Ultimate Hunt Challenge
Listen up all you avid hunters, from here on there will be no more off season for you! Now you will be able to hunt every day and all day thanks to EA Sports' newest release Ultimate Hunt Challenge. You get not one or two, but three CDs in which you can hunt till your heart is content. Ultimate Hunt Challenge has a little something to offer every type of hunter, because each disc has its own specific animal to hunt. Disc one is deer hunting, disc two is turkey hunting, and the last disc is pheasant hunting. If that’s not enough hunting for you, you can go on over to EA Sports website and play against other hunters in a Multiplayer game and see who gets the biggest trophy animal. So lets move on and get into the specifics.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Each hunt uses the same controls as all the others, although different tools are available for each different animal. Learning the keyboard commands is very painless and that’s just the way we like it, gentle reader. There are two main sections for each animal, the first is the Hunting Trip where you go out on your own and explore the massive maps for each area and hopefully find the game animal of your dreams. The second is called a Hunt Challenge where you start off as a greenhorn and work your way up to master hunter. I found this section to be the most challenging because it drops you right into the thick of things and you have to make decisions quickly. The only way to advance in the Hunt Challenge is to score a perfect 100%, which means the biggest animal with only one shot. Another thing that makes the Hunt Challenge better than the regular hunting trip is the fact that you don’t always have all your gear available to you. If you can’t make do with what you have you will go home empty handed and the wife will make you cook dinner.
All in all, I found the turkey and pheasant hunting to be the most challenging. EA Sports did a great job with the AI for both of those animals, but the deer AI was lacking. I went on 11 hunting trips on expert level and was able to average 215 lbs. and a 15.3 rack for the deer, which I found totally unbelievable. If that were my average in real life I’d have my own hunting show and line of hunting products. When it comes to the turkey and pheasant though, it is a whole new ball game. I found both of those animals extremely challenging to hunt, plus there is the bonus of having a dog along on the pheasant hunt to flush and retrieve, which really knocked my socks off.
The last thing I will cover is the gear, which is the essential part for any hunter. In the deer hunt you have tons of calls and scents to use to your advantage, not to mention the cool tree stand and hunting blind. In the turkey hunt you also get lots of calls, a decoy, and hunting blind. When you hunt pheasant it is just you and your dog which is the way it is supposed to be. The main complaint for this section would be the lack of options in the game. There are only two difficulty levels, novice or expert; I’m not sure what happened to intermediate. The other thing that bugged me was that there are only two screen size options, 800x600 or 1024x768, which is a bummer because some of the newer video cards out there support bigger screen sizes.
I have to give EA Sports a big high five on the graphics because they are great. My only concern though is for people with slower systems. I have a speed demon of a computer and even I found my computer filling in graphics in the background, which is not a good sign if you only have the standard system requirements for the game. I really enjoyed the size of the maps for the hunting trip. There is an enormous amount of territory in which to hunt, so running out of areas to hunt in seems unlikely. The graphics for the animals were great; I found the deer to be very realistic looking and the movements of the animals were superb. My only real beef is with the plants and trees; they just didn’t fit with the rest of the graphics. It’s kind of like having a Rolls Royce but there is a huge scratch down the side. I also found the hunting dog used in the pheasant hunt to be poorly done; who knows, maybe they ran out of time.
There is not much to say about the audio except that it doesn’t take anything away from the game. You will hear the ground crunch under your feet and the jangle of your dog’s collar. There is one point that needs to be fixed and that is the sounds heard when walking through bushes. The only noise you will hear when you walk is your feet, but the bushes don’t make any sound when you walk through them. Other than that the audio is fine. EA Sports also did a good job with the audio in regards to the calls used in the game.
Win 95/98, 166 MHz processor or faster, 170 MB hard drive space, 32 MB RAM, DirectX 7, 4X CD-ROM, 2 MB PCI or AGP video card, and a DirectX compatible sound card.
When I review hunting games I always have my father-in-law in mind because he is an avid hunter who makes full grown bucks quiver and shake with fear. On the realistic level I found the deer hunt to be too easy to bag a big one, but when it came to the other two hunts I was definitely challenged and found it more in line with real hunting. Either way this game was a joy to play and review, so if EA Sports can make a few changes they will have the hunting market for PC games cornered. On that note, gentle reader, I will tell you to go buy the game, it is an awesome value considering you get three CDs with huge amounts of hunting territory to explore. So let’s go ahead and give the game a score of 79/100, enough said.