copyright © Jedo Dre 2011

Deer Hunter 2005



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Impact: Relatively memorable

Standing on the top of a snowy hill you’re looking through binoculars, trying to see if the Whitetail deer family, that you spotted a couple of hundred yards to the north, has a buck among them. You, suddenly, become aware of footsteps behind your back. Frozen in place, you turn your head and realize that a buck has stumbled upon you by accident, and now the two of you are starring at each other. Slowly you reach for your .207 bolt-action rifle…


Deer Hunter 2005 is the latest in the hunting game series. This rare genre, let’s be honest, is not particularly popular. Lately, however, gamers have been drowning in WWII-themed shooters. If WWII won’t get you, the war on terror will. In this age of wars, a game like Deer Hunter 2005 comes as a welcome change. And its quality gameplay as well as its good graphical presentation should ensure that it takes a solid place in the gamer’s heart and, hopefully, on the market.


GAMEPLAY


The name of the game tells half of the story already: the game is about deer hunting. Hunting takes place on several large maps located in different parts of the globe, most in the US. Though the maps are large, there are few of them. However, the game does allow for custom creation of maps, and there are a couple of online forums that have hundreds of maps submitted by its users.


Naturally, there are several types of deer depending on where you’re hunting. Other wild life is also present, but killing them will not bring a player any benefits (except maybe for pure pleasure to the more sadistic gamer).


When it comes to killing the deer, there’s a great deal of attention to the biology of an animal. There are vital organs like lungs, heart and spine which a player can hit for a quick kill. Good shots are highlighted by allowing the camera to follow the bullet path. Once you encounter a deer, before shooting it, you must first make sure it’s not a fawn and that your bag limit for that type of deer hasn’t yet been exceeded. Surprisingly, the game treats animals with a lot of respect, unlike what some animal activists may think. While the average first-person shooter game allows you to kill hundreds of people, Deer Hunter does not allow you to kill more deer than you can bag up. And, within the bag limit, there’s another limit that doesn’t allow you to kill too many deer of the same gender, so you don’t leave too many fawns without their mothers. You can still go on a rampage of course (which is rather difficult with so few deer available) but your hunting will be declared illegal and you will loose whatever points you gained during that hunt.


As it happens, each grown up buck you kill ends up in your trophy room and earns you points. The amount of points for each animal depends on the animal’s measurements. The points, eventually, allow the player to rise in rank and improve some of the characteristics like, for example, tracking skills (less chance for you to loose a trail). Other skills affect how close you can get to the deer and even how good of a shot you are. Also, the player earns different prize trophies depending on his or hers achievements (how that is done is kept in secret).


To do the shooting several weapons are available. They range from wooden bows to high caliber rifles. The developers provided just one weapon of each type, but there is a possibility to customize your weapons. It doesn’t mean that you will be able to build a weapon from scratch but rather pick an existing model and then choose out of a variation of colors, scopes and the type of round that the rifle will shoot. Also, the game enables the player to import self-made skins, and a manual provided with the game explains how to create one in PhotoShop.


A gun will only take a hunter so far. Different types of concealments, deer scents and other gear is available and a player must choose it depending on the time of year. In rut, for example, bucks fall for the scent of a doe. In the cold post-rut, food becomes ever more important for a deer and, therefore, more important for you as a lure. Choosing isn’t that much of a problem because you can take quite a lot of gear with you. For transportation a player can choose out of a buggy or a horse. Both come in different colors. Transportation comes in handy when chasing a wounded deer or changing hunting positions. Conversely, some gear is considered exotic like, for example, a thermal-vision scope. If used, it will cause a reduction of points for the player.


The player decides on the strategy of the hunt. You can build a concealment and lure the animal in or you can walk upwind, trying not to scare the prey away. Staying upwind of the potential deer is important because your scent, as well as scent of food and other lures, travels with the wind. Using “scent stomper” to cover your own scent is an option, but its workings are rather puzzling. Why, I will explain later. You can notice the presence of a deer and track it by the trail it leaves behind like its feces, its footprints as well as its blood, when it’s wounded. The higher your tracking skill is, the better will you be able to follow the footprints.


DH 2005 features no storyline whatsoever. At first glance, one might say, a game like Deer Hunter doesn’t need a storyline. What, a buck broke into your house and stole food, so now you have to kill the whole pack to take revenge? Nevertheless, a certain element of a story could’ve been integrated into the game like, for example, a certain competition events with your AI buddies or some intro movie to the game. Developers had made no such attempt.


In addition, there’s no manual on the game other than the one that explains on how to customize weapons and the other one that gives a few shallow hunting tips. While each item in your gear has a description to it of what it does, there is absolutely no description on the details of how to use it. For example, the “scent stomper” covers the character’s scent, but it’s not clear how often one has to use it for it to stay effective and neither is it explained how wide the affected area is. And what about other lures that use scent? Will the scent stomper cover those scents? These kinds of question mean a very steep learning curve for the player and he might end up constantly keep using every item he has. Combined with a lack of any kind of story or serious manuals will make the player feel like an outcast.


