Developer: Activision
Price: $4.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

When people think of Activision’s gigantic stable of, to take words out of CEO Bobby Kotick’s own mouth,  “annualizable game franchises,” titles like Guitar Hero, World of Warcraft and the upcoming Call of Duty all spring to mind.  As hard as it may be to believe, there was one franchise that came long before any of these brands ever existed, and could be considered arguably just as lucrative: Cabela’s. A staggering thirty plus games later, and spanning nearly a full decade, the series is still going strong and has now set its sights on the iPhone.  Will Dangerous Hunts 2011 prove to be a successful fresh start for the Cabela’s brand, or is this another shot in the dark?

Hunting games haven’t always gotten the best rap on the iOS, but what else could be expected from a genre that consists of standing in one place and firing at innocent herbivores?  Rest assured that Dangerous Hunts is not the same ilk of shooting gallery style gameplay, instead opting for a fully player controlled first person shooter experience.  Granted, the hunts are very directed and objective based, but it is a refreshing difference from the rest of an otherwise evolutionarily stymied industry.

Not only does the player have full character control within fully rendered three-dimensional environments, but there is even a complete and even more shockingly, coherent storyline to follow as well.  The quest isn’t just “go to Field A, then mow down Bambi and Thumper” missions either.  Heck, there are even fetch quests for you to fulfill, in order to better build out your arsenal of weapons.  You play a son that is desperately trying to discover the truth behind his father’s hunting prowess, in order to save villages from a man-eating beast. While the story isn’t going to be winning a Pulitzer anytime soon, it at least provides context for the carnage, which is more than can be said for most of the competition.

As refreshing as the shocking amount of thought that went into Dangerous Hunts 2011 is, arguably the two worst components of the game are an amalgamation of shoddy visuals and mediocre controls.  Cabela’s first release was on PC, way back in 2001.  This is only pertinent because it seems to share the same graphics engine with the iOS iteration.  Further exacerbating matters, the environments are sparsely populated at best and feature 3D models that look more like Papier-mâché sculptures than living creatures.  Navigation seems to suffer from the same lack of polish, featuring generic dual stick movement, while also confusingly mapping gunfire to a tap of the right analog nub.  The unfortunate result of these controls lead to many unnecessary and unplanned shots, while in the heat of the moment.

Activision has made many of the right decisions while attempting to reboot their Cabela’s franchise with a portable focus in mind.  Though Dangerous Hunts 2011 scores a bullseye on delivering a more robust, and even console-life campaign experience, piss-poor presentation and an awkward control scheme seem to veer this shot radically off target.  This may be a hunt that would have been better served never leaving the cabin.

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