Activision has released a flurry of Cabelaís themed games this fall and so far each has offered a variety of game play suited for all ages. The latest game is one that I have been looking forward to the most since getting some hands on time with it back in September while visiting the Activision Hunts Tour trailer. Survival: Shadows of Katmai breaks the mold of the typical hunting game you have come to expect from the Cabelaís titles. Instead, itís more of an action adventure with hunting thrown into the mix. You are now the hunted rather than the hunter throughout most of the game. And while this game needs some refinement, I do like the direction they took the franchise with this style of gameplay and hope that with each future installment itíll just get better and better.
Youíll play the role of Logan James who really reminds me of a video game rendition of Bear Grylls. You are tasked with a mission to fly a woman by the name of Dr. West to a remote Alaskan town that has come under siege from some sort of virus. Unfortunately, a huge storm is closing in on Alaska and of course itís one of those 100 year storms. For those that donít understand, that mean itís a once in a lifetime storm. You end up crashing your plane and now itís up to you to survive the cold, terrain and wild animals of the region. Let alone some mythical creatures that could be lurking in the Shadow of Katmai.
Of course, you can play with a standard controller if you like or you can break out the new and improved Top Shot Elite rifle controller. The gun seems to work a lot better with this yearís version and the new sensor seems to really capture your gun movements very well. The gun is a little lighter than last year but itís not that noticeable, but one thing you will notice is that the gun seems a lot sturdy and does not feel so much like a toy as it did previously. I prefer the gun for the arcade shooting galleries in the game, but I much more prefer the standard controller for the single player portion of the game. Even though the gun has all the buttons that the standard controller does, it just feels so much more natural to move Logan about with the regular controller.
In the past, the single player campaigns of Cabelaís games lead you on specific hunts for certain animals. Youíll still hunt animals in this game, but not in any sort of simulation fashion such as the Big Game Hunter franchise. This game is much more arcade in nature which lends very well to the action adventure style of the game itself. Randomly, you will encounter wild animals such as wolves and grizzly bears. There are times when youíll have to climb up or down cliff sides and when doing so youíll have killer crows attacking you. Youíll have to fend off all these animals in order to stay alive.
At your disposal, you will have a rifle and a pistol to start with. Initially though, you only have a flare gun and will have to fend off wolves using it until you can locate your crashed plane and retrieve your rifle and pistol. Once armed, youíll find things hidden in the snow that youíll have to dig up. This requires you to tap A repeatedly but meanwhile youíll have wolves attacking you from every direction. The wolves like to surround you, so youíll want to use the roll technique to avoid their attacks. Then shoot and then start digging again as quickly as you can.
When hunting or fending off wild animals youíll have a Focus option that slows down time and reveals animalís vital organs for quick kills or in the case of bears, allows for more damage to be done with each shot. Most of the time you can get away without using Focus as most animals go down with one shot from the rifle or pistol. Except the bears and other large dangerous animals you may encounter.
As I mentioned, youíll find yourself scaling cliffs to reach new areas. This consist of using the LB button and B button while using the stick to move in the direction you want to go. Youíll use LB to climb up and down ledges and the B button is used for dropping down. Holding LB will make you jump when you need to cross gaps whether you are running or scaling a cliff side. You can see the path you need to take by looking at the ledges and looking for slightly snow covered portions. Those are where you have handholds. Unfortunately there really isnít a free camera so you canít pan around to see whatís ahead or where you may have to go next. As I mentioned, crows will attack you when on cliff sides, so quickly kill them off or they will make you lose your grip. If you do lose grip, you can hit the RB to grasp the ledge again. This will happen from time to time when scaling, so always be ready to recover. During the storyline youíll find an icepick that will let you cross larger divides. Later in the story line youíll also gain access to a grapple gun as well.
Scattered throughout the levels you will find collectibles such as journals. Each level has a specific amount of collectibles that you need to find for 100% completion. Youíll also come across campfire sites where you can start a fire to regain your health and it also acts as a save point. Be sure to build a fire when you see these because the save points definitely come in handy. There is also plenty of ammo to be found lying around, but you can quickly run out when being attacked by hordes of wolves. So make sure you always pick up ammo if you see it. Youíll have your sled dog accompanying you and directing you in the right direction but heíll also help you in those attacks from predators. Just try not to shoot him.
The main campaign will give you about 5 or 6 hours of gameplay. Youíll accrue a final score for each level you complete which are then added to an online leaderboard which you can check your scores, times and stats against the world. There are a total of 8 chapters in the single player campaign which are broken down into small sub chapters. You can choose to go back and do individual chapters once you have unlocked them in the main story. The one thing I did not like about the game was the fact that you could not pull your gun out at any time you wanted. The game would only put a gun in your hand during situations when you were being attacked. I came across one spot where there were birds flying and I wanted to bag some score, but I couldnít shoot any geese because I couldnít draw my gun. I could select which gun I wanted to use for the next time it was out, but thatís it. So that was probably one of my bigger disappointments in the game.
Along with the story mode youíll have the Arcade Shooting Galleries. These are both single player and multiplayer based. Youíll have to unlock maps in story mode by finding map pieces.There are a few different modes to choose from. First up is Survival. Itís you against the wild. Various big game and fowl are mixed in for you to shoot at, but youíll also have predators hunting you and youíll have to survive as long as you can. Be sure a usual to switch between your rifle and shotgun for the appropriate target. The next mode is Trek and in this mode youíll now be timed and youíll want to rack up as much score as you can. Pick up bonus such as slow down time, score multipliers and semi-auto shots as you go along. The next game mode is called Quick Draw. In this mode youíll have to shoot things as fast as you can and try and last as long as you can. A timer will be keeping track of how long you survive rather than a total score. Finally, you have the Challenges mode which allows you to create challenges to from single player shooting gallery experiences. You and then challenge your friends to beat your stats.
Graphically the game has its ups and downs. The menu screens are fantastic compared to past Cabelaís games of the past. The cut screens are pretty well put together at well and tell a great story. And the environments as well as the animals in the game look fantastic. The part where the game has its issues is with the camera angle and not really having a free roam option. The camera always seems to be behind the player and you canít rotate it around to look for collectibles and what not. The camera can also get a little wonky in the Focus mode focusing on a different animal than you want it to. The other issue is with some of the animations of Logan and then some of the animals. They just donít seem very smooth and Logans running and abrupt sharp movements at times does not feel natural at all. Other times the game is just great. So as I said, itís a mixed bag visually.
The sound package isnít too bad as most of the voice work is believable and provides some good entertainment. There are even some moments where I chuckled due to a few thing Logan says. The musical scores are action based and add intensity to the game but donít expect anything like a Halo score or something along those lines. It does the job but thatís about it.
So the question to be asked has to be is the game worth the money? Despite the flaws that I mentioned I enjoyed playing through the game. The story was enjoyable and I can see Logan becoming a trademark figure in the Cabela's series. He is just a likeable character through and through. While its not the pure hunting game you have come to know in the past, it definitely takes the Cabela's franchise in a whole new direction and makes the franchise fresh and fun again. Call it a revitalization if you will, but it definitely works for me. If you have a Top Shot Elite laying around then pick up the stand alone game. If not then by all means grab the Top Shot Elite Bundle Pack. This game is worth your money and its just one of those games that you can relax and have some fun with.