To some out there the thought of the release of another of Cabela's hunting games will seem completely ludicrous. After all, how many games do you need to have where you go out and shoot deer, birds, and various other animals? There is a wholly separate contingent of people out there who will quickly ask the appropriate question in reply – how many games do you need where you go out and shoot zombies or aliens; how many games do you need where you throw a football, reunite the Triforce, or give Bowser what for.
In the latest iteration of the hunting franchise, Cabela's Monster Buck Hunter, the biggest sales point seems not to be the game itself, but the fact that it's packaged together with the Top Shot peripheral. This particular addition has been available packaged with other hunt games, but if you're going on a hunt with a friend, it definitely makes sense for you both to be armed. Monster Buck Hunter offers the Top Shot packaged with the game for the cost of a single full-priced title, and $20 more than the game by itself (based on Amazon's current pricing).
For the uninitiated, the Top Shot is a large, orange, toy shotgun that can hold both the Wii remote and the nunchuk. The trigger for the gun is the nunchuk's Z-button, with the Wii remote sitting towards the business end of the barrel (so that it can accurately point at the screen). Though moderately awkward to hold initially – and it certainly seems more comfortable when used standing than sitting – one does feel like they are holding a substantial device, one quite capable of blowing away all manner of electronic vermin.
As for the game itself, the action is divided into two main categories. First, there is the Top Shot Challenge, which sends you to 12 different stages and has you blow away somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 animals per stage. This portion of the title operates wholly on rails, taking you from one scenic shooting gallery to the next. Perform well enough using the right weapon (shoot birds with rifle for deer or deer with the shotgun used on birds and you lose points) and you quickly earn power ups that allow you to kill even more swiftly.
Though it is certainly fun to bag multiple birds with a single shot, the sheer quantity of animals you eliminate in a few minutes had me moderately disturbed. It is certainly easy to post a high score and satisfy all the objectives, but there is a whole lot of what feels to be senseless killing involved (aliens at least want to conquer the earth and zombies want your brains, so it makes somewhat more sense to me to want them dead).
The game also contains a "bonus" Career Mode. Here the missions are far more simple, only requiring that you eliminate a few animals in a short while in order to obtain a medal. This mode doesn't operate on rails, allowing you to move around in order to obtain the best possible angle to bag your prey. The only issue with this is that although the field of play is defined – you will get warnings if you leave the prescribed area – you can't tell that you're about to leave the area until the warning pops up. As the allowed area isn't highlighted on the map it can become quite difficult to figure out where you're allowed to go and where you're not.
The graphics, though never stellar, are certainly good enough for you to be able to make out the blacks of the deers' eyes. The different areas you'll visit while bagging your game do certainly have different feels and looks. Although, in Top Shot Challenge you're going to be far too busy taking down animals to look at the surroundings – and the X-ray vision power-up eliminates all background anyway. The sound is clear enough to help you determine where the animals are coming from and heading to, although the pep talks the omniscient voice gives are terribly repetitive.
As the back of the box specifically promotes, the game offers 96 missions, 36 species, 24 locations, and 24 competitions. That is all to say that there is a lot there, but there is not necessarily a whole lot of differentiation between the various items. Yes, you will get medals and awards for taking out all the varieties of each animal, but if you just want to shoot things and aren't looking for that 100 percent completion, you may find yourself quickly bored. The mechanics have all been worked in previous entries into the series, so there are no real complaints there – it's quite literally point and shoot, which the Wii does brilliantly.
If you're a fan of the series and looking for more things to shoot, Cabela's Monster Buck Hunter certainly fits the bill, but it will do absolutely nothing to add fans to the series.
Cabela's Monster Buck Hunter is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Violence.