Professional Bull Rider
As a kid living in the cornfields of Iowa, I had the opportunity to ride a few horses and some cattle. I recall, one summer, taking a dare from my best friend, Matt, and jumping on a young steer and attempting to ride it around the pen. I know I didn’t stay on longer than 8 seconds but the thrill of riding a raging bull (irritated cow) will never be forgotten.
Professional Bull Rider is an original game that, as far as I can tell, has never been tried on the PC before. The most unique feature is that you can compete as the cowboy or the bull. As the bull, you can let the artificial intelligence give the cowboys a ride or you can twist and turn the bull yourself and try to buck off that cowboy. Knowing when to play as the cowboy or as the bull will be the key to winning the prize money. As the cowboy or the bull, players will work their way up the PBR circuit to compete in the Super Bowl of rodeo, the PBR finals in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
This is the downfall for the game -- the controls are clunky and not very responsive at all. Here are some of the basic moves: when the bull rocks forward you try to make your cowboy lean forward, if the bull is spinning to the left you lean to the left, if the bull is spinning to the right, well, I think you get the idea of how it works. I found that the best strategy was to quit messing with the controller and just let my cowboy sit on the bull and ride him without leaning at all. I had a 50/50 chance of making the 8 seconds, depending on the bull that was drawn. If the bull was a good one it would dump me off in the blink of an eye, if it was a cheesy bull I could hang on for days and never even worry about getting knocked off.
The only saving grace for the gameplay was the fact that you can play as the bull. I enjoyed spinning my bull around in a tight circle and then launching it into the air and flipping the cowboy off onto the ground, then the fun part starts. You get to chase this poor fellow around and try to knock him into the second row of the bleachers. If you get lucky and catch the cowboy, it is a funny sight to see him fly through the air and then smack into the fence. Now that is good riding! I know I am not supposed to cheer for the bull but it is humorous, nonetheless.
There is nothing flashy about bull riding and certainly nothing that will make you drop your morning coffee and scream "Did you see that?" The cowboys and bulls look realistic but the clunky gameplay kills the game. While riding the bull, it seems a little jerky and is too hard to distinguish the direction that the bull is going. I think a different camera angle would help, if you had a helmet cam you could see the top of the head of the bull and see which way it is actually getting ready to go. As the game stands right now, you have to guess what the bull will do and hope that you get it right, there are no visual clues as to which way it will turn.
At the beginning of the game you have the option to make your own cowboy and change his clothes and stuff like that. I like the idea of being able to customize my cowboy but it would be cool if I could do that to my bull also.
The video clips are one of the few highlights to the game. It seems as if Sierra Sports put more time into the video than they did into the actual game. You have a training area in the beginning of the game where you will get tips from Ty Murray and Tuff Hedeman. During this time they will tell you how to ride and give you insights into the sport. It was interesting but not needed to play the game.
While riding a bull, I thought the sounds didn’t quite hit the mark. You would expect to hear the cowbell and the bull snorting but instead you hear an announcer and the crowd. The cowbell was very faint and I could barely make out the horn at the end of 8 seconds. I don’t know how it works in a real rodeo but if I were a cowboy I would be listening pretty hard for that horn to go off so I could get off of the bull. It would have been nice to be able to have a "Yeehaw" button that I could push every once in awhile also. Maybe I could get a couple of extra bonus points for doing it while in the air?
Justin McKee does the commentary and does a pretty good job of mixing up the zingers. He seems to know the names of every bull on the circuit and has some inside information for the cowboys.
Windows 95/98, Pentium 200 MHz or better (166 or better with 3D hardware support), 32 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM, and a Windows compatible mouse.
The documentation for Bull Rider is sufficient enough to get you spurring a bull in less than 8 seconds. It covers the basics for the game, but you will get more information by doing the training area at the beginning of the game.
I wish that I could say Bull Rider was a rompin’, stompin’ good time but I can’t. It had its moments when I thought it was fun but after a few hours of play the novelty of the game wore off. If you really want to ride a wild animal I would suggest that you go out and ask any farmer in the local area and I am sure he would let you get dragged around the lot for a few dollars. It might not have the same excitement as a rodeo but it will give you a taste of what the cowboys do for a living and you don’t even have to uninstall anything when you are done.