Review: Big Buck Hunter Pro (Xbox Live)


Shooting games are a staple of gaming, but sometimes they just stray too close into uncomfortable territory. That's where the latest Xbox Live title, Big Buck Hunter Pro, sits. Solid graphics and realistic sound effects add to the effect. The developers have done a good job here, but when your starting point is recreating the traumatic scenes from Bambi, it's a tough sell.

Author: Microsoft Game Studios

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Big Buck Hunter Pro

One thing that Big Buck Hunter Pro does get right is the user interface. This is a very easy game to navigate through, with great splash graphics, big buttons, and clear menu options. The developers clearly know what they're doing. There's a sop to multiplayer in the game, with a pass-around-to-play option which delivers exactly the same game, but lasting twice as long, but the focus is on the single player game.

Gameplay sees you selecting from a number of treks. Shorter treks take place in one geographic area, while longer treks allow you to move around. Once you have a location there are various sites you can shoot from, which are analogous to stages in the game. These can be played in any order, so choose one at random and away you go.

Big Buck Hunter Pro

You'll then be taken to the sites , where various animals will run past you. Try and spot the Bucks, touch them to fire your rifle, and see if they drop dead. There is a uniformity to each level, with three Bucks to shoot, and once they run past you, that stage is at an end.

You can then move on to the next site/stage, where you do the same again. And again. And again. All with a rockabilly country music soundtrack and a 'good old boy' announcer trying to keep the mood nice and light.

I'm not that impressed with the controls to be honest. Fingers are rather large objects, and the target areas on the bucks are very small. Which leads to a number of occurrences of a still buck, a perfectly tapped shot, and a miss.

Big Buck Hunter Pro

Perhaps this might perform a little better on the HTC Titan or the larger screened Windows Phone 8 devices, but on my Lumia 800 the pixel accuracy required to achieve a kill is out of balance with the size of my finger. I can't see a way around that physical issue to make the game more accurate while maintaining any type of challenge.

Big Buck Hunter Pro has a formula, and it sticks to it. That's a formula that may have served it well in the arcade cabinets of the early 21st century (which is where this title originates from), but when you boil it down to a touch screen device that is always with you and always available to play on, it's not enough. Even if this was dropped to the 79p/99cents bracket of Xbox Live titles, it's still overpriced. There is a place in Xbox Live, and Windows Phone as a whole, for games with simple controls, but these games can have a complexity and addictive quality to them. As you might have guess, 'Hunter is missing these qualities.

Big Buck Hunter Pro

There's also something that feels a bit wrong with Big Buck Hunter Pro. Unlike the heightened reality of arcade games like Extraction, the subject matter of Big Buck Hunter left me worried. Hunting is not for me, there is no risk, and the game is rewarding you for violent kills on defenceless animals, which are portrayed accurately enough on screen to really bring home the nature of the game as they crumple to the ground. That's not for me, and I'm not sure that this reaction will be unique. The ESRB content rating is 'Teen', but part of me wonders if this needs to be a bit higher because of the subject matter.

Big Buck Hunter Pro is competently coded, but there's very little to do in the game that isn't based on your reaction time. It won't take long to overstay its welcome, and the subject matter leaves me feeling icky. You might find something more in it, but this is not for me.

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