Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 - the game itself - retails for $50 US pretty much everywhere, but for ten extra dollars you can get the combination package that includes a Top Shot Elite peripheral. Essentially a glorified Nintendo Wii remote, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions use an infrared LED bar powered by AA batteries (the Wii version uses the console's LED bar). The Top Shot itself is comfy and easy to figure out. Unfortunately it is plagued by the “less-than-eight-feet” rule. Meaning that trying to use it at a distance of less than eight feet from the LED bar will render it useless. I was able to get it calibrated twice, and both times the reticule moved way too fast, proportionally. The scope attachment didn’t line up with the reticule, making the whole experience an exercise in futility.
So I swapped to a standard controller, and found the controls to feel way more natural and comfortable - in addition to actually working.
Comfortable, well engineered...no good at close range.
The campaign is narrated by the player’s character. One cutscene at the start sets up a story about an international hunting contest, and the load screens for each hunt continue that story. The contest manager also gives tips and plot updates via a “phone voice” during hunts. It has a nice flow to it, but ultimately it’s altogether unnecessary. It does nothing to motivate; it’s just kind of there for the sake of being there. Maybe someone at ActiVision needed some busywork.
As you progress more rifles and shotguns are unlocked - these can be upgraded by spending points that you’ve earned along the way. Upgrades include more powerful scopes, harder hitting ammo, and several other basic options. You can carry two firearms in any given hunt, along with your deer call and binoculars.
Hunts are objective based and grant you scores depending on what kind of blind or stand you may utilize, how many shots you needed for the takedown, and if you are able to accept a special challenge for each one. These trophy challenges generally specify an extended range, multiple targets, or even push you to be patient and identify certain animals in a small herd or group for extra points. Throughout each hunt small varmints and birds will cross your path and give you the opportunity to earn some more points with your shotgun. Predators will also sometimes attack, and you must have decent reflexes and good aim to drop them mid-air.
By far my favorite part about any hunt is the ability to slow things down and get a good bead on your target. By holding the left bumper everything goes into slow motion and any animal under your crosshairs is suddenly x-rayed - its vital internals are highlighted from within, giving you the option of how to take it down. For someone who needs practice choosing where to aim in a real hunting scenario, this is a wondrous feature.
Using blinds and stands earns extra points. Animals are highlighted in red in this view mode.