Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: Bounty Hunter

Star Wars: Bounty Hunter

            Star Wars: Bounty Hunter is a 2002 video game that serves as back story for why Jango Fett was hired as the template for the Republic's Clone Army. The game was released on the Gamecube and Playstation 2. Though the action is fairly interesting, with some entertaining dual pistol action and the option to use a jetpack, the game is hamstrung by poor design decisions involving some of the alternate weapons, and a bizarre collectibles system that is nearly impossible to complete without a guide.
            Bounty Hunter starts with Jango attempting to track down Meeko Ghintee, a two bit criminal on Outland Station. After this initial hunt, which serves as something of an extended tutorial, the real story begins. Jango is contacted by Count Dooku, and agrees to track down Bando Gora leader Komari Vosa. The rest of the game deals with Jango's attempt to track Vosa down, and his quest will take gamers to Coruscant, the asteroid prison of Oovo IV, Malastare, Tatooine, and a moon of Bogden. These varied settings are one of the game's best aspects. From fighting Tusken Raiders on Tatooine to fighting off Nexu in the jungles of Malastare, there is a great deal of variety in the environments. Coruscant is probably the best of the bunch, incorporating background NPCs, staggering heights/climbs, and an impressive climb up the tower of an important senator. 
The environments have a great deal of variety and are true to canon. They look good too.
            As for the story itself, it is an important tale in the context of Attack of the Clones, but it is far from award winning. The villains, Vosa and rival bounty hunter Montross, are somewhat hollow (though the Bando Gora themselves are pretty creepy) and Jango is as much of an unknown as he is in the movie. Zam Wesell makes an enjoyable cameo for a handful of missions, providing a bit more background for their relationship as seen in the pre episode II comics and briefly in the movie itself. New character Rozatta, owner of Outland Station and Jango's friend, is a stock support/intelligence character, with no real input on the story besides some exposition here and there. Jango gets in some entertaining lines when dealing with the various types of scum he comes across, and fans of the character will find plenty to like here- he gets quite a few "cool" moments in the game's cut scenes- but the story itself is nothing special.
            The game play is also something of a mixed bag. Much of the combat centers around Jango's signature dual-wield pistols, though there are some alternate weapons available at points throughout the game. The only problem is, these weapons are severely limited, and offer no significant advantages over the starting pistols. Weapons at your disposal include: Kaminoan saber darts, a flamethrower, a rocket launcher attached to your jetpack, sniper rifles, assault rifles, and grenades. Though this is an impressive arsenal, these weapons aren't practical in most situations. Your Kaminoan saber darts are too rare to use on the garden variety enemies that make up most of this game, and generally do nothing to the handful of bosses you will encounter. Meanwhile, snipers/assault rifles are hamstrung by low ammo capacity, you can't really rely on them, whereas the pistol has unlimited ammo. The flamethrower is too close range to be practical, though it is great fun to incinerate your foes with it. Overall it is possible to get through the game using only the pistols- the other weapons are optional and rather limited.

The lock on system is easy to use and one of the more enjoyable elements of combat.
            One other important aspect of the game's combat mechanics is the jetpack itself. The ability to fly around, raining death and destruction on your foes, is nothing new to a Star Wars game. 1996's Shadows of the Empire featured jetpack combat too, and, rather frustratingly, the dynamics are very similar in Bounty Hunter. Your jetpack is limited by a fuel system that requires you to turn off the pack after enough time spent in the air. As a result, it isn't practical to spend entire engagements in the air, and more often than not you will be stuck on the ground, using the game's satisfactory dodge system to out maneuver your opponents. The reason for the jetpack's limitations is the fact that much of the game relies on platforming. You will be doing quite a bit of climbing in Bounty Hunter, and these challenges would be severely mitigated if you could just fly everywhere with the jetpack. Platforming gets a bit of a bad name now days, but in Bounty Hunter it isn't too bad. A sequence in which you must cross a gaping chasm by jumping from cargo transport to cargo transport is particularly memorable, though there are several great sequences throughout the game. The sacrifice of more complex combat for more engaging platforming isn't an entirely bad one here, though it does make the combat an exceedingly one dimensional affair with only the pistols (which have a lock on function) being adequate for nearly every situation.
            In terms of replay ability, the game isn't stellar. As with most games of its time (and even today) decisions are made for you, and the story plays out the same every time. The limited combat further diminishes the replay factor, though there are several collectible unlocks that provide at least some reason to play the game a second time. The unlocks are a mixed bag. There are outtakes for finishing each of the game's acts, a preview of the Jango Fett: Open Seasons tie in comic book for beating individual levels, Wizards of the Coast cards for finding Mandalorian feathers (tucked away in some secluded location on all but one or two levels), and concept art for every 3,000 credits earned via optional bounties. 
            These optional bounties are a neat concept- use Jango's built in bounty scanner to search for small bounties on the heads of random thugs and non combatants encountered throughout the game- but the execution is lacking. Switching to the scanner in the middle of combat to scan for potential bounties is a fool's errand, and the fact that the bounties are usually combatants that must be taken alive (you can kill them, but at a substantial reduction to your credit income; only a small handful of bounties reward dead over alive) further complicates things. Without a guide telling you where to find the bounties, this task is nearly impossible. There are not that many, and trying to run up to them and whipcord them is extremely difficult to manage without getting yourself killed. The reward isn't even that great- concept art isn't worth such a horrid task.
            Bounty Hunter is a simple, but enjoyable game. The plotline is important to Episode II, and there are enough classic Fett moments throughout to keep fans engaged. The combat is, at times, frustratingly simple, with only one stratagem being completely viable in all circumstances excepting a few of the game's more tedious boss fights. That being said, the platforming is pretty solid, and blasting baddies with your twin pistols is still satisfying. Though the game doesn't have much replay ability, lacking any kind of customization or decision making, it does at least have some bonuses for fans, though it's nothing that isn't readily available elsewhere. Overall, Bounty Hunter is a flawed, yet entertaining, experience- especially for Fett/Mandalorian fans.

Final Score

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