Originally created 07/17/02

'Headhunter' game could have been better

So you think you might want to earn a little extra cash by rounding up criminals?

It's not a common career choice, but if you want to get a feel for bounty hunting, give "Headhunter" a try. The game, from Acclaim, Sega and Amuze for the Playstation 2, is an entertaining and irritating action adventure with plenty of gunplay leavened with a lot of sneaking around.

In "Headhunter," you play as Jack Wade (now there's a name for a hero), who wakes up some day in a future hospital bed with amnesia.

Turns out our hero was the best in the bounty business until his memory evaporated. Now he's getting back to work, tracking down the thugs accused of killing the head of the ACN - the Anti-Crime Network. Working for the murdered man's toothsome daughter, Wade must find the killer. Is it a Mafia gangster? The leader of an outlaw motorcycle gang? Or is it the dead man's top assistant?

In a nasty bit of mandatory business, headhunters must be licensed. LEILA - the Law Enforcement Intelligence and License Approval unit - makes you complete several skill tests to earn a basic C license. Each step up in the licensing process requires you to complete increasingly difficult chores.

I don't care much for license tests in racing games and I didn't much care for them here, either. But they're a necessary evil, since each step up includes additional weaponry you'll need on your quest.

A high point is Jack's transportation - a twitchy, screaming sport motorcycle. Using it well earns you skill points that let you take tests for better licenses - and it's a lot of fun.

"Headhunter" melds features from games you know and love. It borrows the obnoxious licenses from "Gran Turismo 3" and the stealthy sneaking from "Metal Gear Solid," along with tons of puzzles. It also features a targeting system that's effective but responds too slowly and gobbles up more ammo than the Allies used at Normandy.

Graphics get a B. Nicely detailed with plenty of color and texture, "Headhunter" is a treat for the eye. The mapping system in the heads-up display is excellent and generally provides everything you need to get around.

Sound also gets a B. There's an entertaining sound track and decent voice acting, along with plenty of explosions and weapons sounds to keep your attention.

Control gets a C-. Moving Jack around is no problem; "Headhunter" gets dinged because of the irritating camera problems which often send you around corners staring at the wall you were facing before you turned. The camera is rarely looking where you want it to, and while it can be adjusted by using the targeting controls, it shouldn't be that way. Why are so many games shipped with this irritating flaw?

"Headhunter" gets a C, mainly because of the annoying camera flaw. That doesn't mean it's not fun to play. But with just a little fiddling, it could have been so much better.

"Headhunter" is rated M, for ages 17 and over.

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