I'd rather be Boba Fett.
You have to appreciate the thought behind Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter. Though it's been cooking in the development oven for a little too long, how can you not be somewhat intrigued by the prospect of a first-person shooter/space-action adventure combo that allows seamless transition between the two genres? That sounds really good on paper.
Unfortunately, paper is the only place you're going to find that kind of innovation, because the final product doesn't offer the experience we were all hoping for. Instead, Mace Griffin is an average FPS that lets you fly around and dogfight a little. It shoots for the stars, but winds up getting lost in the clouds thanks to its limited depth and very standard corridor shooting.
sci-fi game takes place about 500 years in the future. You're Mace Griffin,
an ex-Ranger (cop) who has just gotten out of prison after being framed for
the death of your squadmates. With little identity and nowhere to turn, you
find yourself drawn to a life of bounty hunting, a gun for hire, and set out
to reclaim your life and discover who set you up in the first place.
Apparently, the best way to do this is to kill everyone you meet. You progress through the completely linear story taking job after job, which amounts to you flying off to different asteroid bases/spaceports/mining areas and accomplishing some basic missions, such as flipping one lever somewhere to stop something from exploding. Though told through plenty of in-game cut scenes, the plot just isn't very engrossing.
For that matter, neither is the gameplay. Most of Mace Griffin takes place on the ground in a straightforward fragfest. You run into a room, kill all the bad guys, open a door, and then kill more guys. Rinse and repeat. The levels are admittedly huge, and you'll always know where to go thanks to the mission objective compass at the top of the screen. It's a good thing it's there, too, since half of the time you have no idea what it is exactly you're supposed to be doing. You only find out when you reach the objective and flip the switch or kill the guy.
You carry a payload of futuristic weapons, which are just sci-fi versions of standard munitions - a futuristic pistol, a futuristic shotgun, a futuristic sniper rifle, etc. Some futuristic grenades are here too, but you'll never use them because they're possessed with the souls of long-dead tap dancers, flipping and bouncing all over the place, making nearly impossible to accurately toss them anywhere.
One nice thing about the fragging is the auto-aim toggle, which when turned on allows more targeting leniency. Switch it off and you'll stand a much better chance at landing headshots, but only if you aim carefully.
To spice it up, Mace Griffin lets you seamlessly transition between
these on-foot action bits to space dogfighting sequences. You'll start each
level by landing your ship on some planetoid using the dumbest docking feature
ever, just guiding your ship through two or three big red rectangles. It's easy
and completely unnecessary. Then you'll run around shooting things. Then you'll
hop back into your ship, fly around and shoot at enemy craft, and then sit through
an often lengthy cut scene that ends with you either 1.) Pressing 'Y' to 'warp
to your next destination' or 2.) Landing back on the planetoid for another round
The flow is maddeningly repetitive. It's also way, way too linear. You cannot fly around and explore at your own free will. Instead, you just land on a big base, kill stuff, shoot ships, then move on to the next level. The only time you really sense the seamlessness of the game world is when your ship is being automatically landed via a tractor beam and you take your hands off the controls to wander around the ship while it's moving. It's almost rude of the developers at Warthog to give us this world, only to force us to play through it along rigid rails.
The dogfighting bits are also far too easy, which is a letdown since Warthog are also the folks who ported Starlancer over to the Dreamcast so many years back. You fly one ship, the Pallbearer, for most of the game, and you are not given any customization options at all. Rather, you just thrust and aim your way through simple target-and-shoot dogfights, rarely taking critical damage. Each ship carries a predetermined payload, so don't think you'll be able to arm yourself with a wide variety of missiles. It's just not very fun.
But on the flipside, the fragging certainly has its moments. Though the weapons are very standard, they're also very efficient and genuinely fun to use. Enemies gib and explode into bloody pieces left and right, which should satisfy your inner space sadist. While the AI is mediocre at best, occasionally you'll find yourself surround by a gang of bad guys while being pounded by sniper fire. It can get hairy and at times provides a really good challenge.
Whether you're flying or fragging, Mace Griffin looks good, particularly on the Xbox. Textures are crisp, the framerate is steady and some of the lighting effects are great. The PS2 version is much more ragged, but still gets the job done. Though enemy animations tend to repeat a lot, the weapon reload animations are super cool. No major complaints about the visuals.
Mace is voiced by none other than Black Flag veteran Henry Rollins. Sadly, the tepid plot and weak writing don't use the intense poet's rage very well, effectively docking this pit bull's tail. The score is fine and the sound effects are accurate, at least.
Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter is also something of a misnomer, as you don't truly hunt for bounties. You don't earn cash to buy new weapons or upgrade your ship's armaments. You don't even choose which missions to take, which is a shame since Warthog also developed the fantastic, multi-path Colony Wars games for the PSX. It's shallow, linear fragging through and through.
And don't expect to hunt bounties over the Internet, either, as the game features
no online multiplayer or any other game modes, for that matter. It's the Story
or bust, which severely limits the replayability.
Considering the other Xbox FPS options out there in RTCW, Unreal Championship and even the recent Brute Force, and considering PS2 games like No One Lives Forever and Red Faction II, this seemingly ambitious title is tough to recommend beyond a rental. We were hoping for Grand Theft Galaxies, but we wound up with Doom In Space.