Bass Pro Shops: The Strike and Bass Pro Shops: The Hunt Previews

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Bass Pro Shops: The Strike Publisher: XS Games
Developer: Griffin International

Platforms: Xbox 360, Wii and PC

Video games are finally mainstream enough (and profitable enough) that everyone wants in. Bass Pro Shops is a huge retailer of fishing and hunting supplies, and what better way to build a brand with homebound gamers than to release hunting and fishing games in which progress depends on purchasing fancier gear from Bass Pro Shops? It may be a straightforward marketing ploy, but thanks to an incredibly clever controller, it looks like this marketing ploy might result in the best fishing game yet released.

Projected Release for The Strike: September, 2009

Projected Release for The Hunt: First Quarter, 2010

Kyle Ackerman

At E3, I got a chance to check out the upcoming Bass Pro Shops games, and thanks to its advanced state of completion, got hands-on time with Bass Pro Shops: The Strike. Unquestionably, in the case of The Strike, it's the controller that makes the game. I got to try out both the Xbox 360 controller and the Wii controller, and while the Wii controller cleverly engulfs the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to create a usable fishing rod, it's the Xbox 360 controller that is the must-have peripheral for console-bound freshwater anglers.

A Reliable Rod

The Xbox 360 controller for The Strike features all of the Xbox 360's conventional controls, plus extra force feedback and an accelerometer. The Accelerometer makes it so that the console recognizes casting and jerking the rod to set the hook, while the force feedback lets you feel the fish both through the rod and the reel. What all other fishing games have lacked is that feel of really reeling in a fish – they've ultimately been about casting, and not landing fish.

The Xbox 360 controller features force feedback in the reel to give you a sense of when the fish is running with the line, and LEDs on the rod (as well as a display in the game) to indicate line tension. Because of this, you can really feel the fish fight, and the battle with the bass feels more realistic. It took me all of three tries to learn to cast properly, and while I suspect it would take a lot more work to master, the controller felt right and was intuitive to use. Different lures behave differently, and only by using the controller like a proper rod do the lures actually attract fish.

Prepare to Purchase!

The controller and the actual fishing are great – everything else in the game is more conventional. There are boat races and casting challenges; other fishermen who will challenge you to competitions; and levels based on carefully mapped, real lake locations. You can use a fish finder to locate the fish, or follow buoys used to mark the best fishing spots. Catching fish earns reputation points that unlock access to other lakes, so that you can pursue all 11 species of fish in the game.

Even amateur anglers know that a fisherman with poor gear is more likely to go home empty handed, and that's where The Strike heads right for the land of brand building. Everything you can use in the game, including lines, rods, reels and lures all are bought in an in-game version of the Bass Pro Shops, and are all products that can be purchased in real life. All 111 types of lures in the game can be found in real stores. And it's not just a matter of unlocking your desired equipment. Hooks can snag and lines can break, and if they do, you'll need to buy more. Discovering hidden locations on the lakes can earn you an in-game gift card to the Bass Pro Shops.

The clever controller will reel you in to the fishing experience, then the Bass Pro Shops' marketing will train you to be a good consumer of their gear.

A High-Caliber Precision Pointer

I saw considerably less of Bass Pro Shops: The Hunt, thanks to its more distant release date. I did get to experience the Wii "Precision Pointer" that has been developed for the game. In essence, the Precision Pointer is like many other gun-style attachments for the Wii Remote, but the addition of an extended stock made me feel like this peripheral actually contributed to my experience rather than simply adding extraneous plastic. It also had a nicely integrated bolt control to better simulate a hunting rifle. Apparently, I'm not supposed to call the Precision Pointer a gun, but it's the best not-a-gun Wii remote peripheral I've played with.

As for the actual game, I only saw a target shooting mini-game rather than the full experience of The Hunt, but the game promises to offer plenty of opportunities to purchase hunting equipment from the Bass Pro Shops and let you take it out into the wild.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on June 7, 2009 8:04 PM.

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