You might not know it, but there’s another cowboy game in town, albeit one that doesn’t quite have the same amount of kudos as Rockstar’s opus. That game is 8 to Glory – the Official Game of the PBR.
I have to be honest and say that being a resident of the UK, I wasn’t particularly aware of the whole rodeo scene, and certainly hadn’t heard of Professional Bull Riding; you don’t get a lot of bull riding in South London where I live, whether that be due to the fear of mad cows disease returning or the fact that it is just a bit ‘too American’ for us straight laced Brits. But whether you like the Pro Bull Riding League or not, you now have the chance to take the bull by the horns and experience the highs, and the lows, of the entire scene. So saddle up partner and get yourself ringside for some good old American fun.
I’ve played a lot of games in my time, but I don’t think I’ve ever gone in to something with such little idea of what to expect. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a professional bull riding league. I didn’t know what the title of the game – 8 to Glory – even meant. But very quickly it all became very clear.
8 to Glory defines the amount of time you have to spend on the back of a bull, hanging on for dear life. If you manage to hold on for the time period, then you win the round and prove that man is better than beast. But guess what? Bulls don’t like being ridden by hairy men in hats, so it’s a lot harder than you may think to stay on. All this takes place through a main campaign or arcade mode, allowing you to choose your difficulty level – at least once you’ve decided on the rider of choice.
This bunch of black-shirted hat-wearing riders come with some of the best monikers I have ever witnessed. I went for a guy named Stetson because he sounded like the real deal and if ever someone could ride an angry prize bull, then surely he is the man for the job. The bulls come with some iconic names too, delivering real-world likenesses and brilliant names like “Panic Attack” and the “Heartbreak Kid”.
Once you’ve finally settled down with your rider and bull combo, you find yourself thrust off on a campaign train visiting all the major cities across the USA, and pushing forward plenty of competition. I’ll be honest with you here though – every stadium consists of a dirt-filled square, and each one of those looks very similar. For all I know, we could be in Crewe rather than New York and I wouldn’t notice the difference.
However it is here where the competition kicks on, seeing you trying to stay on four bulls in turn, for 8 seconds each. Do so and you get points, climb a leaderboard, and move on to the next location. So those are the rules, but how on earth do you play this strange game?
Well, essentially it’s a rhythm-based affair with QTE sections thrown on top. You start the round in the pen on top of the bull that is waiting to be released, getting your grip ready by partaking in a rhythmic mini-game, trying to time your button press with a moving bar. Then the bull is released and while you’re riding it, quickly descending circles appear, leaving you to press the relevant bumper buttons at the exact time in order for green lights to be seen. Fail, and you’ll be left with a slew of red in front of your eyes, pushing you off the bull, before limping away with barely your life intact. Should you prove your worth as a bull rider, then an in-between state sees you actioning another QTE, hitting face buttons in order to stay on the bull. Last for 8 seconds and the victory is yours. Fail this and you’re done.
And that really is 8 to Glory – The Official Game of the PBR in a nutshell.
You can of course throw in some ‘Ultimate Team-style’ booster packs which are fun to open, pushing forward character boosts and items of gear, and there’s a local multiplayer mode available for those who want to test themselves against friends, with one taking on the role of rider and the other the bull. If anything, after a few drinks it’s decent fun. But otherwise, it’s all about the bull riding.
But the problems with this game lie in the fact that it gets very tired, very quickly. Once you have started to master the QTE gameplay, it’s just the same old thing over and over again, and I really do think that you’ve got to love bull riding as a sport in order to be able get anything out of this game. It’s quite obviously tricky to capture the entire bull riding experience in a game, and whilst the team at Three Gates have tried, for me at least, it struggles to bring any real draw.
It doesn’t help that the visuals are a bit last gen – fine at best – and even though the bulls look good enough, the stadiums and rings get very familiar. To complement that, the audio is a mixture of some nice country rock tunes, with a bit of commentary over the top; unsurprisingly, this narration ends up by repeating the same phrases quite quickly.
If you love the professional American bull riding league then you might just manage to get something out of 8 to Glory, but if you aren’t a veteran follower of the sport, then it’s a bit pricey to take a gamble on. It’s different though, and that should be wholeheartedly applauded, however I’m afraid the gameplay just becomes too repetitive for any long term bull riding fun.