Cabela’s North American Adventures

Cabela’s North American Adventures

The loading screens in Cabela’s North American Adventures are populated with tips on how to play the game. In the middle of those comes this quote from Aristotle: “If some animals are good at hunting and others are suitable for hunting, then clearly the Gods must smile on hunting.” This is a confusing moment for players. Is North American Adventures asking you to consider your simulated hunt an examination of formal logic? Or is it exonerating you from answering the moral quandary created by shooting some unsuspecting nine-pointer in the face for fun? Put it this way: Your first task in the third level is to kill as many marmots as possible in two minutes because “there’s just too many of them for their own good.” Right.

The game, sponsored by the outdoor-recreation marketer Cabela’s, is a strange escapist fantasy. Like many videogames that put you behind the barrel of a gun, it fetishizes some aspects of violence through realism, and others through outlandish exaggeration. That description may make it sound like the game slavishly recreates the patient stalking, marking, and killing of a trophy buck, but also offers access to unattainable objects like legendary trophy animals, or wild guns and tools. But no, the only thing Adventures insists on realistically recreating is how you film a kill. Yes, after taking down your first deer, who runs around like a Covenant grunt from Halo rather than an actual animal, your next task is to play cameraman. Frame your shot precisely for the perfect grade, but ignore the fact that you can outrun a Pennsylvanian whitetail while wearing full hunting gear and carrying a rifle, a shotgun, and a bow.

The controls are simple but sloppy, and do much of the work for you. You can manually zoom with the left trigger before shooting with the right, but when framing a level-specific target, the lens automatically zooms in further and starts shaking to simulate arm tension. Why the occasional shakycam? There’s a decent variety in the goals of the 11 stages of Adventures’ Career Mode, often presenting you with multiple approaches to a hunt, but it never lets you find your own solution. You have to either use the Primos-brand lure, or sneak to a spot your cameraman specifies. If your prey spots you, you have to play a bizarre quick-time event, and if you fail, you’re sent back through multiple loading screens to a checkpoint. Why not have you actually hide and stop moving? Also, where’s all the blood?

The game’s best entertainment comes in the Big Trophy Tournaments—speedy tasks unfettered by the core mode’s bizarre attempt to simulate a Cabela’s hunting show—and galleries like the Prairie Dog Shoot. Even then, though, if you absolutely need to feel like a buckmaster, better to go to the nearest pub for some Big Buck Hunter.