February 19, 2002
Headhunter - Review
Release Date Publisher Developer Players Rating Price
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Hmmm, that's Solid... no it's not.
Playing Headhunter over the last couple of weeks has been a rather mixed experience. On the one hand I have been dying to play a good action adventure game which this game mostly proved to be, but on the other hand Konami's Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty is only weeks away, and Sega's game was never really going to get close in terms of size or quality. Still the developers, Amuze, have crafted a game that is still very enjoyable, despite a couple of disappointments.

Headhunter actually begun it's life as a Dreamcast game. However due to that systems' early demise the developers soon decided to port the game to Playstation 2 as well. It was a wise move as the Dreamcast version will be lucky to reach a fraction of the audience that the developers initially intended. The Swedish developers have been working on the game for several years now, and it shows. Headhunter has one of the most detailed and interesting storylines seen in a video game for several years.

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One of the first mission areas.
Headhunter is set in the near future where the government has taken control of the media and heavily censors everything. The police force is inefficient and law and order is often contracted out to head-hunters. You play one of these head-hunters, Jack Wade, who has been hired to track down the person who assassinated the president of ACN. You can travel from city to city using your motorbike to find clues to the murderer, and in the process try to piece your past together after losing your memory. You can expect plenty of action as you break into numerous buildings that are patrolled by guards and thugs who won't hesitate to stop you in your tracks. As with Metal Gear Solid you can sneak past enemies, but when you've got a machine gun in your hands why would you rather to?

If you've played either the Metal Gear Solid games, Syphon Filter or pretty much any 3rd person action game then you should know what to expect here. Plenty of locations to explore, guards to take out, and sneaking around through buildings abound in this game. Headhunter is topped off with good, and intelligent, use of items although the game can be fairly linear. For instance in the first level you will need to get a cowbar to open a door which you need a fire extinguisher to get, which you need the fuse wire to get, which you need the car wash token to get, which you need the car battery to get etc etc. The enemies are pretty ruthless and although you have auto-aim you will need to duck and hide behind objects to suffer the consequences. The various levels are split up with some very impressive cut scenes, including the humorous ABCBS news breaks.

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Bike sections are the weakest link.
All is not quite perfect in this title however. While the 3D action sections are quite adequate, despite some camera problems, it's the motorbike sections of the game which really disappoint. Strangely, while the locations are filled with bad-asses waiting to take you out the streets are totally devoid of any danger to yourself. No enemies on bikes, no cars trying to knock you off your bikes, no unruly mobs and no snipers. In an even stranger move the developers have implemented a system where you earn points for fast riding with no crashes, and to enter the next action section of the game you must earn a certain number of points on your bike. This quite often means you will be riding past your next location several times to earn points before you can enter it. Strange. The final disappointment are the training levels which are no where near as exciting or detailed as the VR missions in Metal Gear Solid on PSOne, although they are quite similar in their design.

Graphically, Headhunter is quite solid. The developers, having worked on the Dreamcast version first, have put a lot of effort into the texture detail due to the increased texture memory on Sega's system. Porting to the Playstation 2 has meant the game has retained a very solid and gritty look with some very good texturing. The frame rate is very solid and, as seems to be the case with all Sega PS2 titles, a 60Hz mode has been included. The only real gripe is with the camera angles, which can only be fixed by aiming your gun ahead.

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Taking on a thug close up.
There is little doubt that this game contains some of the coolest voice-overs ever heard. Your character, Jack Wade, has a gruff and raw voice that sounds uncannily similar to Clint Eastwood. You expect him at any moment to utter, "Go ahead, make my day". It's that close. The soundtrack for the game was recorded by a 100 strong symphony orchestra at the legendary Abbey Road studios while the sound design is by James Bond designer Dom Gibbs. As you would expect the quality of the sound in this game is exceptional from the music to sound effects everything is absolutely top notch.

We all know that Headhunter was never going to live up to Konami's Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty but that game won't last forever. If you can't wait for that game, or want something in a couple of months when Konami's effort has become tiresome then this game should keep you happy. Headhunter is a solid, if slightly flawed title that deserves a look.

GRAPHICSGood texturing, solid frame rate, and fairly good character animation.
SOUNDSome spectacular sound effects backed by stunning orchestral music.
GAMEPLAYA great storyline backs some great action but poor bike sequences.
VALUENot sure if you will play it more then once, but it's long enough.
OVERALLA good enough game with under developed motorbike sequences.

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