Hunter or Hunted?
Have you noticed the strange trend going on with the new Star Wars trilogy? For some reason, a new evil badass is introduced to the delight of fans everywhere, and then proceeds to almost immediately die in some lame way. Darth Maul stole the show with the double-bladed saber, kicked everyone's butt and was sliced in half by a Padawan newbie. Then there's Jango Fett, one of the most feared mercenaries in the galaxy, who started off by stomping on all comers and ended with his head rolling in the dust at Geonosis. Guess the Dark Side isn't as tough as it claims to be...
Likewise, the adventures of Jango Fett has been transformed into Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, a promising video game that would finally allow gamers to don the armor of an unstoppable walking arsenal known as the Mandalorians. Sounds pretty cool, right? But before you can even launch your first poisonous wrist dart, Bounty Hunter gets hit with a variety of problems that ends up killing the most dangerous mercenary in the galaxy.
Bounty Hunter starts off on a remote outpost known as Outland Station with our anti-hero, Jango Fett, on the hunt. Before long, our old friend Darth Tyranus appears and offers Jango a job that will ultimately ensure his position as the host for the Clone Army that was brought to light in Episode II. The target this time is the leader of the Bando Gora, a cult whose power and influence is beginning to threaten the malevolent plans of the Sith lords.
Gameplay is constructed from the basic action mold with plenty of running and shooting. The problem with Bounty Hunter is that it doesn't offer much else.
You'll traverse through 18 large levels blasting everything in your path just like the hundreds of other action games you've played before. There isn't even much in the way of puzzles or even pickups, making for a pretty dull outing to that galaxy far, far away. Just chase after a certain target and try not to get blasted along the way.
Despite its name, you never really feel like a bounty hunter in Bounty Hunter. The hunt involves no stealth whatsoever and the game's secondary bounty system is almost flawed to the point of becoming useless. Now, everyone in the galaxy knows that the best and largest bounties come with a "no disintegration" clause. So how is it that enemies can almost always see Jango a mile away? Is there some kind of new Mandalorian radar detector available now on the Home Shopping Network? Whatever it is, it sure makes capturing a live target near impossible without a pitched battle.
Even setting up the secondary bounty is a pain in the armor-plated butt. First, you've got to drop your weapons and whip out your ID scanner. Then, you've got to place the crosshairs over the potential target to see if there's a bounty available and hit the 'mark' button. This might not be so bad if the previously mentioned Mandalorian detector unit wasn't available to the bad guys. But since it is, you'll have to spend a few moments completely defenseless as you try to lock in on your mark. Often times, you won't even be able to read the briefing to determine whether or not the target is worth more dead or alive, since a wave of enemies will be trying to blast you out of existence.
The situation gets even stickier with Bounty Hunter's random targeting system. Let's say you're trying to bring in a target alive. Said target is surrounded by five guards and doesn't want to go quietly. Two options are readily apparent: (1) Blast the guards, then capture the mark or (2) Equip your whipcord and quickly grab the mark before dispatching the others.
Here's where the problems set in: With the first choice, you risk blasting your target because the auto target is completely random. You could try to use the stationary fire option for greater accuracy, but of course that means you'll have to stay completely still and leave yourself open to attack. Option 2 is hindered by the random targeting, since you might end up grabbing one of the guards instead.
The camera doesn't make things any easier since it stays locked in pretty tight at Jango's back. Players do have the option of rotating the camera with the C-stick, but this still can't prevent the wacky angles and vibrating screen that pops up when venturing too close to a wall.
Jango is loaded with a few cool weapons like a flamethrower and jetpack-mounted missiles, but switching between them is a pain. You'll need to cycle through the weapons inventory one weapon at a time until you get to the desired instrument of destruction. There is a pause feature for this, but it definitely breaks down what little flow of excitement Bounty Hunter is capable of.
Bounty Hunter does a decent job with its visuals, but it's the ILM cinematic sequences that really set it apart. Just watch one of these short clips and you'll marvel at how similar they are to the Star Wars movies. Even Rozatta the Toydarian bears a striking resemblance to Watto, her big screen counterpart.
For the most part, the sound retains its traditional Star Wars quality. Great sound effects augmented with John Williams' work combine to form an outstanding audio offering. The only problem is that the music gets stuck in a loop on a few occasions. I love John Williams, but even his music will grate on the nerves when the same three seconds are played over and over again.
For the hardcore Star Wars geeks, Bounty Hunter's saving grace lies in the details it fills in about Jango and the history of the man known as Jaster Mereel. Between the story you get from the game and the unlockable Dark Horse comic book, you'll be able to make more sense out of the famed bounty hunter's mysterious past.
I can't shake the feeling that Star Wars: Bounty Hunter started off as a grand and ambitious project that got pushed out into space before it was ready. The possibilities for some genuine bounty hunting fun are in there, but too many kinks exist for this particular mercenary to make it to the big time.