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Headhunter

Moby ID: 5351
Dreamcast Specs
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Description official descriptions

Welcome to the future. In the early 21st century, gang warfare and crime have lead to the creation of privatised law enforcement. The Anti-Crime Network (ACN) employs bounty hunters known as ‘Headhunters’ to track down the most wanted criminals, using combat skills and high-tech weaponry.

You are Jack Wade, an ex-cop turned Headhunter. At the beginning of the game you find yourself strapped to an operating table and manage to escape. After passing out in an alley, you awake in hospital from a coma. With your license revoked and few memories, you are hired by Angela Stern, to find her fathers murderer. Maybe you’ll even find out what happened to yourself if you can stay alive long enough…

Headhunter is an action adventure viewed from over the shoulder. In the top right of the screen you have a radar which will track your movements and those of the enemy. Jack has a few moves at his disposal. He can duck and roll, push, pull and climb objects as well as flatten himself up against a wall. Using this technique he can peek around corners for a better view of the action, and then attack from this position, using the wall as protection.

Between levels, Jack has a motorcycle that he uses to transport himself between various locations in the city according to the clues he receives. You will need to earn skill points however before you can arrive at a destination. Certain parts of the city are unavailable until you have gained the appropriate Headhunter license.

As you have no recollection of your past, you have to take a series of licenses that will grant you access to greater parts of the city, weaponry and gadgets. These are taken in a VR simulator known as the Law Enforcement Intelligence and Licence Approval (LEILA). At various times in the game you will need to go to the LEILA building and upgrade your licence by practising your combat, stealth and driving skills.

Jack will need to pass LEILA tests in order to grant him access to the equipment dispensers. He starts the game with a standard issue Stimulator Automatic, but can acquire grenades, proximity mines, neurostunners, decoy shells, shotguns and automatic weapons as he progresses. The weapons in the game fire Electric Neural Projectiles (ENP’s) instead of bullets. These cause brain death so as to preserve the internal organs of the person being shot.

Jack also uses a CASIO Visual Manager to keep in touch with Angela and his former chief at the ACN. This is a wristwatch with video capabilities and a direct link to the LEILA database.

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Credits (Dreamcast version)

116 People (107 developers, 9 thanks) · View all

Director of Product Development
Producer
Assistant Producer
Sound Producer
Translation Co-ordinator / French Translation
German Translation
Spanish Translation
Test Manager
Lead Tester
Marketing Manager
Product Manager
Interactive Design Manager
Online Marketing Executive
Online Design
Senior Designer
Designer
Localisation Co-ordinator
Story by
Written by
Created and Developed by
  • Amuze
Director
Co-Director
Game Producer
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 80% (based on 34 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.6 out of 5 (based on 38 ratings with 2 reviews)

Without a doubt, one of the greatest games on the Dreamcast.

The Good
To begin with, I'd like to assert that Headhunter is by no means a Metal Gear Solid killer, nor was it ever intended to be as such. What Headhunter presents is a sad and tantalizing glimpse of the first steps of Dreamcast development that would have seen it catch up to the other truly "next generation" consoles like the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube. Headhunter presents gameplay and design elements once thought either unsuitable to the Dreamcast or impossible by those waiting for the next big thing (in this case the PS2.) Shenmue was the game that proved that the Dreamcast was powerful and if consumers had given it a proper chance Headhunter proved it had the potential to compete.

To begin with, Headhunter is built around fairly linearly followed action/adventure paradigms. However instead of simply feeling like a carbon copy of Syphon Filter or even Metal Gear Solid Amuze elaborated on established formulas and created a package of fundamentally next generation ideas wrapped in the comfortable veneer of a "current" generation action game.

The world of Headhunter is split up into districts which are freely explorable during certain portions of the game. These areas are very well rendered, feature traffic that stops at lights and obeys road rules and flows naturally and realistically. The city is explorable solely on Jack's motorcycle with only your destination or the LEILA offices explorable on foot. This creates a feeling of direction and purpose, eliminating any inessential wandering and driving the player to achieve their goals. Knowledge of the layout of the city is paramount during certain portions of the game where you are forced to speed through it with a very tight time limit.

