Deer Hunt Challenge
EA Sports has wisely chosen to stick with just deer for their first hunting simulation. The game features deer appropriate to their regions, so out West expect to find mulies and blacktail, and whitetail elsewhere. While you’ll see does and fawns in the game, you only have tags for bucks. Shoot a doe or a fawn and you’re current hunting trip will automatically endâ€”a nice way to reinforce that the game is a simulation of real-world hunting, not a first-person shooter.
The game is divided into two basic sections, Hunting Trip and Challenge Mode. Hunting trip plops you down in one of six hunting areas: Cap Rock Canyon, TX; Huron National Forest, MI; Medicine Creek, NE; Russell Wildlife Area, MT; Rathburn Resevoir, IA; and White River, OR; oddly, the East Coast and Deep South aren’t represented. Each of these areas is huge. You can chose the time of day, the general temperature, the period of the season, and the weather conditions (clear, cloudy, rain, and fog). Sometimes the time of day settings border on illegally low light levels, and “rain” means violent thunderstorm.
Challenge Mode is a wonderful addition in Deer Hunt Challenge. Most hunting games just let you hunt, with no goal in mind; fine if you just want to wander about, but there’s not a lot of “game” to it all. In Challenge Mode you have specific goals. You are usually plopped right into the “action,” with your targets close at hand. You must complete one level before advancing to the next and a score is kept along the wayâ€”completing all the levels with a perfect score will be a challenge indeed.
The selection of weapons is quite nice. You have bolt, lever, and semi-automatic rifles (with 4X scope or without) in a variety of calibers; pump, semi-auto, over/under, or side-by-side shotguns in 12, 16, or 20 gauge; and three types of bows. You can’t change ammunition types (for example, no slugs for the shotguns). You definitely notice bullet drift in high winds, but it’s harder to gauge drop over distance as almost all shots you’ll take (or even can try to take) are at short ranges. The equipment list is rounded out with a variety of camouflage patterns, scents, and decoys.
But all that terrific detail goes to waste thanks to a lackluster rendering engine with pitifully limited draw distances – a fatal flaw in a simulator that emphasizes outdoor marksmanship. Why is it bad? It means that as you’re moving through terrain (especially wooded terrain), you always think you’re just at the edge of a clearing or ridgeline; take a few steps, though, and another rank of trees pops into place. This pop in is extremely distracting. Most importantly the engine just can’t simulate the feeling of being in a vast, open-ended wilderness. The background textures might reflect a bright, sunny forest, but the draw distances makes it feel like you’re always hunting in pea soup fog.
A common issue with many hunting sims can be traced to their game engine. They either look bad, work badly or have too high system requirements. Deer Hunt Challenge is a prime example – it’s a good simulation with lots of features crippled by technical limitations.
System Requirements: Pentium 166 Mhz, 32 MB RAM, 700 MB HDD, Windows 95
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