Developer: Southlogic Studios
Release Date: September 28, 2004
Buy 'DEER HUNTER 2005': PC
Hunting is a pastime for some, a hobby for others, and completely repulsive to even more. Having been raised in the city and surrounded by computers and video games, I am a rare breed and have, in fact, gone hunting. A lot of people think of hunting as an exercise for those of the "redneck" persuasion, and stay away from a game like Deer Hunter 2005 for that reason alone. To be perfectly honest, I probably would have never laid my fingers on this title if not for my current occupation because I never had the desire to hunt animals on my computer. Yet here I am in my virtual stand with my virtual rifle, killing virtual Bambi and completely enjoying it.
Hunting games are in general pretty straightforward, and all they have to do is live up to their titles (it is really not hard to do). That is to say that for a hunting game to really deliver, it only needs to supply the player with a simulation of hunting, and there is neither the need for complicated stories or unbelievable character designs, nor does it call for bosses or much of anything outside of woodlands and a few animals. Deer Hunter 2005 stands out from the crowd, as it does everything a hunting fan could ask for from a game, and more.
Offering the hunter a choice of weapons is nothing new, and most of the weapons you will see here are standard. The guns range from single shot muzzle loading rifles to bolt action rifles with special optic sights. What is impressive is the ability to create your own weapons by adding skins and adjusting the weapon stats (accuracy, rate of fire, range etc.). The player also has a few other options in terms of hunting stands, deer calls, and transportation. Honestly, there are more choices than I had imagined would be incorporated into a game, and the list goes on. These choices will influence your score as the game reduces points awarded on kills where the hunter uses "exotic" tools. It makes sense because using an infrared scope while luring the deer with hormone spray is much easier than trying to track one through the woods and shoot it with a bow and arrow.
The player also has to choose from a modest number of scenic global hunting locations, anywhere from Oregon to Australia. The locations change things around a little bit, from the arrangement of the terrain to the type of deer that the player hunts (I didn't even know they really had deer in Australia). The locations did not really change much about how the game is played. Occasionally, they would limit the available transportation options, forcing the player to walk or ride a horse as opposed to driving a four wheeler, but generally, the locations just seemed to be included for the sake of appearances.
The AI in use on the deer is the best deer simulation I have ever seen, although I must admit that I haven't really played many games involving these doe-eyed creatures. The deer would react in a fairly intelligent manner, moving and running away from poorly skilled hunters in a manner that reminds me of what happens when I went hunting (I never said I was any good at it). Of course, the AI for the deer was the only sign of quasi-intelligent animal behavior in the game, as a wild turkey ran headfirst at my four-wheeler while I was driving it full boar. I wanted turkey for dinner, but of course, the turkey was apparently ATV proof, as I just kind of bounced off of it. Shucks.
The hunting is more of a simulation than an arcade style, forcing the player to follow tracks and stalk their prey or set up a stand and wait near a food or water source. Starting things off, the player has to assign points into stats representing a number of hunting related skills like stalking, tracking, weapons use, etc. Placing the skills in different manners will allow the player to hunt in different ways. For instance, having great skill in weapons use but almost none in tracking and stalking will force the player to lie in wait for an unsuspecting deer as opposed to chasing it down.
Something I kind of enjoyed is the trophy room, which allows you to collect "trophies" of every deer you take down. Each trophy includes a ton of information, from where you killed the beast to what you used to do it, and even antler size. It is a nice feature for those of you who like bragging rights and have a handful of friends who would be into a hunting title.
Atari saw fit to include online play so you and a number of other people can hunt in the same area at the same time. The person running the server is able to change a number of settings, from permitting exotic equipment to transportation. It seemed like a novel idea to be able to play a hunting simulation with a number of other hunters at the same time. Even better than that is the fact that I basically experienced no lag when doing this and found it generally entertaining, as having other players in no way hindered the gameplay for me.
The sound is a bit sparse, most likely because in real life when you're out in the woods and there is nothing but little woodland creatures around for miles and miles, it tends to be quiet. The sound effects were all acceptable, especially for a budget title, and only on occasion did I feel that they were not as good as I would have liked. The ATV is a good example of that, as it sounded closer to a high pitched lawnmower than any four-wheeler I have ever ridden. The music in the game is not so much music as a single song composed of upbeat country twang, and despite my aversion to all things country, I must admit it was a bit catchy. This bit of music was really only present during the introduction and main menu so it is hardly obtrusive and does not impact the game much at all.
The graphics are acceptable, but not what I would have hopped for and looked like something I could have seen a couple years ago, outside of the deer anyway. Deer in Deer Hunter 2005 look immaculate, full of detail and are animated in a very lifelike manner. Overall, they stand out among the best animated wildlife I have ever shot in any video game. The locations, however, are somewhat dull and lacking the necessary finesse to draw me in and make me lose myself in the game.
Deer Hunter 2005 is really aimed at people who have previously hunted because the title lacks a training mode; there is really nothing in the game that teaches you how to hunt or what to do. Instead, you are thrown in the fray with your guns and a deer to kill. I was lucky in that I have hunted before so I at least had some idea as to what I was supposed to do, but not everyone will be so fortunate. For a budget title, this game performs its duties to my utmost expectations, and even beyond, in some aspects.
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