Jack himself controls using a combination of next generation and "current" generation mechanics. His movement is incredibly fluid and realistic, being able to stick to walls and roll to avoid gun fire. His firing is controlled using a lock on system that does not allow total freedom in aiming but does eliminate the frustration of unnecessarily missed shots. The bike controls are more of a mixed bag, holding down the right trigger causes Jack to pop a wheelie and accelerate quickly while gradually depressing it causes him to slowly build up speed. Popping a wheelie means you lose control of the bike however, so you must learn to mediate how and when you accelerate.

One of the major draws of Headhunter is how the world is accessed. Certain portions are locked by Jack not having the necessary clearance to enter. To unlock higher clearance Jack must perform well in LEILA tests. These tests take place in virtual reality and judge how well Jack handles a motorcycle, how stealthy he is, his proficiency in armed combat and how well he can combine skills to overcome an enemy force. This is an interesting way of pacing the game and the LEILA tests themselves are cleverly designed.

Headhunter performs well as a game that bridges the gap between generations, giving players a glimpse of how well the mechanics of the next generation would function on the Dreamcast without forcing the player to immediately adapt to a whole new methodology of playing games. The graphical competency of the Headhunter engine only furthers my point about the untapped potential of the console. Headhunter looks amazing, with realistic environments and gorgeous high resolution textures and effects like rain and reflection. Tiny incidental details like a computer, an engine or a chair have had the utmost care in rendering, making the world of Headhunter a believable one full of believable things. When on the road the variety of buildings, attention to detail in car textures and environmental detail almost make Headhunter a faultless visual treat.

The soundtrack to Headhunter is one of the prime examples of the fusion of next generation with "current" generation. The voice acting is competent, if not a little cheesy at times. The star of the auditive experience is the music. Richard Jacques has composed a soaring, almost absurdly patriotic set of orchestral pieces that catapult you into Jack's shoes. These pieces sound like they belong in a big budget, Hollywood motion picture. The constant procession of ultra stylish music never failed to endear me further to this beautiful package.

The Bad
With so many positive aspects to this game you'd obviously be wondering what exactly is wrong with it. The issues lie within the "current" generation mechanics that are fused with the next generation ones.

To begin with, as impressive as it is to drive around L.A there is very little to see or do. The ambitious notion of being able to freely drive around the city comes at the expense of the city not feeling alive. There are no pedestrians and the impersonal feeling of not being able to walk up to buildings makes it seem like both the city is dead and nothing more than a solid slideshow designed for you to simply crash into periodically. Speaking of crashing, the LEILA system which relies on you earning skill points through driving is well intentioned but ultimately frustrating. It gets to a point at the end of the game where you must accrue 1300 points, after being forced to drive like a maniac through the city slamming into cars and walls due to the imprecise nature of the motorcycle control. It gets to a point where you begin to feel cynical towards this system as it is stopping you from doing what you want to do and that is control Jack and advance the story.

While everything is rendered with the utmost detail some enemies animate rigidly, lack detail and appear somewhat rectangular which makes them look like robots dressed as bikers. This isn't a problem later in the game however due to the fact that you're fighting these guys, who mysteriously disappear when they die most of the time it is very noticeable.

Boss battles tend to drag as you are constantly killed by their unstoppable barrage of attacks. It's not that the bosses are hard, it's that you must the exact pattern and methodology for killing them or you'll constantly be forced to restart the fight. Additionally bosses have way too much health and a lot of the time you'll come out of a fight with only a small amount of health. The fact that Jack uses an auto-aim system to fight as opposed to free control over his view also complicates matters as if there are enemies around or destructible pieces of environment Jack will often aim at those and suffer wounds from the boss.

