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Deer Hunter 3
Manufacturer: Sunstorm / WizardWorks (1999)
Price: $19.99
Genre: Deer Hunting
System Requirements: Pentium 200 or faster, Windows 95 or above, 16 MB RAM (32 recommended), 400 MB HDD space (for typical install), CD-ROM, DirectX compatible soundcard, 3D accelerated video card highly recommended.  

  ... DESCRIPTION: Sunstorm's Deer Hunter series has continually set the standard for the hunting genre. The original Deer Hunter set the stage for the explosion of hunting titles. The best selling Deer Hunter 2 added full 3D landscapes and improved graphics in all aspects of the game. Now, Deer Hunter 3 adds even more to this impressive series. The two largest additions come in the form of multi-player capabilities and a full virtual hunting season. The virtual season mode allows you to scout and plant crops in the preseason, then return for the actual hunting seasons. The laws governing the hunting seasons in the game generally follow those used in the actual states represented. Also new to the Deer Hunter series are true 3D rendered animals. The sprite graphics for the animals have been replaced, now every rack is realistically represented in the game.

    THE GOOD: There are many good things about Deer Hunter 3. But, first, let me cover the great things.

The first great thing is the virtual season. The ability to scout and plant crops in the spring and summer, then return for the opening day adds incredibly to the hunting atmosphere. Being limited to taking one buck and one doe (in Missouri) for the entire season forces you to choose your harvest carefully. The season opens with archery season, then moves on to general gun season and finally closes out with muzzleloader season. The landscape and deer behavior changes all through out the season, as summer turns to fall which gives way to winter. The effect and atmosphere are incredible. Also, knowing that the same bucks are present all season long gives you extra incentive to hunt carefully. If, for example, you saw a massive 12 point buck in the distance during archery season, you might pass on a shot at an 8 point, hoping to catch up with that monster again. This is real hunting!

The second great thing about DH3 is the multi-player. There are a few other hunting games out there that feature multi-player, but more or less, the amount to a chat feature between to independent games. In Deer Hunter 3, you are hunting with your buddies. You can see them walk, run, jump, climb into tree stands, take aim and shoot, etc. Everything they do, you see. You can get a group together to drive deer to certain shooters. You can share equipment and hunting blinds. The possibilities for the multi-player are endless. Experts guiding the newbies on the Internet will be a common occurance.

The good things about the game are too many to list, but here are some. The animal AI is much improved from Deer Hunter 2. The bucks in the game are smart, and they have finely honed "virtual senses." If you move to try to get a better shot angle, you'll see a white flag waving goodbye. The ballistics in the game are also quite well done. The graphics engine (STE v3.0) has been improved dramatically from Deer Hunter 2 (STE v1.0). And while it does still use flat, billboarded sprites for trees and bushes, the overall landscaping effects are impressive.

Bordering on the "great" listing above are the animations for the deer themselves. Now true 3D models, the deer are very true to life. Bucks have realistically sized antlers (no more pressing a key to see how big it is), but the details goes even beyond that. The deer have different animations when they are shot, depending on where they are shot. A shot to the gut will reveal a different action than a perfect double lung shot. This is truly an impressive addition.

The attention to detail in Deer Hunter 3 is incredible, as well. The trees sway with the wind (always WITH the wind) and windmills spin (once again, always WITH the wind). Frogs, rabbits, fish, as well as other animals, add to the realism of the "virtual forest." Lighting effects as dawn turns to day then to dusk truly give the hunting world realism.

... .THE BAD: Deer Hunter 3 does so many things so right, that I really had to look for things that I didn't like. The biggest problem I had with the game was the AI of the does. They seem just a little too stupid, a little too responsive to the calls and scents. I know this is a game and there is a certain degree of tweaking that must be made so that we don't sit in the woods for hours without seeing any deer. I would just prefer not to have a doe walk right up to my stand every hunt.

The billboarded trees and bushes also seem a little behind the times. The effect with them blowing in the wind is still quite impressive, but not quite enough to overcome.

Lastly, one inclusion that I would like to have seen, is a larger arsenal of rifles. Personally, I hunt most often with a scoped Remington .270. The 30-06 in Deer Hunter 3 imitates my rifle very well, but the ability to hunt with my rifle and choose my exact cartridge for it (130gr) would be a nice realism boost. But this really starts getting into the wishlist category instead of things wrong with DH3.

    THE VERDICT: Overall, I feel that Deer Hunter 3 has just set a new standard by which all future hunting games will be judged (until the next in the Deer Hunter series?). Deer Hunter 3, with its virtual season and multi-player, has solidified Sunstorm as the leader and innovator of this genre. While other games seem to be moving towards the action end of hunting, Sunstorm and WizardWorks are striving to make their games "as real as it gets". And with this latest offering, they have certainly succeeded.

Reviewed by Tom Shiflet