As far as success stories go, the Deer Hunter series is one of the unsung heroes of the early 2000s. A title aimed more towards casual players (to say the least), the original Deer Hunter was released in 1997 and sold over a million copies on PC, on the back of a tiny development budget. Fast forward to 2017, and there have been countless ports, sequels, spin-offs, and compilations, developed by various teams, but all featuring the Deer Hunter name. The most recent of these is Glu’s Deer Hunter Reloaded for mobile devices.
The progression from that title to this PlayStation 4 release of the same name is somewhat unclear, given the five-year gap between the two and the fact that some features from the mobile game are absent here. Either way, Deer Hunter Reloaded on PS4 feels like a bad mobile port. Right from the get-go, the graphical performance is sub-standard, with textures that sometimes load a long time after they should have done and then look blurry and messy when they do. There’s a fair amount of skipping and glitching to be found, too. It’s surprising, given that the game genuinely isn’t attempting a great deal of pixel-pushing work, to the point that the final product looks like it could have come out of the previous generation, or even the one before that. Whether you’re hunting in Texas, Colorado, or Alaska, the locations aren’t exactly dynamic or bustling with life, to the point that everything outside of your immediate range of motion may as well be a still photograph. A far cry from the free-roaming hunting experience many will be looking for, you’re limited to traipsing slowly up and down short and pre-determined pathways. If you do somehow force your way off the allowed path, usually because you’ve clipped through some scenery, a full-screen warning appears to tell you that you have ten seconds to get back on the straight and (very) narrow. Although, that sometimes happens at random when you’ve been in the same spot for two minutes.
The hunting itself is similarly limited. There’s no need to scout around for big game, as you merely wander toward either end of your available path and, wouldn’t you know it, every single time, there are a bunch of animals at which to shoot. Limiting the amount of noise you make is usually crucial in hunting, and the game attempts to replicate that with the inclusion of a noise meter. Only, it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference. You could run up to your hunting point while playing the tuba, and the animals wouldn’t bat an eyelid. In fact, the only thing that seems to prevent them from going about their day, as usual, is the sound of gunfire. Take a shot, and they’ll start lumbering off in a comedic, almost slow-motion fashion until the area is clear. That’s if they can work out how to navigate around simple things such as rocks and don’t get stuck, of course. Regardless, the glacial pace of their escape means you’ll probably have time to land at least another four hits. Realism is not particularly high on Deer Hunter Reloaded’s agenda, despite the game’s half-assed and half-baked attempts to convince you that it is.
When the trophy bucks have all run off, a bizarre design decision means the entire area remains clear until you’ve dropped into the menu and chosen a different location. Say your goal in the repetitive and basic campaign is to kill a deer in a specific location, and you miss on your first attempt. You’ll then need to switch to another area via the menu and then do the same again to come back to your starting point so that you can have another try. If you don’t, you’re just left wandering around an empty landscape. The other problem with this is that the areas don’t necessarily repopulate with the same animals. The first time you were at “Sheep Tower” (ignore the name) it was riddled with Whitetail Deer, so you’d think it was a place where they liked to graze. Now you’ve come back, the Whitetail have all shipped out, and the area is full of Elk. Come back again, and it’ll be exclusively the habitat of Mule Deer. At one point, I had to change locations no less than twelve times to be able even to attempt to complete the set task.
Even the shooting itself is below par. Missing the target unexplainably is also something you’ll need to get used to when playing Deer Hunter Reloaded. You can be laid prone, with your breath held, the target stood still 20 meters in front of you and lined up directly in your sights for a clean kill. When you pull the trigger though, none of that seems to matter. You might hit the target exactly where you were aiming, miss a little to the left, or fire ten feet above the target’s head. Maybe you’ll put a bullet in the mountainside in just the right place that you end up cracking the earth in two and ending humanity as we know it.
Well all right, maybe not the last one.
I guess the developer was hoping there would be fun in shots equating to nothing but rolls of the dice, but fun it is not. It makes super-specific campaign goals such as “kill a sheep with a lung shot” something of a random affair, though with the game’s utterly puzzling attempt at mastering animal anatomy, you’ll often be awarded for getting a lung shot kill by shooting your target in either buttcheek. No, I’m not even remotely joking.
Still, the more shots you take, the more chance that you’ll run into the audio bug where the sound of the spent shell hitting the floor plays at a speed that’s so slow and loud, it sounds like a NES game is trying to blow out your speakers.
By this point, you may have realized that finding good things to say about Deer Hunter Reloaded is quite tricky. The nuts and bolts of the situation are that you can only say good things about good things, and very, very little that’s included for the $20 asking price here even gets as far as approaching average. Shooting a bear in the back of the head and then watching it start to limp away as if you’ve grazed its leg is relatively funny, but not in a way that is to the developers’ credit. Sometimes a predator (such as a wolf) will show up and jump at you, and for a split-second, you think the action might be taking an exciting turn. But that goes out of the window when you realize the slow-mo effect that kicks in while the animal is leaping for your throat gives you time to switch to your shotgun, reload, and then shoot it dead.
The sad fact is that this is a simple shooting gallery without the things that would make a simple shooting gallery enjoyable. Deer Hunter Reloaded isn’t a patch on even the average-at-best Cabela’s series of titles, lacks the in-your-face arcade high-score stylings of Big Buck Hunter, and can’t even realistically be considered to be in the same genre as the solid theHunter: Call of The Wild. There isn’t even anything remotely resembling multiplayer play or an online leaderboard to be found. You have the campaign and an area where you can see how many of each thing you’ve shot. That’s it. To be perfectly blunt, that’s probably more than you’ll be able to stand, anyway.
Deer Hunter Reloaded review code provided by publisher. Version 1.0 reviewed on a standard PS4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.