Load times are a little excessive. Not enough time was spent trying to minimize these and due to this problem every time you go from district to district or room to room you must sit through a load that can be anywhere from 15-20 seconds. This segmentation is exasperating after a while and even though it won't make you turn the game off, having to sit through load after load after load begins to grate after a while.

The Bottom Line
Headhunter stands as a testament to both great game design and a platform that could have launched ambitious development on the Dreamcast. We all know this didn't happen however and as such Headhunter is a very sad game to play. You see the potential, yet it was never given a chance to be tapped.

The fusion of "current" and next generation elements gave players a chance to taste the future while remaining somewhat within their comfort zones. The game controls fluidly and intuitively, Jack is a delight to use and shining graphical accomplishments of Headhunter are to be applauded. The soundtrack by Richard Jacques puts you in Jack's shoes and the level of developmental competency in this package cannot be denied.

The issue is Headhunters most ambitious features are also its most flawed. L.A feels dead and being unable to get off Jack's motorcycle lends to a feelings of watching a slideshow zipping past you, the flawed skill point system showed promise but ended up being frustrating instead and the auto-aim system augments the irritation caused by the already frustrating boss fights. The level of competency in regards to the engine also comes at the cost of lengthy load times which will have you sitting around while your trigger finger is itchy.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the Headhunter, it's just that some of the ideas were not given enough development and QA time. What we have is a fantastic game which gives credence to the notion that the Dreamcast had so much more to show us, so much we will never see.

Dreamcast · by AkibaTechno (238) · 2010

Starship Troopers meets Metal Gear Solid

The Good
The high point for Headhunter is the storyline. From the title screen the player is drawn into this not so distant future world. With a nice mix of cut scenes and actual game play the story becomes even more believable. The characters in the game really take on a personality of their own through various encounters. There is also a good mix of action and puzzle solving in this game. At sometimes you may reminisce about playing Resident Evil or any one of the Metal Gear series games. There is a lot of hunt and peck game play where you have to find the battery to activate the generator to move the engine out of the way so you can get the coin to open the car wash doors and so on. This can be both involving and discouraging based upon what kind of game player you are. Overall in my personal opinion this is a wonderful game to add to your PS2 collection right next to Metal Gear Solid 2 and WinBack games.

The Bad
At times the game can become rather difficult when trying to control Jack. Certain techniques like strangling or breaking someone’s neck can be near impossible to perform. They take an extreme amount of practice and can be very discouraging. In addition using weapons such as grenades can be rather discouraging as you have no control over how hard or high Jack throws the grenade. Often times you will find it back in your lap before you know it. In addition riding the motorcycle can be a little tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it you will be cruising the streets in no time. All in all, the only real issue this game has, lies in the lack of control. It is only a minor downfall, as once you get used to it, it does not alter or prevent game play.

The Bottom Line
When you first boot up Sega's title Headhunter the first thing you will see is a few news clips from the evening news. Right off the bat you will realize that you have just entered a twisted society where criminals are subjected to involuntary organ donations based on weightier or not they can afford the current price of government owned bail bonds. You assume the role of Jack Wade, an ex-headhunter who wakes from a coma to find himself fighting his way out of a mysterious compound. After he makes his escape he then falls into a second coma only to be revived two weeks later with a case of amnesia. His boss then enters the room and promptly fires him for no apparent reason. Now if that’s not what you call a bad day I don’t know what is.

The overall aura of this game is somewhat off the wall and at times even comedic, very much like the movie Starship Troopers (1997). The action is plentiful as you work your way back to being the best Headhunter in America. The game is divided into two major game play sections. The first being similar to the Metal Gear Solid / WinBack style, of using stealth to accomplish your goals. The Second is more of a racer game where you mount your stylish motorcycle and cruise the streets driving from one location to another.

PlayStation 2 · by OFoglada (160) · 2002

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Macintrash.

PlayStation 2 added by Kartanym.

Additional contributors: DreinIX, HelloMrKearns.

Game added November 27, 2001. Last modified December 25, 2023.