Monday, September 01, 2008

Hunting Unlimited 2009 Review

Hunting Unlimited 2009, developed by SCS Software and published by ValuSoft on Gamer’s Gate.
The Good: Lots of guns and equipment, variety of game to cause harm to, plenty of objective-based missions, support for online tournaments, scenario editor
The Not So Good: Arduous realistic pace, lacks real-time online play, graphics are outdated, horrible voice acting and music
What say you? There is a lot of content for the price in this hunting simulation: 6/8

Is hunting really a sport? I think it would be more fair if the animals were given guns as well, although I suppose trunks, antlers, and sharp teeth make a quick substitute. Whatever you want to call it, hunting is popular, as evidenced by the scores of supply stores scattered across our nation. Personally, I would feel bad shooting a defenseless creature (but they sure taste good!), so having a hunting experience in computerized form serves as a good replacement. Hunting Unlimited 2009 gives us a look into the future (all the way year) of the “sport.” I've reviewed some budget-priced hunting games before, so I am ready for my yearly venture in the deadly arts. The art of shooting deer in the face.

Clearly the worst aspect of Hunting Unlimited 2009 is the budget-priced presentation. This starts with the graphics, which just plain look old. The textures are blurry and unrefined, the environments only look good from a distance and feature severe pop-in shrubs and grass, and the animal models exhibit only a handful of animations. Animals will continue to walk normally after being shot, and the death animations are disappointing, if you could call watching an animal die disappointing. There is no gore per se in the game, although animals will show a red hole where bullets have entered. There is a slightly disturbing bullet camera that follow shots as they speed towards their ultimate destination. About the only slightly neat aspect of the graphics is that looking towards the sun closes your eyelids and affects you field of view, but even this feature is kind of annoying. As for the sound, it's a poor showing with one exception: the environmental sounds are actually quite good. However, the mediocre theme music, insulting quips by your hunter (“I'm so pumped” after using a shotgun? *groan*), and intrusive background music rounds out the underwhelming package. They say you get what you pay for, and so it is in Hunting Unlimited 2009.

Things start to get a lot better once you look past the graphics. First, Hunting Unlimited 2009 features a whole bunch (that's a technical term) of challenges: almost 100. These are presented in a tiered system of increasing difficulty: scoring adequately on about half of the challenges in one level will unlock the next. Each challenge comes with predetermined weapons and accessories, a target species , and bonus points for getting things like shots to vital organs (ewww!), close range kills, or completing the mission within the time limit. Most of the early missions start you right next to your objective, so there isn't much running around to do. There is also a penalty for shooting more creatures than you are alloted, so you can't just starting shooting everything in sight, no matter how tempting. The 100-or-so missions offer up some good variety with different environments, varied targets, and an array of weapons; they will certainly keep you busy for quite a long time. Because 100 missions aren't enough, you can even create your own scripted missions if you'd like using the in-game editor. If a structured mission isn't your cup of tea, you can choose any of the nine rather large locations (like Alaska, the southern Rockies, or Africa) and up to six region-specific animals to populate the area. You can alter the concentration of each creature (if you've got a need....the need for elephant), although even when you put them on “high,” it can be difficult to find some prey. You can also practice with each weapon on the target range and there is support for online tournaments, although the game directs you to an official website that does not exist. Oopsy! Overall, Hunting Unlimited 2009 features a lot of content for your monetary investment.

The objective of Hunting Unlimited 2009 is straightforward: shoot things. You are given a selection of twenty-five weapons, from rifles and bows to shotguns and pistols. Each weapon comes with a description on its intended purpose, but the game lacks a filter to find the right weapon for you (like long-range, big-game rifles, for example). The ballistics seem to be accurate, as evidenced by the random spread of shotgun pellets. You can also equip yourself with a number of hunting accessories: scents, decoys, calls, cover, and vehicles. Most of the missions give you access to a set list and there is no cost or weight limit to worry about, which removes some strategy from the game. The dumb animals are, well, dumb animals: they have highly scripted circular movement patterns that removes some of the stalking fun out of the hunting experience. The game pace is very slow; this will turn off a lot of potential customers, as Hunting Unlimited 2009 takes a realistic approach to the experience. You will be holding down the shift key for most of the time (in order to run); I actually experienced some hand cramps from having to press it continually. Even the ATV is slow, and you need to sneak up on animals or else they will scatter. This is certainly not Unreal Tournament. The overall experience, though, is enjoyable, as long as you enjoy hunting, that is. You'll have to use real tactics like sneaking around in brush, staying downwind of the animals, and deploying blinds and towers. I can definitely see how people could get bored to tears with this game, but if you want an accurate hunting simulation, then Hunting Unlimited 2009 is your game.

Hunting Unlimited 2009 features a lot of content for only $20. There are 100 scenarios (plus an editor to make more), a plethora of weapons, and a variety of animals across the globe. You'd be hard pressed to find another game that matches what Hunting Unlimited 2009 offers, and this includes the big-budget shooters. I read some reviews of Hunting Unlimited 2008 (which is probably not much different that this game) and they were all very negative. Why? Two main reasons: you are shooting animals and the graphics. Now, Hunting Unlimited 2009 is not a great game, but it is what it is: a hunting simulation. I'm sorry that not every game can have stellar graphics, and while the graphical quality is certainly not high, it doesn't negatively impact the gameplay. So get over it, hippies. Is there room for improvement? Sure, but it's still enjoyable if you'd like a realistic game. There's a lot of stuff here for $20, so if you're looking for a satisfying hunting experience, look no further.