If you’re a reader of our end-of-year lists, you might have come across our ‘10 of the Worst Xbox Games of 2022’. On that list, at number 8, was Hunt Ducks II, having received a less than sterling 1 out of 5. We weren’t particularly kind to it, saying “Hunt Ducks II is Duck Hunt. It’s Duck Hunt to the point of a cease-and-desist”. It was the worst kind of lazy copy: one that managed to trim off most of the original’s features, and then neglected to pack a soul.
At the time of publishing that end of year list, we also realised that, at some point over 2022, Hunt Ducks II was taken off the Xbox Store. We felt bad that the people reading our list couldn’t instantly buy such a wonderful game. We came up with a few half-baked reasons why it might have been yoinked off the store, and then went on to do better things.
Which brings us to Hunt Ducks 4 (not IV, which is a minor crime against numbering consistency). Tin-foil hats on: could the removal of Hunt Ducks II have something to do with the impending Hunt Ducks 4? Could it be because Hunt Ducks 4 is near-enough identical to the second iteration of the game? Surely not. Surely no one would be disingenuous enough to release the same game with a different title.
One thing is different, after all. The price is higher. Where Hunt Ducks II was only £0.79, inflation seems to be hitting the no-achievement games on Xbox, as we’re more-than-doubling their price to £1.69. We’re placing our tin-foil hats on again: could the cheaper Duck Hunts II have been removed for the more expensive 4? We need Poirot to untangle this mystery.
We cracked our knuckles and started playing Duck Hunt 4 – sorry, Hunt Ducks 4 – and, would you Adam and Eve it, it’s the same game! We couldn’t find a single detail that was different. The shock nearly led us to drop the shotgun and cause ourselves a mishap.
Yep, Hunt Ducks 4 is Hunt Ducks II. There may have been some graphical improvements (not that we spotted any), and perhaps the odd typo got sorted, but let’s be honest, it’s the same. We even checked our original review to see if the same criticisms applied, and – of course – they still do.
It leads to the obvious question: why bother to review Hunt Ducks 4? And we’re questioning that too. Should you want to read the original review, you can do so. But we felt that neglecting to review it would mean there is no public record of the dubious practice. You never know, there might be some Hunt Ducks fans who are excited about a sequel.
The TL;DR is that Hunt Ducks 4, like Hunt Ducks II, is doomed without a lightgun. The harsh truth is that the NES Duck Hunt wouldn’t be talked about today if it didn’t come packaged with one. After all, it’s just a shooting range in video game form. Now, as a Duck Hunt ripoff we’re not expecting a £1.69 game to come packaged with a peripheral, but that doesn’t stop Hunt Ducks 4 being as dry as a digestive left on the dunes of the Sahara. It needed something more to make shooting with a controller interesting, and it is the absolute bare minimum.
In Hunt Ducks 4, there is only one mode, and the ability for one or two players to play it. A duck flies up, and you have a few seconds and three shotgun shells with which to shoot it. So, you’re thumbing the analogue stick in the direction of a duck and firing, and firing again if you miss.
On later levels, shock horror, you might get two or even three ducks. They move increasingly fast, careening around the screen like they had some of what Cocaine Bear was having. After about level 10, you might even miss hitting a few of them. They fly off into the sky and your dog chuckles in the same smug manner as the Duck Hunt dog did. And yes, you can shoot the dog.
Hit at least six ducks and the level progresses. In multiplayer, you would expect some kind of scoring or notification that you’ve hit more ducks than your opponent, but no. You just get a combined tally, and the unfortunate reality that you’re going to be playing for longer than a solo player would.
There’s a score but no scoreboard, so you could write your personal bests on a sheet of A5 and blu-tack it to the fridge, we suppose. And that’s it. Hunt Ducks 4 is an ever-increasing number of levels, more numerous and speedier ducks, and a minimum requirement of killing six of them per level.
The first time we booted up Hunt Ducks II, we played it once and were gloriously, emphatically done. We didn’t need to experience it again. We saw what it had to offer, and felt not one iota of compulsion to play it further. With Hunt Ducks 4, we revisited that feeling. We played it once, with the added bonus of some deja vu, and then never wanted to play it again. But we did, for the sake of science, and felt waves of boredom and ennui crashing against us like a lighthouse in the most tedious storm there ever was.
Hunt Ducks 4 is a racket, a grift. The developers have carefully peeled the label off of Hunt Ducks II’s bottle and then sold it again as Hunt Ducks 4 instead. We gave Hunt Ducks II a miserly 1 out of 5 the first time round, and we’re duty bound to do the same again. That Duck Hunt dog is turning in its grave.
You can buy Hunt Ducks 4 from the Xbox Store