Back in the days of the Nintendo Wii, Cabela’s supported the hit 2006 system with various hunting simulator games that relied on motion input. While I can’t speak to those games, Cabela’s is back on a Nintendo platform with Cabela’s The Hunt: Championship Edition for Nintendo Switch. Though the hunting sim genre isn’t one I particularly find myself particularly drawn to, there is a certain sense of satisfaction when taking down your prey. Series like Far Cry have elements of hunting within their games, but to make the act of hunting the core of the experience unfortunately leaves that experience feel somewhat lacking. Without any enticing reward or progression opportunities, Cabela’s The Hunt: Championship Edition ultimately feels like a mechanically par-level hunting sim held back by poor controls and lack of meaningful progression.
Loading up Cabela’s The Hunt Championship Edition, it becomes immediately apparent this seems to be a port of one of the earlier Wii titles—or at least it uses the assets and engine from the Wii days. Copyright designations aside, the game looks like a Wii game, from its lackluster UI to its jagged graphics and plenty of asset pop-in. Once I moved past those qualms and got into the meat of the game, however, I did find myself mostly enjoying the experience. The game offers Free Hunt as well as a career mode, though I wish the tutorial had its own training mode rather than being hidden within the first few minutes of career mode.
In Free Hunt mode, you can traverse any of the maps you’ve unlocked, at your leisure, and hunt any animal you choose for fun. In career mode, you have an objective to meet; once you meet that objective, you unlock the next playable area. For the most part, these objectives can be met fairly quickly, so all ten of the unlockable hunting areas can be unlocked within a few hours of gameplay. While it’s nice to be able to see the diverse landscapes on offer in a relatively expeditious fashion, once you’ve unlocked all of these areas, the game loses any intrinsic incentive to keep hunting, aside from earning money to purchase new equipment—and, of course, the intrinsic satisfaction of the hunt, a drive I didn’t personally have here.
Speaking of equipment—the gun and item selection doesn’t seem to matter all that much. My hunting never suffered when using the first rifle the game gives you versus any of the higher-end options, so I didn’t see much a point in working toward purchasing newer guns. From the start, you’re given a rifle, handgun, shotgun, and compound bow, and these are all equally serviceable among their more expensive counterparts.
The act of stalking and hunting prey is, at its core, a fun experience. The game alerts you to animal tracks, and when you push R3 to investigate, you’re automatically pointed in the direction of the animal you’re hunting. I feel that this aspect of the game could have been expounded upon to mirror a more realistic hunting approach, but it works just fine with the arcade-y nature of the game. Unless I just plain missed, it was never particularly difficult lining up kill shots on any animal—using traditional stick controls, that is. The game’s motion controls—even when using the included Bullseye Pro peripheral—are shoddy at best, and I never felt particularly confident when using them. Turning motion controls off and using traditional controls led to a much higher accuracy in my time with the game. Playing in handheld mode works as well as using traditional controls, but I would still recommend leaving motion controls off.
Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by games like Far Cry, but traversal within hunting environments is painfully slow and clunky. Holding down L3 to run feels like what should be the default walking speed, and the included ATV is simply a mess to try and control. I realize the game is going for a more grounded and realistic approach to hunting, but this is simply another con on the list of a number of quality-of-life aspects that could have been addressed.
Overall, Cabela’s The Hunt: Championship Edition is a fine hunting sim held back by archaic presentation, and lack of intriguing progression further diminishes its lasting appeal. Though the act of hunting can bring moments of fun, this is a game that I don’t foresee will stick with me in the times to come.
Disclaimer: A review copy of Cabela’s The Hunt: Championship Edition was provided by the game’s publisher.