Cabela's Alaskan Adventures REVIEW

Cabela's Alaskan Adventures Review (Xbox 360)

I’m still puzzled at where exactly my love for sports came from. As far back as I can remember, I was playing something; even if it was baseball with a rolled-up sock and an old chair leg. I started Little League at four. I played my first year of tackle football at seven, by which time I had already worked in a season of basketball and two of soccer. I was a sports junkie as a kid. But what always struck me as strange was that my parents were not. Not even close.

My mom never liked sports. She was a cheerleader in high school, but that was for status, not sport. I can count on one hand the number of games that she attended in my life. It just wasn’t her scene. Even stranger to me was that my dad was the same way. My dad was not the typical dad that sat down with a “sixer” on Sundays and watched the game. He didn’t go to Opening Day. He didn’t have a team. He didn’t even watch the Super Bowl! It’s only since he retired that he rediscovered golf, a sport that he dabbled in a little in his time in the Navy during Vietnam. But, my dad always considered himself a sportsman. In fact, he considered himself the ultimate sportsman. He was a hunter. He’ll even go as far as to say that he is the hunter. I remember him telling me a few years back that he's so good, that when he draws his bow, his freezer clicks on.

That’s my dad.

That’s not me.

I’m not a hunter. I’m not a fisherman. They aren’t really sports to me. It’s hard to qualify something as a sport when the opponent doesn’t know he’s playing. If you played football with the same rules, it would be called "assault and battery".

But, I am a gamer, literally and figuratively. I’m game for just about anything when it comes to gaming. So, I was actually kind of excited to take a shot (pun intended) at Cabela’s Alaskan Adventures from Activision. Hunting games have been a staple for quite some time, but the only track-and-kill options on the Xbox 360 up to this point have involved human prey. With controller in hand, I saddled up to my 360 decked out in orange, reeking of deer urine, and waited for the thrill of the hunt. That thrill never came.

While you are equipped with a few options for play in Cabela’s Alaskan Adventures, the main mode is simply called Adventure. After creating a hunter through an extremely limited and borderline-creepy player creator, you start at a central outpost, kind of like deer camp, that will act as your hub for each leg of the adventure. From there, you can purchase various types of equipment and choose the tags you want to purchase for your hunt. If you’re not familiar with the tag concept in hunting, you are basically pre-paying for what you plan to shoot later. If you have a tag to take down an elk, you can legally shoot an elk. If you don’t, well that’s a no-no. The tags available to you change as you move through different outposts.

Once you’re strapped and ready to head out, you’ll use a first-person camera to walk the trails in search of your prize. There’s a heads-up display (HUD) that will help you determine the areas where you will find animals. The efficiency of this HUD will change based on the difficulty you select to play on. You can try to lay down bait or use other methods to attract your prey, but I found that it really wasn’t necessary. Most of the animals in the game will simply attack you. Five seconds and a bullet to the forehead later, it’s Miller time! Maybe I’m missing the point of hunting, but I always thought the challenge was silently finding, stalking, and finally taking them down, usually from afar. Not here. It’s more self-defense than hunting.

Besides your normal hunts, you’ll also be required to do some fishing to make your way through the adventure. The fishing, like the hunting, seems to lack one important element – realism. Again, I’m not a fisherman, but I did go salmon fishing with my brother-in-law a couple years back, and what I did on those days was nothing like the mundane interface I found in Cabela’s Alaskan Adventures. You’ll also be taking part in sledding and duck hunting challenges. None of them really made much sense to me and could have been left out without missing anything in the mode.

The controls for all types of events are pretty basic and easy to pick up, unfortunately, that’s really the only thing I can find positive to say. The AI, as mentioned earlier, is really poor. The animals do not behave anywhere the manner you would expect, and even the hunters themselves all seem to be asthmatic couch potatoes based on the breakneck speed in which they fatigue.

The sights and sounds in Cabela’s Alaskan Adventures are no better. That’s actually the thing that probably disappointed me the most. We know what the team at Activision can do with the power of the 360, so where is it on this title? I’ve played Call of Duty, I can’t stop playing the Tony Hawk Project 8 demo, and both of those titles have completely enthralling and possess excellent, highly detailed environments both visually and aurally. But Cabela's graphics fall somewhere in the late PS1/early Xbox level. In the end, they are quite boxy with no sense of space, scale or texture. That missing element alone takes an already subpar title and pushes it even lower.

After giving this title all the time that I felt that it deserved, I gave my dad a call. I asked him what it was about hunting and fishing that kept him coming back every season for the last 50+ years. He told me that the thrill was in the hunt itself. It wasn’t what he shot or how big it was. It wasn’t about the fish he pulled in or the one that got away. He enjoyed every moment of the experience, regardless of the outcome. He said that a bad day hunting was better then a good day doing almost anything else.

Maybe my dad was more passionate about sports then I gave him credit for? Maybe there is something to this whole outdoorsmen thing?

That actually made it a little more depressing that Cabela’s Alaskan Adventures wasn’t a better game. It wasn’t the subject that was problem, it was the execution.

Cabela's Alaskan Adventures Score
out of 10