I admit it. I don’t have a lot of hunting and fishing experience. I once sat on a fishing boat for hours wondering why we couldn’t just drag the lake with a net. To me, that would have been more effective than sitting and waiting for hours and hours. All wasn’t lost though. I got to finish a good Doctor Who novel and drink some beer.
On the farm of a family friend, I shot tin cans with a rifle but had no interest in actually going into the woods and hunting deer or other animals. Although I am an animal lover to a fault and have looked after many neighbourhood strays as well as my own pets, I don’t mind if other people hunt as long as they use the entire animal they kill, just so that the animal’s death served a purpose. If so, no harm and no foul in my books.
Knowing all that, it was a very odd experience for me, of all people, to play through The Hunter: Call of the Wild. The hunting simulator puts you in the middle of two picturesque wildlife reserves which are beautiful in every way. The detail in the sights and sounds of the wilderness were the highlights of the game for me especially when the sun rose during one of my excursions. I actually stopped to take in the scene because that break of dawn over the mountains was so breathtaking and so mesmerizing that it reminded me of a family trip to Banff, Alberta and standing before the majestic Rocky Mountains. It is an experience I have never forgotten.
It is a shame the same cannot be said for the rest of my experience with The Hunter: Call of the Wild. Although you can trail everything from bears to deer to bison, to do so takes a colossal amount of patience. All of the animals, even the bears which is kinda odd, are easily frightened at the sight or the sound of a human being. If they get spooked, they will split the scene at a speed rivaling the Flash. Your only choice then is to follow their tracks through the grass and the trees, hoping you can creep up on them. And creep up on them, you must. There is the option to run but if you do, it is guaranteed that you will scare whatever you are tracking. So, any time you are hunting, you have to crouch down low to the ground and clamber along at a snail’s pace.
The need to stalk your prey this way makes the game so slow, so methodical, so sluggish that to accomplish anything worthwhile is just excruciatingly painful. My experience was so mind-numbing at times that I actually tried to find ways of committing suicide by jumping off cliffs or trying to drown myself in a lake. You cannot drown but jumping from high places does damage which eventually does kill you and ends the monotony for a few seconds.
To circumvent that gameplay mechanic, I tried to stake out empty fields, watering holes and beaches. Besides the occasional wandering animal, it was a waste of time except for the fact that I got to log in more mobile game time while my hunter sat in the shrubs waiting and waiting for targets that would never appear.
When you do finally shoot an animal, that turns out to be a disappointing experience too. The violence is all very sanitized, like you are watching an old, black and white gangster movie. I shot a deer squarely in the head and instead of its skull splattering to the four winds; it just limped out of sight. After following the trail of blood, I found it dead on the ground and collected my points. It was just kinda sad not thrilling or fulfilling at all. Besides these blood trails, there isn’t a whole lot of carnage in The Hunter: Call of the Wild, which is odd since you are blasting away at animals with rifles, handguns and even shotguns if you level up enough.
As a life-long city dweller with infrequent visits to the Canadian wilderness, even I know that the forests here are teaming with all sorts of wildlife. There are birds, deer, coyotes, wolves, foxes, mountain lions, bears and even small animals like skunks, porcupines and rabbits. I came face to face with a family of cautious but friendly family of black bears which I fed in Banff, for example.
The woodlands in The Hunter: Call of the Wild are strangely devoid of any random or stray wildlife. I hiked around for miles and miles though trees, lakes and mountains and rarely found any signs of life. Often, I felt like I was playing a hiking simulator rather than a hunting game.
At outposts, you can buy better hunting gear, better ammunition, better sights and even all-terrain vehicles to tool around in. You can also play through a campaign which is really just a bunch of independent, unrelated goals like taking photos of animals for a wildlife author or discovering this or that location.
Even the most tolerant and patient of gamers, like those who actually played through the coma-inducing walking simulator that was Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, will have their endurance supremely tested by The Hunter: Call of the Wild. If your idea of fun is sitting around a hole in the ice, on a lake or crouched in some shrubs waiting for hours upon hours to get that one bite or that one target to wander into your sights then The Hunter: Call of the Wild is your digital dream come true. Everyone else would probably have more fun breaking out their old NES and playing Duck Hunt instead.
- THE GOOD
- Lush, vibrant environments
- You can hack around in all-terrain vehicles
- THE BAD
- Excruciatingly painful gameplay
- Lack of random prey
- Sanitized violence
- A disjointed campaign