Review: Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012

Thanks to video games, you can be a pro athlete, a top marksman, a strategic advisor, and even an experienced hunter – all from the comfort of your own home. Some games do their best to offer an authentic and realistic feeling, and others take a more “arcade” and “fun” route; Activision’s Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 is an odd mix of both of those that left me a little confused after I finished it. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed playing the game, but it was far different than what I expected.

I expected beautiful environments, a nice assortment of weapons, upgrades to said weapons, and realistic animal behavior. I hoped for some sort of progression system – which I love – a realistic approach to equipment as far as weight and so forth, customizable gear, and smooth controls.

With two main modes, Story and Galleries, you have a few options to start with. Galleries is a group of events ranging from shooting certain animals in a certain order or a full out on-rails arcade style shooter. If you’re like me, though, and use an inverted look option in your games, you’ll be disappointed to know that you can only turn look inversion on in Story mode. This is a problem for both Galleries and Story mode, which I will touch on later. Galleries are fun, my favorite being Arcade. But, outside of a few trophies, getting a highscore and some stars (you can get up to three stars, which your total stars unlock new levels), this mode was mostly passable.

Like I said, most of what I expected from Story mode, however, was drastically different than I anticipated. Yes, the environments are beautiful. While it’s the same concept as most shooters these days with the “walk down corridor, stop, shoot, walk down corridor, veer off to find secret area, repeat” formula, it does a great job of looking and sounding authentic. Animals scurry around with realistic animations, and you can hear crickets (and in Texas, snakes) in the distance. Animals and grass also don’t get along apparently, because there are quite a few instances of grass going straight through and animal and poking through another side. It looks terrifying, too, might I add.

The game is split into days. Each area (areas being Texas, Alaska, Montana, etc.) presents three days, or stages. While loading, a narrator will tell the story from your hunter’s perspective. To be honest, I had no idea this was a persistant story until a third of the way through. I just thought I was doing different hunts. Everything follows suit as you try to prove your mettle against the other hunters. Not to spoil anything but tragedies happen, animals die, and scary animals attack you.

You can find side “hidden” areas, in which you usually take a picture of a specific animal (sometimes two), but the levels are very linear in design. It advertises “open environments”, and yes, you can pick between a few different stands for more points (usually further in distance), but in the grand scope of things, it is a pretty hall you are walking down.

You start with a shotgun and semi-long range rifle. You will gain access to a long range rifle, a bow, and a scoped pistol as you progress. You can earn money by shooting trophy game, which will allow you to upgrade your arsenal; to a small degree. By small degree, I mean a few stat-changing modifications like a better scope, a larger clip, etc. That is it. You don’t have to purchase ammo. You don’t have a variety of weapons to pick from. That is really the sad part about the Story mode, is that it focuses too much on the story, and it isn’t a free campaign like I had thought it would be.

At certain times, dangerous animals will attack. You summon time-slowing powers to take a killing shot, only to discover that the controls are backwards if you have the look inverted “for Story Mode only”. Every single time I was attacked, my first shot was in a corner of the screen. This is the fundamental flaw with having look inversion “for Story Mode only.”

After the story concludes, you can always go back to mop up trophies, or try out the new scoped pistol you will have unlocked. Unfortunately, there isn’t as much replay value as if they had cut the story out and replaced it with an open and rather loose career mode. The plot itself had a few points of interest but was overall bland and forgettable. I had fun playing and enjoyed the game while it lasted, but with sub-par voice acting and generic writing, I wouldn’t recommend it for the story; on the contrary the gameplay and environments can be quite a little treat.

With all the ideas of a grandiose hunting career smashed, I’m left with one last thing to say; the negativity in the previous paragraphs shouldn’t sway interested gamers away from the game. It is not a bad game by any standards and it just took a surprising left turn instead of a right turn. Again, I enjoyed surveying the environments. I really loved the random slow motion bullet trails as I hit my mark dead-on.

I felt accomplished, despite the hand-holding detective mode (hitting a button turns everything blue, and highlights wildlife, trails, etc) and “hold your breath” feature (hitting L1 slowed down time, and highlighted key target points such as the spine, neck, heart and lungs). Watching rabbits, foxes and boars randomly pass in front you broke any sort of realism as well. Not to mention crouching, you could sit right in front of a deer walking on it’s set-path, and it wouldn’t notice you. Scary realism, huh?

All-in-all, the biggest flaw in this game is advertising any sort of realism. If they pushed this as an arcade game, or anything other than realistic, you could not say too many bad things about it besides the fact that it was a short game.  The game is only $40, so it has that in its pocket as well. Don’t be ashamed to check the game out if you are into shooters and need a break from shooting people.


  • Pretty scenery and rich sounds
  • still has a sense of accomplishment
  • not realistic in the slightest
  • not enough weapons or upgrades
  • forgettable story
Score: 3*/5
Top Shot Elite:
Big Game Hunt 2012 comes with an optional bundle packaged with the Top Shot Elite peripheral. This is a plastic gun with a sensor bar. I played the game a little bit with it and found that the sensor is a pain to work with compared to the ease of the Playstation Move. I was standing at  the recommended distance and the Top Shot kept losing contact with the bar. The other reason I couldn’t use it for the whole game is the red film over the scope; I actually wanted to use the scope, which I found frustrating due to not being able to see. This is the first game I have played with the Top Shot so maybe it will grow on me with time. Keep checking back in future reviews .
 [Note: I’m looking to review Shadows of Katmai in the near future.]



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Author: Don Parsons View all posts by
Starting out as a founding member of Gamingcore Podcast, Don ventured on to start Gameciety; which began as a podcast, and ended as a blog. Don now handles's PR work, is part of the reviews staff and has various other little projects he does for the site.