There are also a few noticeable unpolished moments in the game-play. For example, once the deer is dead it becomes sort of a static object. You can’t shoot it anymore; it doesn’t bleed and can’t be moved, only bagged up. The character can climb incredibly steep slopes, both: on foot and on horseback. On horseback, by the way, you can’t use any of your gear. That is rather strange when you have to climb down form your horse just to use the binoculars (that will show you less, now that you’re lower to the ground).


MULITPLAYER


Players can hunt on-line in co-op mode. By providing multiplayer, developers have integrated another important part of hunting into the game, since hunters often hunt together. There’s a usual ranking system and there are even several gestures a player can use to communicate with his teammates without having to type his message. Sadly enough, public multiplayer servers for Deer Hunter aren’t that much different from any other FPS game’s public server: lots of chaos and lots of childish behavior. MP option is, therefore, only useful if you can find serious people to play with.


SOUND


Sound takes a very vital position in Deer Hunter, as you might expect from a game that concentrates on the wild so much. Logically, the ambience features a lot of forest sounds, different for each map. Footsteps, also, sound differently depending on where you walk. Sound is also part of the game-play, as depending on your character’s skill, you will be able to hear the deer that’s close by.


If you try listening closer to the ambient sounds, however, you might notice that some of them repeat way too often. I guess, the trick here is to try to go back and concentrate on the game (for me personally, it was very hard to do because once an annoying sound enters my ears, I can’t concentrate on anything else anymore).


VISUALS


With all settings maxed out the game looks well. Especially from far the textures look really polished. One might, at first however, only mildly appreciate the graphics. It takes a little while to truly realize what this game is capable of. Several aspects manage to bring the game alive.


Not surprisingly for a hunting game, there is no shortage of vegetation. Branches of the many types of trees as well as the grass move in the wind realistically. The vegetation had better been made pretty since trees and grass is what you’ll be looking at 90% of the time. The sky of DH 2005 can hold its own when compared to the real sky. The weather varies depending on the setting that the player has chosen for the particular map. It can go from a sunny quiet day to a windy downpour. Clouds, when present, leave shadows on the ground as they pass. Remember how you couldn’t look at the sun because it hurt your eyes? Well in Deer Hunter 2005 you will be so hypnotized by the sun that it will be hard for you to take your eyes away from it. The game also plays with the light to create a natural look. When the dawning sun shines through the slowly waving in the wind pines, lighting them up at one side while keeping the other side in the shadow, you just want to drop your rifle, sit on something and enjoy the view.


Since about a couple years back, the water in games started looking realistic. And after the release of games like Far Cry, it seemed the water would never look bad again. I am mentioning all of this because I do not want to inflate the egos of the developers for the beautifully rendered water in Deer Hunter 2005. It follows the latest trends in reflection and compliments well the rest of the full-of-life nature.


Not all is well in the graphic department, unfortunately. One of the things that might grab your attention is the awkward animations of the character, when in third-person view. When crouching, the guy looks more like he’s about to take a dump. Actually, the only purpose served by the third-person view (that I found), is to justify the choosing of an outfit in the main menu. Therefore, the player won’t be using it much and, consequently, won’t be annoyed by this problem much. The deer, on the other hand, has clipping problems, when it comes to stones and metal fences.


Another, even more annoying, issue involves the view distance. It is simply too short on some maps (even when set to maximum). What makes it worse is that the horizon doesn’t gradually disappear into the fog. Instead, the end line is clearly visible and spoils the view. This is especially noticeable in hilly areas with few trees.


PERFORMANCE


The amount of rendered items on each map means that some of you, with the older machines, will be getting a lot of stutter on maximum settings. That’s especially true for the user-uploaded maps. Many of those guys go for the realistic hundreds-of-trees look when making their maps. Some people might find this high requirements demand surprising, since smaller games like truck-driving or fishing simulations don’t usually suck a lot out of your hardware. Be prepared.


CONCLUSION


Deer Hunter 2005 is not for everyone. It requires a special interest, a lot of patience and, respectively, a lot of free time. Thanks largely to the dynamic visuals, the game manages to deliver the excitement and the mood of hunting to those who can appreciate it. Yet, no one’s perfect, and for a game that focuses so much on one thing, it is important for it to go as far in it as it can. There should’ve been more animals (birds in particular), more rifles, the view distance should’ve been pushed a little further and the odd animations could’ve been better. Add a normal manual to it all, and steer for 5 minutes until a masterpiece is ready... Also, most people who’ve been hunting before can tell you that hunting is not just about hunting. It’s also about getting together with your buddies; it’s about starting a fire and cooking the deer that you killed (btw it’s also about gutting it); it’s about setting up a camp site and looking at the clear night sky surrounded by the waving tops of the pines… I guess, the developers can’t copy some of these things, but they could’ve thought up and added a little more to what, otherwise, is an excellent hunting sim.


May the wind be with you…