Hunter's Trophy arrives in Australian stores as a very tempting Christmas present for budding virtual hunters. Packaged with a replica ball trap rifle enclosure for the PlayStation Move and Navigation Controller, the game looks to provide a quasi-realistic shooting experience (as realistic as you can get with a glowing purple ball dangling at the end of your gun). Hunter's Trophy promises a hunting simulation enhanced by Move controls, so is it a viable stocking stuffer?
The rifle accessory itself, at least, is solidly built. It comes in two parts, the barrell and the grip, which lock into each other fairly easily. With the Move and Navigation Controller inside, the gun has a real weight to it, although it is obviously a bit front heavy with the Move controller sitting all the way at the end of the barrel. There are gaps on the underside of the rifle for L1 and L2 buttons on the Navigation controller (which form the trigger and access to your binoculars), and one for the T button on the Move which zooms in your view and allows you to aim more finely. This requires you to hold the rifle with one hand at the end of the barrel, which helps with steadying your aim. There is also a break-open reload action you can perform, although this doesn't appear to affect anything in the game. All up, while the orange on it is a little gaudy and the whole thing is essentially just a hunk of plastic, it does its job quite well.
While you can play Hunter's Trophy with a regular DualShock controller, it is a game essentially made for the Move from ground-up. The aiming reticule while hunting is a large circular area, giving you quite a wide margin for error that helps when using the Move, but feels overly generous when playing with a regular controller. Calibrating the Move is done fairly regularly, and even when done several times is never very accurate. For us, the cursor always ended up slightly to the left or right of where we were actually aiming.
Hunting in Hunter's Trophy is divided up into three main sections - Quick Hunt, Career Mode and the Shooting Range. The Shooting Range provides some basic exercises, including trap, target and silhouette shooting, and is the only mode that offers multiplayer (the take-turns and pass-the-gun-around type). Quick Hunt allows you to choose the conditions you want to hunt in and form a hunting plan, choosing exactly what animals you're going to be a-killing today.
The main meat of the game comes in the Career Mode, which throws different environments and challenges at you, as well as introducing you to different kinds of rifles and even a crossbow. Hunting generally consists of you slowly walking around the forest, trying to avoid making noise and looking for hints (highlighted in neon blue) of wildlife. You're always required to hunt a certain number and type of animal, for instance two hares and two ducks, and going over this quota will result in an over-hunting penalty. Even though there's always a time limit in place, it's a slow paced game as you try to quietly tiptoe around, keeping your eyes open for any sign of movement. Different animals require different tactics - sometimes you have to send your pack of dogs to chase deer in your direction, allowing you to stage an ambush. With ducks, you're not allowed to shoot them while they're in the water, so you have to alert them to your presence and force them to fly before you can take them out. There's just enough variety to keep things interesting for the first few hours, although after that the game does start to get repetitive.
Killing the protected species which also litter the forests will also incur a penalty, but killing pests nets you a bonus. This can be a problem due to the player's unfamiliarity with forest animals, or the at-times unclear graphics. You're meant to use your binoculars to hover over your target to identify them, although this takes a few seconds to activate and 'charge up' for some reason, which is frustrating to use and requires patience. In any case, the net result of your efforts in Career mode is a high score, which you can compare with your virtual unseen opponents in the tournament menu, or on online leaderboards (which only show your position and surrounding players, and not the whole ladder).
It has to be said that Hunter's Trophy is not the world's nicest looking game. PS2-era graphics are the theme here, with muted colours and a lot of aliasing, which at times makes it difficult to figure out what you're looking at from a distance. However, there are occasionally nice touches, such as the animation of your hunter reloading (catching the shells), and the way the game marks the borders of the playable area by reducing the colour saturation. Unfortunately there are quite a few typos which regularly appear in-game, and despite some reports, there is no 3D-compatible mode, as far as we could tell. The music is actually quite good, with some stirring orchestral tracks providing a good backdrop to your gunplay.
Hunter's Trophy is a good hunting simulator, but it just doesn't really excel in any area. The Move controls and rifle work fine, although they could be more accurate. The graphics are serviceable, but have a lot of room for improvement. The variety of animals and situations on display is fine, but could be better. It's not a bad game, and certainly provides good value for money with the solid rifle accessory, but it's not anything special. If you have an interest in hunting and happen to own a Move and Navigation controller, give it a shot (hur hur) but it's by no means an essential purchase.