Cabela's Big Game Hunter is the first hunting sim for any of today's high-end consoles, and that's probably its biggest accomplishment. While the game won't convince newcomers to the sport that they need to buy a deer rifle and plan a big hunting trip, it should be able to tide over hunters looking for some off-season adventure on their PlayStation 2s. On its own merits, though, it isn't much of a game.
Cabela's Big Game Hunter is conveniently set up in a way that will suit just about any hunter, no matter what their past gaming experience may be. If you're a hard-core hunter who wants to use all the scents, decoys, and spotting scopes to set up a traditional stalk, the game will allow you to do just that. But if you're a younger hunter who just wants to cruise around the game's open environments on a four-wheeler or snowmobile and take shots at fleeing animals, you can do that instead.
Three difficulty settings are available. The easy selection will actually let you see animals from afar by illuminating their positions with a red dot. The medium setting takes away the red dot but keeps the animal's artificial intelligence fairly low. The hard setting ups the animals' artificial intelligence quite a bit, which will require you to pay attention to the direction of the wind and how you approach the animals. When you start a game, you can either jump right in with a quick hunt, which just gets you set up and into the field, or you can enter the deeper career mode, which lets you unlock new locations and hunters to use. You can also select a custom log cabin where all your trophies are kept for you to look at later on. Included in the game are eight different locations, ranging from Alaska to Texas, and each location has an assortment of different animals to hunt, including polar bears, coyotes, and black-tailed deer.
The bulk of the gameplay consists of moving through the game's large environments looking for tracks and animals. When you find a trophy, you can pull out your weapon, take aim, and fire. From there, it's just a simple matter of inspecting your kill and moving on to the next target. You can travel on foot or using vehicles such as an ATV, a snowmobile, a boat, or a pickup truck. While there are roads for your vehicles to travel on, you can drive just about anywhere you can walk, with the one exception being extremely steep inclines. This freedom definitely adds to the experience of being in an outdoor setting, but it's also slightly hindered by the fact that the game pauses to load new content when you move from area to area. Each hunting region is broken up into several different areas that are marked by road signs that let you know you're about to travel to a new area.
In the graphics and sound departments, Cabela's Big Game Hunter does an adequate job of re-creating different types of outdoor environments and animals. Each of the hunting regions can be played at different times of the year, and they all look noticeably different. For example, in the winter, the ground and trees are covered with snow, while in the spring, you can see blades of grass moving in the wind on a hillside. The trees and bushes look a bit fake, since they're all basically the same as one another, and the animals unfortunately look very stiff, since they don't have much in the way of animation. But the weapon, vehicle, and hunter models are fairly decent looking. The sounds of the vehicles and weapons firing are more or less the only effects you'll hear in the game, but what's there is done well enough.
In the end, Cabela's Big Game Hunter for the PlayStation 2 is only going to win over a very select portion of the world's gamers. And while the game would most likely not entertain anyone who isn't already into hunting, it should suit either an inexperienced hunter looking for a virtual hunting experience, or a casual gamer who happens to like the sport. So if you fall into one of these categories and have a PlayStation 2, this is a budget game you might want to give a try.