More like an immersive outdoors adventure than a game really, Cabela’s The Hunt – Championship Edition has hit the Nintendo Switch with a hunting experience that is, thankfully, actually made for hunters.
The Hunt is ready to play straight out of the box, with no downloads required. Enter a virtual Cabela Bass Pro Shop and select your character, undergo some basic shooting training and get started. Initially your inventory contains just a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun, .30-06 bolt-action rifle, .357 Magnum revolver and Redhead Kronik compound bow. Progression through the game unlocks enhanced gear and customisation.
The story mode of the game is a seasonal hunt where you traverse 10 famous North American locations as part of a tournament. You immediately become familiar with using your GPS tracker and ATV, along with learning the importance of tracking, stalking, scent, calls, blinds, decoys and so on. These hunting skills and equipment vary from state to state as the tournament goes on and creates a sense of realism and progression.
Animal qualities like rack size provide a trophy score for each state’s targeted animals as competitors challenge for a ranking atop the leaderboard. You are given tags to legally shoot various animals to gain ‘reputation’, with the goal being to earn enough reputation to unlock the next state. Further reputation is secured through a mixture of hunting challenges and it’s up to you how points are tallied up. Exploration is rewarded, with five landmarks per state to discover. Taking out vermin and other pests doesn’t require a tag and is also rewarded. Removing the state’s tournament animal brings huge reputation, as does the King of Bucks (Bass Pro Shops record-sized whitetail bucks) and Legendary Animals, with one of each per state. Wyoming’s Legendary Animal, for instance, is a bighorn sheep, which you glass from afar as it moves about on an inaccessible rocky outcrop. Timing is everything in these situations and you’ll need to rely on the knowledge and experience you’ve acquired with glassing, stalking and more.
There’s added realism in that you can be penalised for actions like shooting a female of a species or using an inappropriate firearm for a particular animal. To keep things interesting there are mini-games particular to each region, which break things up and also adds to your reputation. These quick-action missions range from assisting farmers by taking out animals ruining crops to ATV and long-range shooting challenges.
Animals hunted are local to the regions found and include various deer, elk, bears, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, cougars, wolves, wild boars, waterfowl and alligators. Glass well and take your time to find an impressive trophy and dominate the leaderboard.
Although the maps aren’t massive, they are big enough to impart a real sense of exploration. I delightfully came across an old swamp shack in Georgia for instance when hunting alligators, which was one of five landmarks situated in that state. Straying too far from your ATV will remind you of the vastness, with movement on foot slow going. Overall movement within the game is extremely realistic ‑ if you couldn’t do it in real life on foot or ATV, you can’t do it here.
Hunting is predominantly the real deal too and terrains include blinds and plenty of accessible range to use as cover. A welcome ‘gaming’ feature is stealth mode (with the simple push of a button), which keeps you quiet and low to the ground, allowing you to see animals more easily. Another is when you take a particularly good long-distance shot, everything slows down as the camera follows the bullet to its landing spot on the animal. The game also tracks all of your stats including kills, accuracy, preferred firearm/bow, best rack and the rest.
The graphics won’t necessarily win any awards but the game does a great job of ushering you into the diverse environments. The music associated with the menu and other parts of the game stops when you’re out hunting and the sound becomes animals, crunching of ground underfoot, weapons being loaded and fired, running water and waterfalls. You’ll hear coyotes howling, ducks quacking, bears roaring, as well as insects and birds chirping. There’s also plenty of options from the pause menu to customise your hunting experience, like volume for sound and speech, brightness, sensitivity, inverted aim, motion control and vibration functionality.
Controls are all well laid out for the various commands like aim, zoom, shoot, weapon selection, talk, enter stealth mode, GPS, drive etc. Playing in portable mode works well with headphones on, as it does on TV with the Pro Controller. The 22″ firearm peripheral is ideal for the arcade mode mini-games on the big screen, which are an absolute blast, especially in two-player mode. They feature indoor and outdoor ranges, ATV races, duck hunting, Forest Frenzy – an intensely fun ‘on-rails’ hunt for multiple animals that includes a battle of sorts against an angry boar, and Blindfare ‑ 360-degree movement inside a blind as waves of animals run rampant, with boars and bears adding to the chaos as they attack your blind to destroy it. Pleasingly, facts about the areas and/or animals appear onscreen during the brief loading times between mini-games, which can actually help with your Seasonal Hunt campaign.
The Hunt’s replay value is high with the 10 states’ Legendary Animal and King of Bucks, locations to discover and variety of animals keeping you coming back for more. The chaotic and amusing versus mode is ideal for family laughs or a night in with some mates. Furthermore, Free Hunt mode is a third gameplay option, where you hunt without any limitations, rules or leaderboards to worry about. Ultimately, The Hunt is a comprehensive hunting experience on many levels that supplies a fulfilling opportunity to hunt, when you’re not out hunting.