Both games bring different things to the table. For starters, Survival: Shadows of Katmai is a story-focused game that incorporates a third-person perspective to this brand of hunting games. You play as Logan James, who is hired to take a young doctor to Alaska. After one of the most devastating blizzards in a long time causes their plane to crash, the two are separated. Logan must first recover his gear, find of way to locate the doctor, and then get them both to safety.
The adventure will see you traverse various Alaskan locations and encounter a fair number of different animals along the way. The split of traversing, exploring, and actual hunting should be pretty even, so if you're worried that there won't be much hunting, you shouldn't be concerned.
The game comes packed with a Top Shot Elite gun controller, and it does take a bit of time to get used to controlling Logan with the analog stick. It also takes some time to adjust to shooting animals once they've managed to grab a hold of you. The first time an animal, like a wolf, manages to wrap its jaws around your leg, don't get too startled as you try to wrangle it off and attempt to shoot it dead. Early sections were quite challenging, including one area that had Logan constantly surrounded by incoming wolves as he scrambled around trying to recover his gear.
Survival: Shadows of Katmai is not strictly a story-based game. A number of different multiplayer and challenge modes are included. The mode we had a chance to try out was Survival, where we were timed to see how long we could last out in the wilderness. It began with simple but not-so-harmless animals, but as the timer went up, we encountered progressively more difficult animals. The best time we could muster was about four minutes; we were told that Cabela's best QA testers were reaching about 7 minutes before being overrun, so managing half as much in our first run was quite a feat.
After spending some time with that game, we shifted out focus to Cabela's Big Game Hunter 2012. Fans of previous Big Game Hunt titles should feel right at home with this one. This year, a new Reflex mode has been included. It is similar to past game modes where you complete rounds by shooting animals as quickly as possible before time runs out, but this year, the necessity to shoot animals in a specific order has been added.
In early rounds, the requirement is simple, such as shooting a deer followed by a bird. As you progress into later rounds, the requirements get more specific and demand a lot of patience. One round may ask you to shoot an exact animal last, but it will be the first one of you encounter onscreen. Because of this, you will have to time your shots and hope that amid the chaos of a particular section, you pull off the required order. Of course, you can still finish a round by not completing the requested order, but don't expect to get a high ranking at the end of all the rounds.
Both Cabela's games are shaping up to be quite interesting experiences. Though both games offer something different, fans of the genre should want to play both, even more so because they offer single and two-player modes. Big Game Hunter 2012 hits the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii this September while Survival: Shadows of Katmai launches on all three in November.