By Nick Statt

If you’ve ever swallowed your dignity and decided to pay 50 cents to use a large orange rifle at a run-down barbecue restaurant, then you’re probably familiar with the Cabela hunting series. It’s simple, it’s sweet and it involves killing helpless does as they graze with their fawn. But where the latest installment, Cabela Big Game Hunter 2010, really fails is when it comes to the variety and depth of its combat system and its story mode. While its primary shooting game rival, Halo Reach, really knocks out of the park.

In Cabela, you can switch among a number of high-caliber, precision-scope hunting rifles. You can maybe even use a knife if you have to slaughter that rampaging buck that just wanted to have a nice afternoon nap in a meadow. But in Halo Reach, you can wield an impressive arsenal of firearms. There are grenade launchers, energy pistols and swords comprised of highly volatile plasma. If Cabela had an energy sword, I think I would have enjoyed playing it a whole lot more…and that flying duck wouldn’t have stood a chance if I nailed with that Gatling gun that I ripped off the back of my Humvee.

Big Game Hunter 2010 doesn’t even have a unique catch to it. Because Reach is a prequel, you finally get to fight alongside other Spartan II’s, the biochemically-enhanced super soldiers that are near extinction in the time span of the original Halo trilogy. Their A.I is leaps and bounds better than the original trilogy’s human counterparts. The enemies A.I is also far more fluid, with surprisingly intelligent commanders who can aim and give commands better, as well as devise far more effective on-the-go strategies. The animal AI in Cabela is pure garbage. Deer don’t even send their most expendable minion in as a suicide bomber carrying two plasma grenades. Instead, they just run away.

Cabela is seriously lacking in its story mode too. In Reach, you get a detailed account of what the inter-galactic space war between the humans and the alien-alliance, the Covenant, was like before the original Halo trilogy. Cabela, on the other hand, has poor voice acting, and not very many Hollywood-blockbuster-quality CGI cut scenes, which really hurts its replay factor. You’re never even told why these guys are hunting. Are they hungry? Are they from the South? Do they like to see things die? Nothing. Character development is non-existent.

Do I even need to mention graphics? Cabela really stepped up their game for this 2010 installment. I actually feel like I’m ending the life of a bear cub instead of just shooting aimlessly at black blobs in the distance. But again, Halo Reach and its $100 million budget just puts Cabela to shame…so much so that I ended up bedridden for two days after playing the two within the same six-hour span.

The developers of the Big Game Hunter series just weren’t thinking big enough. They could have added jet packs. You know what game has jet packs? That’s right, Halo Reach. They could have added vehicles too. Who says it’s against the NRA-sanctioned tradition of Fair Chase to run over your prey with hover cars? You know what game lets you run over your enemies with hover cars? I’m not going to beat a dead horse here. Don’t buy Cabela. It’s just a Halo Reach imitator.