Wii Game Review: Remington Great American Bird Hunt
An avid hunter takes a look at this Remington-branded title.
Developer: Mastiff Games
For the Wii. Rated T for Teen.
Author: Avery Abernethy
The military and hunting have had strong ties throughout history. Technology developed for hunting has direct military applications. This ranges from spears and bows which existed before recorded history to modern firearms. For example, the Remington 700 is a leading deer rifle in the civilian market with a variant used as a sniper rifle by the US Military. The HBO mini-series Generation Kill set in the Second Iraqi War included a US sniper team using a Remington 700 to take down a target.
Other hunting skills such as camouflage, holding a still position, having good situational awareness (of game, dogs and fellow hunters), tracking, accuracy, and ability to kill a target all have direct military application. Many historians felt the Confederacy had a minor advantage in the initial part of the War Between the States because more of their troops were from rural areas and had firearms skills.
Many of the most decorated US infantrymen came from poor, rural families. Hunting kept the family from going hungry. Examples include Alvin York from rural Tennessee in World War I, Audie Murphy from rural Texas who was the most decorated US infantryman from WWII, and Darrell “Shifty” Powers from Easy Company of the 101 Airborne seen in Band of Brothers. This tradition continues today. In 2009 a guide on one of my duck hunts was a Marine scout sniper on leave from Iraq.
The ties between hunting and war make Remington Great American Bird Hunt for the Wii of potential interest to many wargamers. Hunting games are also an important part of the video game market. Hunting titles such as the Cabella’s series have had a strong sales record for many years.
Remington Great American Bird Hunt bills itself as an “outdoor action” game suitable for 1-4 players. The player directs a yellow circle on the screen by moving the controller. The yellow circle indicates where the shotgun will fire. The player lines up the yellow circle on a target bird, pushes the “B” button, and the gun fires. Each gun has a limited number of shells and must be reloaded after all shells are expended. Reloading can either take place automatically, or the player can press a button to manually reload.
Points are scored by killing birds. More points are awarded if target birds are hit in sequence without missing (called a “chain” by the game). The more birds hit in a row without missing, the higher the player’s point total. Birds which are invalid targets also appear. If these “illegal” birds are shot, points are deducted from the players score and the chain of hits is broken. To generate a high score the player must be able to both hit the right birds and avoid hitting the wrong birds.
Different types of birds are available including duck, goose, wild turkey, pheasant, and grouse. Some birds may fly in flocks. A bonus is earned if all birds in a flock are successfully shot. Bonus points are also awarded for long shots and for hitting a wild turkey with a head shot. To obtain the highest possible score a shooter would successfully shoot each valid bird in a round without missing.
The game includes a brief, but adequate 18 page manual and the game disk. The disk worked fine in my system and I encountered no bugs, freezes, or other defects in more than eight hours of play. The manual was well written, clearly illustrated, and made the game easy to understand. Even the youngest teenager should be able to quickly read the manual and fully understand the game.
A short, interactive tutorial is provided allowing a quick start to play. The tutorial covers all the basics, although the manual includes a few details which can improve scores.
The game is compatible with both the standard Wii remote and the Wii Zapper. I used the standard remote control. The “B” button fires the gun and the other control buttons are seldom used. All controls were very easy to use and the game can be played by anyone able to hold their hand somewhat steady. Even the youngest teenager should be able to play the game within five minutes of inserting the disk into the Wii.
As suggested by the title, only Remington shotguns are available. Most games start with the Remington 870, a pump action gun. When the pump is fired, there is a brief pause between shots to simulate working the pump action.
Various power-ups are available, many of which provide different Remington shotguns. These include double barrel over and unders, and semi-automatic shotguns such as the Remington 1100 Sporting 12. There are no side-by-side shotguns, although Remington sells these guns under the Spartan line. A different sound is associated with each gun.
There is a design flaw with respect to double-barrel shotguns. Only two shots are available with a double-barrel. After firing the second shot, the gun must be broken open to eject the spent cartridges and to insert two additional rounds. The reloading process is slow and a hunter is limited to a maximum of two shots before reloading. A semi-automatic can hold three or more rounds and can be reloaded without breaking open the gun. Semi-autos automatically eject spent shells, have larger magazines, and can be reloaded quickly.
But in Remington Great American Bird Hunt, double-barrel reloading is faster than reloading semi-automatics. In reality for this hunter, this is reversed.
Chokes are another game omission. Chokes are inserted into the end of the shotgun barrel in modern weapons to constrict the barrel in order to delay the spread of the shot and to increase the range. Chokes offer trade-offs. When more choke is used, longer shots are possible but it is considerably more difficult to hit close shots. When less choke is used like a cylinder choke, the shot spreads out quickly which greatly increases your chances to hit a short range shot but makes longer range kills next to impossible. The game could have been made more interesting and challenging if the player had the option to choose different chokes at the start of the round and adjust the birds they targeted accordingly.
Power-ups are gained by shooting specified targets (either specially marked birds or balloons). Power-ups include more ammunition in the magazine, calls to attract bonus birds, hunting glasses, and speed shot bonuses. In multi-player power-ups may also randomly interfere with the other player during their turn.
