Review: Cabela’s The Hunt: Championship Edition (Switch)

As close to the real thing as it gets.

By Marc Deschamps. Posted 12/24/2018 20:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Teaches you the basics of the sport; varied and attractive environments; serene sound effects
Poison Mushroom for...
Slow pace won't be for everyone; inability to scale certain parts of the environment can be frustrating; peripheral is a cheesy Wii throwback

I have never been hunting. It’s simply never been something that I found a lot of interest in. Still, I enjoy games like Duck Hunt and even the occasional round of Big Buck Hunter at bar arcades, here and there. Cabela’s The Hunt: Championship Edition isn’t anything like those aforementioned games but, despite some flaws, the title did provide me with an experience that helped me learn, and perhaps even appreciate, the sport of hunting.

Cabela’s The Hunt: Championship Edition is a fairly faithful take on hunting: your character visits multiple locations around North America hunting game as part of a tournament. Each locale has a main goal animal that must be killed, but you also have to earn reputation points in order to proceed to the next area and pass your rival hunters. Players do that by hunting additional animals both big (moose) and small (raccoons), using various weapons. Each area has an allotted number of hunting tags per big game animal, but not every animal can be hunted in every area. Thankfully, the game is fairly good at letting players know how many tags a player has left before they even take a shot. Killing an animal you don’t have tags for can hurt your reputation or even result in disqualification after enough infractions, forcing you to restart the level.

It’s not all killing. Players can also earn reputation points by completing Spot Challenges. Spot Challenges task players with accomplishing specific goals, like getting as close to an animal as possible without killing or scaring it, taking a photo of an endangered animal or racing through courses on your four-wheeler. Each area has three optional Spot Challenges, which do a good job of breaking up the standard gameplay for those looking to keep things fresh.

The game’s faithfulness to the hunting experience isn’t always a good thing, however. As a result, The Hunt has a deliberately slower pace and gamers accustomed to faster shooters might struggle to maintain an interest. Despite the that pace, there is sort of a peaceful quality to the gameplay that a lot of other games lack. There isn’t much in the way of sound, but the feeling of tranquility is truly bolstered by sound effects like boots crunching in the snow or birds chirping.

Each area is fairly large, and there’s a lot of ground to cover. Unfortunately, the game can make that a bit difficult at times. The slow pace of the game is amplified by the fact that players can only walk, and not run. The player’s aforementioned four-wheeler allows you to traverse each area faster, but the vehicle will scare off animals you may encounter. The game’s compass allows you to keep track of where you parked, but the areas are so large I was often worried about traveling too far from my vehicle knowing how painfully slow the walk back would be.

While the pace is mostly slow, there are moments when the game’s action starts to heat up. For the most part, you play the role of a hunter, but sometimes you also become the hunted as some animals will attack if you stumble across them. As a result, you’ll have to quickly fire on a charging moose or a pack of wolves, otherwise the player can die. These moments are few and far between, and there isn’t much punishment for dying, but they do shake things up and add some good tension.

The graphics are a bit of a mixed bag. Each area has its own distinctive look and feel and the animals themselves are well animated. In handheld mode, most of these environments look nice enough, but when docked, the flaws really start to shine through. There just isn’t a lot of detail to the various bushes and branches you’ll find yourself walking through, and it really shows as you start to get up close. Sometimes that lack of detail can also hamper the gameplay: it’s not always obvious by sight what areas of the environment can and can’t be scaled. Sometimes, it’s not that you can’t scale a ledge or cliff, but rather that you must do so from an exact angle or from a particular spot. It really wouldn’t be fair to compare Cabela’s The Hunt with Switch’s Zelda epic, but in a post Breath of the Wild world, these kinds of things are a little less understandable and a lot more frustrating.

The game’s draw distance can be equally uneven. The animals themselves can be seen from a pretty good distance, which helps since you might be firing at targets 200-500 meters away. If you maim an animal, they start to slow down; unfortunately, if the animal disappears from sight, you won’t find it again later. It would have been nice if their injuries had been integrated into the game’s tracking system, but instead, once the animal is gone, they’re gone and you won’t have any reputation points to show for it. The backgrounds in the distance are also a bit “last gen” as trees are blatantly sketched into the background, as if by some unseen artist.

Cabela’s The Hunt: Championship Edition can be purchased on its own or alongside a peripheral modeled after a rifle, which comfortably fits two Joy-Con controllers. Players will definitely want to save themselves that $10, however. The peripheral harkens back to the glut of plastic extras that were all too prevalent in the days of Wii. It’s a fairly sturdy, decently made peripheral, but it adds nothing to the gameplay, and its arcade-like nature stands in stark contrast with the rest of the game’s tone. Overall, it just feels completely unnecessary.

Cabela’s The Hunt: Championship Edition is the definition of a niche title. While I wouldn’t have previously assumed I’d fall into that niche, I did find myself enjoying my time with the game, despite some of its flaws. The deliberately slower pace of the game simply won’t be for everyone, however. Arcade hunting aficionados might want to check out Big Buck Hunter Arcade, also available on Switch. But, if you’re looking for something closer to the real thing, Cabela’s The Hunt: Championship Edition just night scratch that itch. It might even teach you a thing or two.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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