Cabela’s Survival: Shadows of Katmai

The Cabela games have been getting slowly better over the years. This is nothing for Activision to be proud of though – they’ve gone from being poor to passable. That’s at least providing you can get over the fact that they all involve shooting innocent animals in the face.

This isn’t Activision’s yearly Cabela update but rather a spin-off. It’s viewed from third-person instead of first-person and there’s a greater emphasis on storytelling, featuring a plot that sees an airplane carrying a precious virus vaccine crash land in the Antarctic. The voice acting isn’t too bad but the grainy cut-scenes look like something out of a PSone game.

The in-game visuals fair better – the rock faces which you spend around 50 percent of the game climbing are nicely rendered and the snow effects are sufficient. Animation of the main character is pretty terrible, but this isn’t the first thing that stands out – it’s how fiddly the targeting is. When pulling out a pistol the reticule never appears in the centre of the screen as you would expect but rather in one of the corners and all it takes to send it zooming from one side of the screen to the other is the smallest touch of the analogue stick.

When you’re not climbing cliffs the rest of the game is spent fighting off wolves and the occasional bear. Most enemies go down in one or two shots. You can also activate a ‘focus shot’ which lets you see inside an animal so you can target their vital organs. If only we were joking about this. New guns become available as the story progresses and later a grappling hook is added to your inventory.

The story flows nicely, with a sleigh ride section thrown in for variety, but this has to be one of the shortest games around – according to the online leaderboard we finished it in just over two hours. It’s possible that loading times and the time spent retrying sections isn’t included in that figure though – we’re pretty sure it took us nearer the three hour mark. Either way, it’s a very short game.

There are extra modes to try, thankfully. These modes are all on-rails shooters and have been designed with the optional light-gun that comes packaged with some of the recent Cabela games in mind. They’re fast paced and very arcade-like in design, complete with such power-ups as thermal vision and infinite ammo. One nice idea is the ability to set your own challenges – at the end of a level a list of stats are shown including accuracy and hit rate. You can then pick one of these to beat on your next attempt.

As much as we appreciate Activision for trying to do something new with the Cabela franchise it’s painfully evident that it was put together in a bit of a hurry. The fact that it’s surprisingly light-hearted is something we like, but that’s no reason to spend the best part of twenty quid on it.

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