Although the power-ups in this title may be standard for arcade games, in the real world increasing the number of shells available in the magazine in a hunting game is silly. Double-barrel guns only hold two shells and the gun design makes the additional ammo power-up physically impossible.
Semi-automatic or pump shotguns can be modified to hold more than the standard three shells, but this modification violates US, UK and most European hunting laws. Game wardens catching a hunter with a shotgun in the field modified to hold more than three rounds could fine the hunter, confiscate the shotgun, revoke the hunting license or even arrest the hunter. For this reason, the additional ammo power-up detracts from the game.
There are more than twenty tournaments in single player mode. Each tournament contains five rounds with different hunting situations and target birds in each round. For example, you might have turkeys in round 1, ducks in round 2, pheasant in round 3, ducks in a different setting in round 4 and grouse in round 5.
Rounds last a couple of minutes and the player will not lack for game. Most rounds include thirty or more legitimate targets with possible bonus birds. The overabundance of wildfowl more closely resembles a shooting arcade than a normal hunting experience.
This sounds like a lot of different shooting opportunities, but the variety of settings is actually very limited. Backgrounds are static and limited in number. Weather changes such as rain or snow have a very minor impact on visibility. There is little variation in the flight or running patterns of the birds. No other hunters appear on screen. “Rockford” the dog only makes an occasional appearance to flush “bonus birds” if a special power-up appears and is successfully shot.
There are two multiplayer modes: versus and hunting party. Because there is no online multiplayer option, all participants must be at the same game station. In the versus mode two to four players play simultaneously. The player with the highest score after three rounds wins.
In the hunting party mode each player competes by taking turns. The player with the highest score across three rounds wins the match. One additional feature is included in the hunting party mode. If randomly appearing balloons are shot a “trick attack” occurs during the opposing player’s round. These include “bird armor” which require multiple shots to penetrate, erratic bird flight speed, turning the screen upside down, and reversing the left-right and up-down motions of the controller. These elements are obviously pure “arcade.”
Suitability for Children
Although the game has a Teen rating by the ESRB, I think the game is suitable for every age group and would not hesitate to let young family members play. Firearms are used and simulated birds are shot. But the birds are either killed, fall to the ground and quickly disappear, or the shot is a miss. There is no blood, no wounded animals and no bad language. Parents objecting to guns or hunting should not let their children play. But if hunting is not objectionable, there is nothing here to concern a parent.
Is Remington Great American Bird Hunt Fun?
The game is initially amusing. The intuitive controls, simple game play, and abundance of targets make action fast and furious. The various multiplayer modes extend play life somewhat, but that is limited with no online option. But the game rapidly becomes repetitive. Ultimately, Remington Great American Bird Hunt is a rather boring arcade target practice game with a thin patina of bird hunting.
The voice-overs are loud, annoying and cannot be turned off. The backgrounds are static. The game has very little relationship to hunting, so buyers interested in sharpening their hunting skills will be disappointed. I quickly bored of the game and had to force myself to keep playing to complete the review. A shooting gallery game with a carnival midway setting could provide more variety and longer play life. Almost any first-person shooter for the Wii would provide greater long term play value.
Another detracting aspect of the game was the rifle-like firing system. Rifles are aimed. You point at one specific point and fire. Rifle bullets are very high velocity. The distinctive “crack” of a rifle is caused by the bullet going faster than the speed of sound. Rifles are usually employed by hunters on stationary targets, often at long ranges.
Shotguns are designed to hit moving targets at short range. Shotguns fire pellets, not one bullet (with the exception being slugs used in big game hunting). A shotgun shell may have as many as 850 individual pellets. Shot velocity is low compared to bullets, giving shotguns a short range.
Shotguns are pointed, not aimed. You shoot where the target will be, not where the target is currently. When aiming a shotgun you usually point at the target, rapidly pull the barrel ahead of the target, and pull the trigger while continuing to swing the gun. Under most circumstances, if you aim a shotgun directly at a bird you will shoot behind the target. But in Remington Great American Bird Hunt you aim directly at the target and never ahead of the target. Shotguns are aimed like rifles. The game also allows you to hit targets far beyond the range of any shotgun. If any part of the target is hit, it is a kill. None of these facts will detract players looking for an arcade game, but hunters may be annoyed by the game physics.
On a 1-10 scale with “10” being excellent and “1” being unplayable, I would rate Remington Great American Bird Hunt a “3.5.” The fun wears off quickly and the lack of online multiplayer limits replay value. Much better arcade and shooter titles are available. It's unfortunate that such a great name brand was linked to an arcade game that does little to promote bird hunting. The addition of a realism option would have added a great deal to the game, and internet multiplayer would have been a fun option for gamers competing with friends in distant locations. As it is, Remington Great American Bird Hunt is just another arcade game among many.
About the Reviewer
Avery started playing Avalon Hill war games in the 3rd grade. He is still an avid gamer and plays many war games. He started hunting as a boy in Western North Carolina. Last year he hunted duck, pheasant and quail averaging more than three hunts a month during the season. He has several shotguns including a Remington 1100 Sporting 12. When he is not gaming or hunting, he is a Professor of Marketing at Auburn University. War Eagle!