) is taken to one of the games four ranches. These serve as the central HUB of the game and allow you to purchase items, practice shooting and buy tags for your mission. The visuals are surprisingly solid, if a little unspectacular. The game was a 2006 release so I didn’t expect anything incredible but I was impressed by the snowy environment and the water effects. Once I went inside the ranch itself I genuinely felt warmer as the atmosphere was near-perfect.

You can mow this fellow down in a snowmobile.

The ranch store offers you the chance to purchase new weapons, ammo, hunting traps, a selection of clothing and a tent. The variety of weapons is limited to a crossbow, a shotgun and a selection of rifles. The rifles are essentially the same but you can customise the scope for various ranges of shots. The hunting traps are pretty much useless and I didn’t use them, but if carrying around bear meat is your thing then the ranch is the place to buy it! The clothing has no effect other than making your horrible looking character look even worse and, in all honesty, I never figured out how to use the tent throughout my playthrough on the game.

As I mentioned earlier, the ranch is where you buy the tags to start your mission. This basically gives you permission to hunt around the area relevant to your mission. This is where the game finally begins. However, there are some instant annoyances that you’ll learn to loath before you’ve even fired a bullet. Firstly, the loading screens go on forever. Seriously, it’s a good 30-60 seconds of the cheesy music and an artsy image before you’re plunged into the wild to take on the bears. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a permanent stamina bar meaning that every 10 seconds of running requires 20 seconds of rest to regain your energy. It’s a dated, unnecessary feature that takes away from the fun of the hunt. After seven games and three years at the helm of the series it amazes me how FUN Labs can even consider implementing this bizarre system.

There are ways around it. The vast majority of the wild areas contain a snowmobile at the start of the trek. Although they sound horrible, look ridiculous and handle laughably, without them it’d take five or so minutes of running, resting, running and resting to scout your prey on the other side of the level. The snowmobile also adds a certain aspect of fun to the game which, before you actually shoot animals, is lacking. See, the majority of the game is actually spent roaming the snowy mountains and grassy ridges of Alaska, searching and tracking your trophy with an awful GPS map and tracking system. This can get tedious, but it’s it when you discover your victim that the game comes into its own.

Whether it is an Ox, Bear or even a Snow fox, the shooting is tremendous fun. It’s what hunting is all about and why I bought the game in the first place. Lining up your shot, zooming down the scope, holding your breath and not daring to move in case you startle your prey. Taking into account the winds power and direction (with a little bit of in-game assistance) and pulling the trigger is the best part of the game and provides that pulsating bit of fun lacking elsewhere in Alaskan Adventures. A fantastic camera follows the bullet ala Max Payne and zooms in on its impact on the victim. Gore is kept to a low to keep the age rating respectable but the death animation is respectable enough.

Of course, rather than taking a stealthy approach to the hunting you can charge in to the pack of animals all guns blazing or impale a bear on your snowmobile but a 70 metre shot with your bullet curling in the wind feels much more rewarding. So, a 20 minute trek for a 30 second thrill is essentially what the hunts offer you. Is it worth it? Yes, in some ways, as it’s the only way you experience this kind of action on the Xbox 360. But, at the same time, no, it can be a waste of your time and I didn’t finish the game due to a lack of reward and variety for the hours I put in.

However, there are several other ways to ‘entertain’ yourself while on your Alaskan Adventure. To compliment the main hunting there are some other events to participate in. These are fishing and dog sledging, both disgracefully boring, poorly developed and barely working. The fishing system is incredibly fiddly rendering it, for the impatient gamer like myself, unplayable. Dog sledging is no better, hell, I barely understood what to do and it took me four attempts to clear level one. The mini-games simply don’t work and feel rushed and chucked in as a poor attempt to vary the gameplay. Bird hunting offers something a little different but the stamina bar soon puts a downer on that as well, although the visuals are certainly more impressive in the green areas of the wild with the sunlight gleaming against the luscious green trees.

Cabela’s Alaskan Adventures offers gamers (particularly here in the UK & Europe in general) the rare opportunity to experience hunting on a next generation console. Although clearly a budget series churned out on a yearly basis, Alaskan Adventures is one of the few hunting games to make it out of America and it does a decent enough job of offer gamers the chance to hunt. It’s a unique experience, substantially different to the recycled trash spoon-fed to us today and one shot to a bear from a distance will give you more of a thrill than spraying a terrorist with a clip of M60, guaranteed.

It’s by no means perfect and its flaws are, at times, unbearable. But the visuals are more than respectable for a budget priced aging title and the gameplay, while a bit rough around the edges, is good enough to warrant a try. If a top notch developer chose to exploit the hunting market and make a proper game then this game would rot in comparison, but that isn’t happening so embrace what little there is on offer and accept its faults.

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Cabela's Alaskan Adventures Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 5 ratings
  • David Mcmurdo
    March 14, 2024
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    Don’t know who you are or where you came from Steven but I love your writing and your knowledge of gaming shines through.

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  • James Ireland
    March 14, 2024
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    Yeap. Stephen is our 10th and final staff member. He’s also got a capture card so will be vital in video projects etc.

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