I grew up in a very small town in Florida where people love their guns and hunting almost as much as they love cheap beer and their trucks. Even though I’ve never shot a gun in my life, I’m no stranger to the hunting lifestyle and the individuals who have made the Deer Hunter franchise one of the most popular casual game franchises in history.
For eighteen years the Deer Hunter franchise has grown into a collection of over twenty titles, while the franchise itself has exchanged hands a few times. Currently, Glu Games holds the Deer Hunter license and has been focused on releasing games for mobile gamers to enjoy on Android and iOS devices.
With Deer Hunter 2016, I took my first shot in the world of Deer Hunter. Surprisingly, or not-so-surprisingly now that I think about it, I found that Deer Hunter 2016 played out a lot like Glu’s previous titles, Frontline Commando: WWII and Dino Hunter: Deadly Shores. Players are given a preliminary task for a particular level, (kill 3 deer, kill 2 bears, and so on) which they must complete to collect the level’s rewards and progress onto the next level. Additional weapons are then bought and upgraded with those earnings, or players can opt to spend some of their own cash to upgrade their weapons all at once, or buy other weapons entirely.
Deer Hunter 2016 utilizes an energy meter, but it’s a generous one compared to most other freemium games of this variety. Levels cost one energy bar to attempt, and with a default 10 energy bars when full, I had no problem always having enough energy during my play sessions with the game over the weekend. Deer Hunter 2016 also rewards players with additional energy when they level up (which occurs often at the beginning), a free energy bar by watching an ad, random refills during predesignated time windows throughout the day, and the first full energy refill is free. Alternatively, a $4.99 Starter Pack is available that, apart from including some gold and a cool assault rifle, increases the maximum energy by 2 (to 12 total), which I thought is a clever idea to give players a bit extra content every time they play the game.
But with as well as Glu handles it, the energy bar system in Deer Hunter 2016 won’t really matter if players get bored with the game early on. Having reached level 7, completed the first 30-mission campaign in Alaska, and completed the first fantasy campaign to hunt a legendary elk, I really have no motivation to keep playing the game. It was a drag to get this far, and it all comes down to the fact that the game is just too easy.
The biggest challenge in the game isn’t actually killing the animals (which can typically be done in one shot), but it’s getting the cash you need to upgrade your gun so that you can advance through the campaigns. Secondary missions cost the same energy as regular campaign missions, and are always available regardless of your weapon quality. Unless you’re looking to shell up some cash, you’ll be grinding these secondary missions over and over again to collect the money you need to advance through the main campaign. While I don’t mind having to grind a little bit to keep the experience affordable, when I get the same mission over and over, I’m just going to lose interest with each and every attempt.
Especially when the missions are mindlessly easy.
There was one repeating secondary mission (pictured above) that I just dreaded because it was so painfully easy. It was in a snowy forest, and the objective was to kill a couple of moose. The moose herd would run up over a hill, and down the other side, right at me. Two shots per moose…level over. I’m pretty sure that by the third time I could have done it with my eyes closed. Deer Hunter 2016 certainly could have benefited from a randomly generated animal spawn system. Then later, in the fantasy campaign I played through, the legendary stag that I had just tracked down was propped up on a rock, doing his best Lion King impression. I promptly shot him in the eyeball.
Deer Hunter 2016 isn’t a bad game, and its chief flaw is largely a product of the environment (no pun intended): animals are kind of dumb, and when you’re equipped with guns that can easily puncture through their skins, getting a one-shot-kill is understandably easy. But when levels play out in the exact same manner, and I’m required to play them multiple times, the problem shifts from animals being too easy to kill to the game doing a poor job handling variety.