Cabela's African Adventures
With the recent comments from Randy Pitchford about why Borderlands will not be making its way to current-gen consoles (yet), it seems as though porting last-gen games can be an expensive and difficult experience. That may or may not be true, but the fact is that a lot of last generation’s greatest hits are coming to play on current systems.
One game that came out late last generation was Cabela’s African Adventures, a game that further distanced the Cabela’s name from its early video game iterations by focusing more on action, and less on the actual hunting that the name once stood for. I myself did not play Cabela’s African Adventures on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, but I do feel I can safely say this: this is a game that needed a lot more time in development to make it decent, and it needs a lot more than the quick polish it received to make it enjoyable on current systems.
Cabela’s African Adventures casts players as an extremely unlikable hunter/mercenary who enjoys shooting the heck out of everything he sees, at least, I think he enjoys it. I say “think” because the man expresses no emotion, unless you count muttering the word “shit” a compelling example of expressing emotion. Hunter Merc is contacted by a man who is attempting to recover the separated pieces of a shattered artifact, in order to aid the local tribesmen of the area. In an astonishing display of douchebaggery, our protagonist mentions several times (and innumerable more throughout the rest of the game) that he doesn’t care about the plight of the local tribesmen, he is simply after money – how honourable.
After some more flat dialogue the game drops you off in an open area with no clear objective. Hunter Merc will chat to his employer via his radio briefly, but even then they simply hint at possible locations to check out, or animals to be wary of. Thankfully, you are given a 4WD to traverse the area, and stumbling across things to do will happen frequently, though not purposely. You’ll also stumble across the artifact pieces this way as well.
One of the strange things about African Adventures is how bright the environment is. Seriously, this game looks like Zoo Tycoon. Except instead of understanding that peaceful animals deserve a life of tranquility, you’ll be blowing their brains out with rapid-fire gunshots. Resident Evil 5 and Far Cry 2 understood that if you’re looking to create an atmosphere of fear and gritty action, you can apply a colour filter or other techniques to make the environment seem menacing and unforgiving – Cabela’s African Adventures definitely missed that opportunity.
Now while the environment’s seem like open-world sandboxes, when you eliminate the cliffs and scenery designed to box you in or steer you a certain way, the empty areas and the ones without any objective, there is very little to do in this version of Africa. That could be forgiven if the environment’s changed even slightly when you complete an area, but you will find that all of them feel pretty much identical.
Sometime throughout your African adventure you’ll meet a woman. Her name escapes me because the game’s story is woeful, and she (like our protagonist) is completely unengaging. After some bizarre flirting and odd dialogue, you learn that she has been scavenging the corpses of your hunts to provide for the tribes. Fair enough, as you literally blast these critters into oblivion without even taking a single trophy. Hunter Merc, however, informs her of his lack of giving a shit before using a somewhat chauvanistic remark to flirt with her, before hopping in his jeep and leaving her to lug a 2000 pound animal corpse.
I didn’t make it through the entire storyline, and while that would shame me with many other games, it’s embarrassing that I played this much of Cabela’s African Adventures. That’s not because the main story is ridiculous, and it’s not because the “HD” graphics are astonishingly unimpressive, but because of how bland the gameplay is, and how far the franchise has strayed from its roots.
Perhaps in this politically correct world there is no more room for hunting grazing deer in Alaska, or using a duck whistle to lure ducks into your sights, but what’s even more insulting is when a game turns somewhat harmless animals into bloodthirsty killers. Let the record show that I enjoyed the early Cabela’s games on the original Xbox infinitely more than the absurd ones that came out last generation. They required strategy and cunning, stealth and accuracy, this game gives you a dodgeroll and bullet-time from Max Payne!
At one point, Hunter Merc is tracking an artifact when he comes across a small number of African buffalo. One buffalo has red eyes and is twice the size of the others, he is then shown quickly mauling and deterring a number of predators from his buffalo companions. Hunter Merc finds this somewhat remarkable and decides to shoot the crap out of this rare buffalo. Every cutscene showing the buffalo makes it seem like a bloodthirsty and sinister villain, and while I wouldn’t even consider getting close to one in real-life, African Adventures portrays herbivores as vicious killers, who go out of their way to attack anything that moves.
Should you be able to stomach the ridiculous story, bland gameplay and unimpressive graphics, you’ll be treated to a number of bugs and glitches, and a camera system that while it hasn’t met you, hates you and your family and will actively go out of its way to sabotage your experience with African Adventures. Even Super Mario 64 had a better functioning camera.
Ultimately, Cabela’s African Adventures is a game that no one should bother playing, let alone buying. It fails in every department, from its insulting and ridiculous story, to its woeful graphics and broken gameplay. There are countless other games that better deserve your attention and money. Seek them out.