With gold buckles, cash prizes and eager cowgirls, rodeo cowboys get all the glory. In PBR: Out of the Chute, the officially licensed bull-riding game, the bull gets his revenge.
That's because you can choose to play as one of 12 real-world bulls in what is believed to be the only known use of licensed livestock in a video game. We got our hands on PBR (not to be confused with Pabst Blue Ribbon) this week at E3 2008 in Los Angeles and put the hurt on the cowboys and rodeo clowns alike in the PlayStation 2 version of the game. Controlling the bull is simple. Move with the stick and buck with the buck button. Timely turns and bucks in reaction to the cowboy's movements will have the best chance of dismounting the cowboy. Once you've thrown him in the dirt, you can try to trample or gore the cowboy or the oncoming rodeo clowns sprinting to save his life. If you don't care for one of the real-life arenas, you can run up to the wall and kick the sponsors' advertisements into splinters. You can play as both cowboy and bull in the local two-player multiplayer mode.
The real meat to PBR is found in the single-player season mode as you choose to play as one of 12 licensed PBR cowboys or a custom character. You'll compete against other cowboys and their scores in tournament-style events that make up the 10-event PBR Championship that culminates in the World Finals held annually in Las Vegas. Riders will also suffer persistent injuries, so a cowboy with a broken arm will have to ride with a cast, and his attributes will suffer accordingly.
While a fun concept, the gameplay in PBR seemed one dimensional. You simply move the left stick to try to balance your cowboy, and press a grip button to grab the rope, although we didn't notice a difference whenever we used the grip buttons. The faster your reactions to the bull's bucking, the better your score from the judges (PBR uses the official scoring and rules used in real life). After your eight seconds are up, you hit a dismount button to jump off the bull and another button to try to land on your feet for bonus points. The bull will try to chase you down, and the event is not over until you sprint to safety and jump over the arena walls.
Of course, PBR isn't slated for release until October, and who knows what kind of fun control scheme the Wii version will employ, but we hope the gameplay is tightened up for a more engaging experience in the final months of development. One thing is certain, however: Luke Perry is not an unlockable character.