Those of us that have been spared the experience of playing this video game may remember Duck Dynasty as the A&E reality show that broke ratings records and shot an entire Louisiana family to stardom. I'm sorry to say that if you like the show, this game will likely disappoint you. I'm even more sorry to say that if you don't like the show, this game will probably make you want to pull your hair out.
This game currently costs 50 dollars when purchased through the marketplace. So, I will be reviewing it with this price in mind.
I firmly believe that gameplay is the most important part of any video game. If it isn't fun or pleasing to play, then it probably isn't worth your time or money. The gameplay of Duck Dynasty is very lazy and certainly not worth 50 dollars. There are about 5 things you can do from a gameplay perspective.
1. Free Roam
The game takes place in a small, open-world map that is supposed to be the Robertson family property. The entire map is Louisiana swampland, with absolutely no change in scenery to be found. You play as John Luke, a young man in the Robertson family who is mysteriously silent (despite the fact that he speaks in the television show). While outside of a mission, you are free to roam the property and search for collectibles, drive vehicles like ATVs, trucks, and boats, and gaze longingly into the murky waters, wishing you could just die. The in-game map does not indicate collectible locations, the vehicles all handle pretty poorly, and all of the radio stations in the vehicles are terrible. To top it all off, the map consists mostly of dirt paths or waterways surrounded by thick, impenetrable brush, making exploration feel like a boring chore.
This is easily the best part of the game, if only because it is usually the least annoying. Many missions in the story mode require you to use duck calls to attract ducks, wait for them to settle in, then systematically murder each and every one of them with ruthless efficiency. You are usually required to kill a certain number of a few specific duck types within a time limit. The shooting feels pretty fluid, mostly because you automatically lock on to animals that are anywhere near the middle part of the screen, and a successful hit gives you a satisfying Battlefield-style hit marker. The problem, however, is that this usually means you will just alternate hitting the left trigger and right trigger to lock-on and shoot, lock-on and shoot, lock-on and shoot until everything is either dead or off screen. Occasionally, you kill squirrels or beavers instead of ducks, but the only real difference here is that they don't fly and you don't have to call them. For some missions, you go skeet shooting and must time your shots so that you destroy multiple targets at once. This usually all feels pretty fair. Outside of story mode missions, there is also an arcade-style shooting gallery mode that is probably the most fun part of the game. Unfortunately, it is all downhill from here.
If you've ever played Sonic Adventure, you may remember Big the Cat's extremely frustrating fishing sections. I am happy to report that fishing in this game is less annoying than that, but that's just about the best thing I can say about it. Games like Final Fantasy XV, which only has fishing as a tacked-on feature, manage to pull off fishing better than this game does. Fishing requires you to drive a boat around an area and cast in specific places, then wait patiently for the right bite and reel it in while following on-screen prompts to keep the fish from getting away. It's pretty basic, and it can be somewhat frustrating in the later missions. Most missions require you to catch a certain number of certain types of fish within a time limit. There isn't much else to say about this. The fishing seems pretty mediocre, but not terrible.
4. Boat Races
Mother of God. Hydro Thunder this ain't. These races are probably the most frustrating part of the game for a few reasons. First, the boats do not handle particularly well. It takes a while to get used to them, and after you do, you will still occasionally crash and completely lose your lead. Second, your three opponents are ruthless, immovable machines. They will slam into you at full speed and knock you out of their way without slowing down at all. However, if you run into them, you will be completely unable to move them and lose all of your momentum. Your best bet is to avoid the other racers altogether to keep them from pushing you into an obstacle (which you cannot do to them). Third, the races spike in difficulty near the end of the game and there is an incredibly frustrating achievement related to boat races that we will discuss later in the review. For now, just know that the races are really bad and you have to do a lot of them to get through the story.
You might ask yourself, "Why would a Duck Dynasty video game include stealth sections?" I really don't have an answer for you. But, I can tell you that they are terrible and that you will have to do several of them in order to get through the story mode. Many of them include weird, confusing mechanics that you will use only once or twice during the entire game. Many of them give unclear instructions. Many of them are frustrating patience tests that will take several tries before completing them. At the end of the day, the stealth sections really feel like utter messes.
At 50 bucks, you're paying 10 bucks for each of these gameplay categories. Not a single one of them is worth 10 dollars, except MAYBE the shooting. Needless to say, that does not bode well for this game's score. However, the score is helped by the fact that the game at least seems like it was bug tested well.
Gameplay score: 1.5/5
I'm not the type of gamer that places a lot of emphasis on graphics, but there is really no excuse for how terrible this game looks. This is an Xbox One game that looks like it would have no trouble running on the original Xbox. Everything is just... ugly. It doesn't help that the entire game world is a swamp. Textures are low res and sloppy. Models are often polygonal and lazy. Everywhere you go, it is impossible to miss the terrible texture pop-in. It's certainly not the worst-looking game I've ever played, but it is the worst-looking game I've played on the Xbox One.
Graphics score: 0.5/5
This game barely has a story at all. The cutscenes attempt to be funny, but usually just make you want to cringe. Occasionally, a clip from the show is played, but it usually has little to nothing to do with the story. Some of the missions are based on certain events in the show, but this does almost nothing to add intrigue to the story. In fact, most of the scenarios are contrived and forgettable. You can also get every achievement without even finishing the story mode. Since I did that, I will give a bonus .5 to the score. Maybe the ending is a little better than the rest, but I very highly doubt it.
Story score: 1/5
A single player game that costs 50 dollars needs to either be very long or have a lot of replay value to justify the price. This has neither. The game looks bad, has a forgettable story, mediocre gameplay, and terrible music. These things alone will make you want to avoid replaying any part of the game. But, fret not! You won't have to, because there isn't a single incentive to do so! The game asks you to play once and be done with it. Honestly, you should be grateful.
Replay value score: 0.5/5
We all know why you're really here. You want that 1000g, don't you? Well, there's some good news and some bad news. The good news is, it is an easy completion. The bad news is, it's still a frustrating one. The game has 33 achievements, most of which are easily acquired while playing through the story. About half of them are missable, which can lead to some serious frustration if you aren't careful. I found one achievement in particular very frustrating: "Can't Touch This... Boat" requires you to win a race without bumping (in other words, touching) any of your opponents' boats. You start every race in last place, so chances are you will beat every race in the story mode without getting this achievement. Luckily, there is a race tournament mode, but if you're anything like me, it will still take you many races to earn this achievement. I also think it's pretty dumb that there is no achievement for finishing the story mode... even if I am grateful that it meant I got to put this game down sooner.
Achievements score: 2/5
It's bad. It's just bad. It's not broken, but it isn't good. I received this game as a gag gift from one of my friends, and we had an absolute blast sitting on the couch and making fun of it while I played. But, none of that fun came from the game itself. It all came from using exaggerated country accents to make fun of the Robinson family, their political views, and their garbage video game. Unless you desperately want the achievements, I suggest you avoid this one.
Final score: 1/5