Concealed by tall grass, I cautiously stalked my target as a herd of timid zebras congregated nearby. With my cross-hair set on my mark, I had one chance for a clean shot. Succeed and I live to see another day, but fail, and I will most likely be trampled to death.
This is one of the many scenarios you will tackle in Activision’s Cabela’s African Adventures. Hence the game’s name, this story-driven journey places you within the continent of Africa to hunt down the biggest of the Big Five – lion, leopard, white rhinoceros, Cape buffalo and elephant.
From a sun-seared desert to an overgrown jungle, you are free to explore an open world from a third-person perspective. My time with Cabela’s African Adventures placed me on foot and behind the wheel of a truck within an expansive verdant savannah. The truck’s handling felt responsive as I drove through shallow streams and over rock formations on route to completing one of the game’s many story-focused hunt. These hunts fall into two categories: stealth or combat. Stealth focused hunts rely on accurate and clean shots while combat focused hunts are fixated on intense action and quick reflexes.
Before my hunt, I customized my loadout with a few guns that I felt would be well-suited for the task at hand. Provided with a brief overview of what to expect, I equipped a dual-barreled shotgun tailored for close kills. Your character is only allowed to carry two weapons at all times, including ammo and health packs. But before you think you’ll arm yourself with the most powerful gun and an unlimited amount of ammo, African Adventures includes a weight system; meaning each item in your arsenal bears a weight and you’re limited to what you can bring along.
After choosing my weapons, I selected from a handful of abilities that focused on Offensive, Defensive and Stealth. Abilities associated within the Stealth category are passive and automatically activate during a hunt, while regenerating Offensive and Defensive abilities are activated by pressing either the LB or RB trigger. As you progress you unlock new abilities, but for this hunt I selected rapid fire and the ability to highlight each animal’s vital point for an instant death. The ability to tweak your loadout based on the needs of the hunt and to your gameplay style is a welcomed addition.
All geared up, I set out to face two buffalo that were feuding on the open plain. On approach I aimed my shot where I assumed would be the location of the buffalo’s heart, but unfortunately my shot was not an instant kill and I was now forced with facing two very unhappy buffalo. Diving out of harm’s way, I activated my abilities and took down both targets rather easily. My celebration was short lived as more buffalo can charging out from behind the foliage to avenge their friend’s deaths. A few diving rolls later, I managed to clear the area and accumulated some experience points to put towards unlocking new abilities.
Aside from progressing the story, you can explore your surroundings to discover hunting zones, uncover vistas (think Far Cry 3 radio tower) and collectibles. If the story-driven campaign is not really of interest, Cabela’s African Adventures will also include arcade challenges like a Shooting Gallery and “Hot Seat” mode, which supports up to four players locally. Played with either a controller or the Top Shot Fearmaster, players take turns trying to accumulate the highest score. These on-rail shooter sections are fun, and with a group of friends (and a few beers), I can see these modes turning into a fun party experience.
Based on past attempts to include a story-driven campaign, this open-world approach appears to be a refreshing addition to the franchise. With titles like Far Cry 3 and even Grand Theft Auto 5 allowing players to hunt wild animals, Cabela’s African Adventures may just be the title that fans of the series have been longing for.
Cabela’s African Adventures will ship on October 15th for $39.99 on PS3 and 360, $29.99 on Wii and $19.99 on Steam.