When I was a kid, I loved going to arcades and playing shooting games. Something about wielding a fake, plastic gun and mindlessly blasting away at aliens, dinosaurs, or zombies was truly exhilarating. Of course, as time went on, I became a more somber and critical gamer–I wanted “realism” and thought it was ridiculous I could kill 500 enemies without getting hit once myself. The wildly successful Deer Hunter franchise capitalizes on that sensibility in older gamers by offering a more realistic hunting experience. After years of developing the series for countless feature phones, Glu has finally brought Deer Hunter to the iPhone with Deer Hunter 3D.
Alas, the wait might not have been worth it. Glu generally makes fantastic games, but this isn’t one of their best. Deer Hunter is a classic hunting game in which the player is tasked with finding and killing deer, moose, or bears in a realistic environment. In this version, players can choose between three different environments: the grassy American Midwest, the snowy Northern Europe, and the forests of Western Russia.
Within each environment, there are 9 different “scenes”, each having slightly different landscapes to provide variety to the game’s look and feel. On the screen is a crosshair that you slide around to your target, and then you tap the screen to shoot. It takes a head shot or upper-chest shot to kill the target. You go through each environment until you kill 5 animals or the time runs out, with each kill earning you points. You get more points for capping heavier animals and for using certain weapons (the compound bow, for example gets you more points than the rifle). Certain weapons are equipped with a scope, which becomes quite useful later in the game.
With more developers focusing primarily on the iPhone, we’re growing accustomed to great looking games. That said, we’re still impressed by the look of Deer Hunter. The landscape looks great, and the animals appear in awesome detail. This becomes really obvious when you zoom in through the sniper scope and can see the deer or moose move as they bend down to drink water or obnoxiously move out of your way as you’re about to shoot.
However, the gameplay is inconsistent throughout the game, and the major reason I won’t write home about it. The design is actually really good–the crosshair doesn’t stay still, simulating the shakiness of a novice shooter, and it gets steadier as you rack up more points and become a more “experienced” hunter. The sniper scope was extremely well-done, and using it got me all tingly inside thinking of the possibilities for other games. Beyond that, the execution falters. For example, after you shoot an animal down, it takes way too long to exit the scope mode and get ready for the next shot. Also, there is some lag in the gameplay, particularly while moving the crosshair around the screen.
Another problem was the controls–I found it too easy to “press the wrong button.” You tap anywhere on the screen to shoot, but the problem is that there are 3 other controls, requiring you to swipe or tap on specific spots on the screen. Too often I found myself trying to toggle the sniper scope, only to accidentally bust a cap into the air and spook the animal. It gets easier with a bit of practice, but I still found myself errantly firing a shot or two on occasion.
The Hunting Trip mode of the game, in which you travel through the different geographies and rack up points, was pretty fun and challenging. Also, there is a good variety of guns and a “lightning round” mode where you try to kill as many animals as you can within an allotted time. You even get a bonus round where you pop off rabbits, squirrels and prairie dogs. [Though this is the only place in the game where these animals appear].
Ultimately, I wouldn’t recommend shelling out the 6 bucks Glu wants for this game unless you’re a fan of the series. The graphics are a treat to look at, but there are games out there with better gameplay and similar graphics. It will probably be appreciated by hunting enthusiasts, but casual gamers should proceed with caution.
What we like:
- Great graphics; realistic scenery. Animals that look so real you might just wish you could bring their heads home and stick ’em above your fireplace.
- Sweet story mode, with increasing difficulty as the game went on. This is surprisingly hard to find in most games these days.
- 6 guns, including an AK-47. Who wouldn’t want to shoot up a bunch of e-deer with a fully automatic assault rifle?
What we didn’t like:
- Realism – or lack thereof. Since when can a deer get hit in the leg and then break off into a dead sprint to escape its hunter?
- Controls. For the first two hours of gameplay, I probably fired my weapon on accident more than on purpose. ‘Nuff said.
- Not enough replay value. There is only so much fun you can get seeing the same scenery with the same animals over and over. With a few more challenges and perhaps another animal or two, this wouldn’t be as much of a problem.