Ubisoft has produced a video game based on the Open Season animated film for every active game-playing device under the sun. Although they're all action adventure games patterned after the movie and share some aspects in common, the games are different from one another in terms of overall execution and quality. Without question, the least interesting of the bunch is the multiplatform version produced for the PC, Xbox, GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox 360 platforms. It distills the movie into a sequence of 25 mundane third-person levels, each involving one of the two main characters, in which you fetch nonsensical items, sneak around, and toss skunks and rabbits at strategically placed hunters. To add insult to injury, the character interactions from the film are depicted in the game as lifeless dialogue segments put together with tepid in-game graphics and halfhearted voice recordings. In light of all that, it's unlikely that fans of the movie, or anyone else, will get a satisfactory amount of enjoyment out of this particular version of Open Season.
Like most movie tie-ins, the overall level progression in the game's adventure mode follows and expands on what happened in the film. The story concerns a tame grizzly bear named Boog who ends up partnered with a weakling deer named Elliot after an unfortunate chain of events leaves the pair stuck in the wilderness far away from Boog's otherwise cushy life as someone's pet in a small town. To make their way back to town, Boog and Elliot must travel through the different parts of the forest, enlist the other animals for help, and use Boog's wild abilities to scare off all of the hunters that have come to participate in the newly opened hunting season. In each of the game's 25 levels, you will control either Boog or Elliot and find yourself fetching items for the other animals while scaring off hunters using a combination of the heroic duo's own skills and the weaponlike abilities of the animals that Boog has befriended. Some levels also incorporate action sequences involving makeshift cannons or sprints down the mountain in contraptions such as a mine cart or a raft made from an outhouse.
While it sounds like there's a lot to do in the game, the harsh reality is that the abundant fetch quests all feel the same, and the portions involving the hunters rarely welcome the use of the many skills that take so much time to gain access to. Being sent to collect things like grubs for a mama skunk or a beaver's lunchbox is fine when you're asked to do so on occasion, but the game is loaded with similarly dull fetch quests. Successfully completing these errands lets Boog pick up and toss animals at the hunters. Initially, the only animal Boog can pick up is Elliot, who is never far behind but isn't good for much except grabbing distant coin items and distracting hunters. The other animals are more mischievous. Skunks can be lobbed at hunters and into houses to stink up the joint, squirrels can be thrown into trees or atop hunters' heads to function as nut-throwing turrets, and rabbits turn into kicking facehuggers when thrown in hunters' faces. The animals also eventually teach Boog how to sniff for treats, swim, and steamroll over hunters. Before Boog learns those skills, the only actions he can perform, apart from hurling Elliot, are donning a disguise to hide, roaring to scare hunters, and picking up and tossing things.
Once you have access to all of Boog's skills and weapons, the game really gets going. Unfortunately, by that point, the quest is nearly done. The first 20 levels tend to focus on isolated abilities or emphasize the use of the sneak and roar abilities. It's only the last four or five levels that incorporate everything. It's a shame the team producing this version of the game didn't borrow a page from the PlayStation Portable version's playbook and make a single massive gameworld of interconnected environments that you can wander back and forth between as new missions are revealed.
Characters are introduced and the story is told through numerous dialogue scenes. These scenes seem to be patterned after similar situations in the film, but they don't employ film footage or any sort of prerendered video. Instead, they're put together from a combination of in-game graphics and dialogue recorded specifically for the game. This poses a couple of problems. From a visual standpoint, the characters and environments look crisp, but they're also extremely plain. The characters aren't very detailed, their animations lack personality, and there's rarely anything going on in the environment aside from streams flowing by or butterflies fluttering around. During dialogue scenes, these plain-looking characters stand around and make modest face and hand gestures while speaking their lines. Meanwhile, the voice performances turned in by the soundalike actors hired to mimic Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher, and the other film actors generally lack passion and do a poor job of making situations seem humorous or tense. The only time a scene is portrayed with sufficient energy is when it's handled within one of the action levels where you can actually control Boog and Elliot as they shoot hunters with makeshift cannons or freefall down a portion of the mountain aboard a rickety vehicle.
The graphics and audio merely get the job done and rarely tickle the senses. The levels are large and have an almost cel-shaded look, and the characters move fluidly and resemble their film counterparts, but there's not a whole lot of detail evident in either the environments or the characters. Boog and Elliot move matter-of-factly, and all of the animals and enemies patrol their small patches of territory without much fanfare. In the surrounding environment, the only sweet touches of note are the blades of grass that move aside as you walk through them and the streams and lakes in some levels that employ impressive reflection and wave motion effects. The sound effects weren't taken from the film, but they're suitably upbeat. Background atmosphere comes mainly from the ambient forest noise, since there isn't any music other than the riffs that play when Boog is spotted. On the whole, Open Season looks and sounds like any other generic 3D adventure game featuring cute characters and forest-themed environments.
Everything is just a little nicer in the PC, Xbox, and Xbox 360 versions of the game, compared with the GameCube and PlayStation 2 versions. The graphics are crisper and exhibit a bit more detail, thanks to the use of higher-resolution textures and the increased polygon and pixel counts afforded by the beefier hardware. The frame rates are steadier too. Boog and the other animals aren't more personable in these versions, but their fur and other body features are easier to make out. In addition, the environments benefit from an increase in the amount of grass and other plant life, as well as from better light sourcing and improved water effects. The audio in these versions also trumps the audio in the PS2 and GameCube versions, if only slightly, due to the implementation of surround sound and a greater variety of animal and atmospheric noises. Out of the five versions, the Xbox 360 game looks the best. Its textures are cleaner and noticeably more detailed than those in the Xbox and PC versions, especially when viewed on a high-definition TV. That's not to suggest that the game looks impressive when compared with other Xbox 360 games, but it is a nice visual upgrade over what the over versions of Open Season have on offer.
It's too bad that the main adventure mode is so weak, because the game also includes a number of bonus features that would otherwise bring a fair amount of added value to a movie tie-in like this one. The main story takes only about four hours to finish, but individual levels can be played over and over again so that you can seek out any remaining forest badges and revisit your favorite moments and dialogue scenes. Apart from the 25 main levels, there are seven competitive minigames to enjoy, involving tasks such as log rolling and flower picking. You are limited to challenging the CPU in the PC version, but the versions available for stand-alone consoles let as many as four players hook up controllers and participate. The minigames are good for a few minutes of play here and there, especially if you're able to recruit some friends to play with, though it would have been nice if the developer had implemented online play for the platforms that support Internet connectivity. Rounding out the list of bonus features is a large library of animal facts, concept drawings, and movie stills that gradually builds as you collect the numerous badges hidden throughout the adventure mode.
Xbox 360 owners may take additional solace in the way achievement points are doled out in that particular version of the game. You're awarded on an almost continual basis just for completing levels, befriending new animals, and redeeming coins to purchase better skills. Still more are given for finishing the game, collecting all of the badges and coins in each level, and putting together complete collections of the different ranger badge categories. Anyone remotely competent at video games can probably satisfy all 46 achievements and rack up the full 1,000 points in five or six hours.
Ultimately, it's hard to imagine anyone having a good time with this version of Open Season. The action is repetitive and dull, almost to the point of coming across as patronizing, and it takes forever for levels to come along that let you make use of all of Boog's abilities. Added to that, the overall presentation falls so flat that the game never comes close to capturing one iota of the whimsy that even the commercials promoting the film had.