Even before it was released, Outdoors Unleashed: Africa 3D was already turning heads and churning out some very interesting debate about what is and is not considered appropriate for a video game. Because this title is all about hunting on an African safari and involves the killing of wild - and in many cases, endangered - animals, it’s no surprise that there would be some naysayers before the game was even released. The good news is that, when looked at objectively, and with issues of morality and ethics aside, it’s actually a well-crafted and engaging game.
Outdoors Unleashed: Africa 3D is a simple on-rails arcade-style shooter, but there's a surprising amount of meat on the bone. While the story telling leaves much to be desired (seeing as there is no plot except “shoot a bunch of wild animals”), the simplicity in gameplay and desire to achieve higher combos and scores more than makes up for it. Players definitely won’t be drawn to Outdoors Unleashed for its engaging narrative, but will instead be charmed by the ease of use and impressive replayability.
There are five different safaris to play, each comprised of seven stages, coming to a grand total of 35 levels. Each of these levels can last anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes, making it pretty easy to get through all of them in around three hours. Three hours may not seem like a very lengthy game, but being able to replay any level at will - fused with the desire to achieve a higher score in each level - definitely makes Outdoors Unleashed worth playing through more than once.
Each level has three different target scores with a different medal rank associated with each. Points are earned by shooting target animals while on safari, but points are also deducted when other animals are shot instead, adding an element of precision to the game and ensuring that players aren’t just shooting everything in sight. Earning a high enough score will grant players a gold medal for the stage, but any ranking allows the player to move on to the next hunt. Scoring high and finishing hunts also unlocks new items for players, such as upgraded weapons with increased accuracy or sunglasses that slow down time for more precise shooting. The inclusion of these different unlockables results in a decent level of variety in the gameplay, and allows players to customize their hunter to a certain extent.
The inclusion of trophies adds even more incentive for replayablity. Working much like an achievement system, trophies are awarded for completing tasks such as earning a gold medal in each stage or scoring a certain amount of head shots. With over 60 trophies to earn and collect, achievement hunters will definitely have their work cut out for them.
Outdoors Unleashed is controlled using either the 3DS’s touchscreen or the face buttons, giving players a variety of comfortable options to choose from when playing. Both control schemes are always readily available, so switching between touch or button controls in an options menu is not a necessary task. Because the game is on-rails, players don’t actually control the camera’s movement throughout each level, but instead control a crosshair on the 3DS’s top screen using either the touchscreen or the circle pad. Also accessible from the touchscreen are options to reload, switch weapons, or use different items that may be equipped. If you choose to use button controls, then these additional options are tied into the A, B, X, and Y buttons as well. And, of course, shooting is as simple as pressing either the left or right shoulder buttons, making this game accommodating for both left and right handed players.
In terms of visuals, Outdoors Unleashed definitely isn’t a perfect package, but it gets the job done. All of the animals and environments are presented as 3D polygon characters, and the 3DS’s ability to add depth to the imagery only enhances this effect. Having an legitimate three-dimensional perspective in a hunting game is sort of a revelation, as it gives real perspective on how near or far a target might be. Unfortunately, there is some blurring and pixelating when animals are too far away, which can become a bit detrimental when trying to aim for those really distant targets.
There’s not much to be said about the audio in this title besides that it fits the tone and setting of the game. The game’s menus are filled with tribal drums and other appropriate rhythms, while the actual gameplay is mostly flooded with environmental and animal sounds. It’s simplistic, but very effective for the African setting.
Ethical issues aside, Outdoors Unleashed: Africa 3D is a pretty great game. Anyone who’s a fan of arcade style on-rails shooters will definitely get plenty of enjoyment out of this one, even if the entire campaign only lasts around three hours. With over 60 trophies to earn, achievement hunters will have their work cut out for them, but replaying a level never feels like a chore. For a fun and addictive game that can be played at your own pace, this is definitely a download worth hunting down.