"The one thing keeping this game from being a total failure is its multiplayer. Up to four people can play either at the same time, or in separate rounds. Having everyone shooting it out on the same screen makes for potential hilarity; with so many people frantically scrambling for targets and mocking the announcer, it makes the game seem far less tedious."
There’s a bird soaring in the sky above you. It’s hard to tell what kind it is from this distance; it’s probably just another duck, but it could be an osprey, red-tailed hawk, or any of the other creatures protected by the hunting laws. You could take the trouble of fishing out your visor to get a better view, but it’s not really worth it. It’s only one bird, and there’s no one around to care if it’s illegal to kill. The only thing you need to worry about is the accuracy of your shot; wasting ammo is the mark of a poor hunter. Thanks to the WiiMote controls, however, handling a Remington rifle is as easy as working a television controller. All you’ve got to do is point the onscreen reticule in the right spot, pull the trigger button, and watch the bloodied feathers fly. A gunshot later, and your prey goes careening to the ground. It was just a duck, after all-
Bewildered, you look around for the person who ruined the silence…But you’re the only one out there. Shaking your head, you grasp the controller and blast another duck to Hell. DOUBLE CHAIN! And another. TRIPLE CHAIN! Two pheasants with one bullet. DOUBLE SHOT! A grouse. BULLSEYE! Then a whole group of birds. FLOCK BONUS!
It’s around this point when you realize the horrible, terrifying truth: there’s a drunk, overenthusiastic redneck announcing the game…and there’s no way to shut him up. Oh sure, you could go to the option menu and turn down the audio, but that’ll get rid of the sounds of your gunshots and all the birds you’re trying to murder. If you want any semblance of ambience (or at least this title’s half-assed effort of it), you’ll have to endure the constant yelling praise and play-by-play of your invisible, beer-swilling companion. You won’t get through a round without hearing a “WHOA HO HO!“ or “THAT’S SOME WORLD-CLASS SHOOTIN!“. It’s easily the worst aspect of the Great American Bird Hunt. There’s something wrong with a game if you can’t play more than a minute before it gets annoying.
It’s unfortunate, considering how utterly repetitive the gameplay is. The goal of the game is simple: watch as birds fly across the screen, and shoot as many of them as possible. The more you kill, the bigger your score. Get a high enough score, and you make it to the next round. Rinse and repeat five times, and you’ve won a tournament (hopefully with a GOLD TROPHY! for your efforts). Twelve tournaments later, and you’ve finished off the ridiculously short single player campaign. The only thing that keeps it interesting are the scoring mechanics; if you hit each target without missing in-between, your bonus points will multiply. The longer combo chains you pull off, the more your rank will be boosted. The game tries to make things difficult by proclaiming certain birds, such as turkey hens and blue jays, to be off-limits. Sniping one of those not only docks your score, but it stops any combo counts that you might have racked up. Thanks to the responsive controls and slow-moving targets, however, underscoring rarely becomes an issue.
The special bonuses don’t make up for it, either. Getting enough combo chains lets you activate Hunter Vision, which amounts to nothing more than the gimmicky “bullet time” slow-down effects found in countless other shooters. Not only is it unoriginal, but it’s unnecessary; the game is already ridiculously easy without you slowing it down. The same goes for most of the other items you can nab from some of your victims’ bodies. Rather than aiding your sight, the HUNTING GLASSES! simply cast everything in an orange hue. The extra guns are even worse. Oh sure, you get to wield the REMINGTON 870 EXPRESS SYNTHETIC! or the PREMIER UPLAND!, but there’s almost no difference between them. Unless you’re paying attention to the number of rounds you’re firing, you probably won’t even notice that you’ve picked up a more powerful weapon. The only remotely useful bonus in the game is Rockford, your trusty (and bullet-proof) hunting dog. He dives into the underbrush and scares up golden birds, which net you tons of extra points.
More importantly, Rockford demonstrates the game’s utter lack of quality and style. He offers nothing more than a simple pre-round bark and a few clunky walking animations. The birds aren’t much better, either; geese, turkeys, herrings, and all the others are rendered with blurry graphics. It makes it hard to tell the difference between the various species. Instead, you’ll have to squint, maybe see the right color, and shoot accordingly. The stages are the worst, part, though. They’re little more than bland, static backdrops depicting some generic woodlands. You’ll see things like running water and mossy trees, but everything just reeks of laziness. Aside from the announcer yelling every other second, the only thing you’ll get to listen to are bird calls and the generic banjo-twanging soundtrack whenever you’re browsing menus. None of it comes anywhere close to what the Wii is capable of; it’s as if the environment was just added in as an afterthought.
The one thing keeping this game from being a total failure is its multiplayer. Up to four people can play either at the same time, or in separate rounds. Having everyone shooting it out on the same screen makes for potential hilarity; with so many people frantically scrambling for targets and mocking the announcer, it makes the game seem far less tedious. The Hunting Party Mode offers more of a direct competition; not only do players get to complete each round solo and rank their scores, but they can mess with each other as well. Shooting certain bonuses will cause your opponent’s controls to reverse and paint to be splattered on their camera. It’s hardly original, but at least it provides something more entertaining than the regular matches.
You know what the sad thing is? This is closest thing the Wii has to a Duck Hunt successor. It’s got the basics down fine, but it fails at just about everything else. Blasting tons of targets and racking up a high score has its charm, but the game is far too easy to be satisfying. It feels less like a shooting game and more of a repetitive exercise in pointing the controller at the screen. The gimmicky features, useless items, and utterly bland presentation don’t help much, either. Even if you can deal with all of that, the redneck commentator might drive you insane with his annoying babble. Ironically, the Great American Bird Hunt, is anything but great. They could have at least let you shoot the dog.
Freelance review by Justin Boot (January 17, 2010)
Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.
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