Leave it to a recreation brand like Cabela’s to bring their hunting lifestyle expertise to any venture they can, and what better way to introduce the joys of hunting than through a popular videogame franchise? Over the years, Activision and Cabela’s have made semi-realistic hunting a familiar presence on retail shelves, but logic dictates that will only get you so far. Perhaps the recent wave of outdoor survival programs influenced the latest entry, Cabela’s Survival: Shadow of Katmai, to feel less like actually being the hunter and more like living through a natural disaster flick you see on late night television. Will the millions of Cabela fans embrace such a radical shift away from hunting in their favorite franchise?
Indeed, this is quite a departure from what we’ve played in previous titles where the real aim (no pun intended) was to blast critters without a care in the world. This time things are much different as you step into the shoes of everyman Logan James, a bush pilot who barely survives a horrific crash-landing in the brutally remote Alaskan wilderness. The situation couldn’t be more perilous for him as this happens during one of the worst wintery storms in history, and now he’s faced with the constant threat of hungry animal predators and navigating the rugged terrain. Needless to say, our stranded hero has problems that only you can help him solve.
After you’ve acclimated yourself to the situation you’ll quickly notice how Shadow of Katmai feels less like your traditional Cabela’s title and more like other well established games as it borrows liberally from titles like Tomb Raider and Uncharted, with an emphasis on platforming action like climbing rocks and leaping over snowbound ravines. Those who expected to play with shotguns over outdoor ranges will be disappointed as only a handful of wolves, mountain lions, and gigantic bears make up the brief dramatic encounters of ‘live or die’ moments. The only times where having good aim is important is when you’re prowling for fur and food from the rabbits or moose, and even these moments have been streamlined as your winning spoils are transported instantly into your pouch, with no cleaning or cooking required. This might sound great if your lazy, but not so much if you were hoping for a more authentic hunting experience.
The Top Shot Elite rifle peripheral is available to use in this game, but the only times you’ll take full advantage of using it is within the unlockable shooting galleries. If you enjoyed any of the on-rail shooting experiences in previous Cabela’s games than you should be satisfied with making mincemeat of furries and birds in Rambo-like fashion. It’s as absurd as ever, but entertaining nonetheless.
On paper, the idea of bringing Cabela’s popular outdoor hunting brand to a wider audience sounds like a good idea, but that’s not what we get with Cabela’s Survival: Shadows of Katmai, which drops much of the hunting expertise in favor of an unpolished action-adventure. What could have been a fun diversion from the standard shooting-only familiarity of the series instead becomes a tedious Uncharted-style clone, with platforming gameplay mixing uncomfortably with streamlined survival/hunting elements that won’t please fans of either genre. Even worse, the expensive Top Shop Elite attachment is basically holsterd here, limited to a handful of shooting galleries. If you want that engaging survival experience in the comfort of your own home, I think you’ll have a better time watching Bear Grylls on the Discovery Channel.
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