Headhunter

A section to post your reviews of Dreamcast games. See rules for details.

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Rating System: Please include a rating on the scale from 1 to 10. Make sure to put the name of the game in the topic title (game name must be first in the title) Example: 'Toy Racer Review by yadayadagames'. Also include a poll with options 1-10 other users can rate the game (you can add our own subtitles for each ranking or leave it blank). Example: http://dreamcast-talk.com/forum/viewtop ... f=34&t=789

Poll: Headhunter: Dreamcast Delight or Bag O'Shite?

1 Spirit Of Speed
0
No votes
2 Sue Kojima Sue!
0
No votes
3 Metal "Rear" Solids
0
No votes
4 Jack Wade? Jack-Ass!
0
No votes
5 We are not Amuze-d
0
No votes
6 Hit the Road Jack...and don't you come back no more no more
0
No votes
7 Jack Of All Trades
1
20%
8 Sega Europe's fond farewell
2
40%
9 Sod Off Solid Snake!
2
40%
10 WOW HEADHUNTER, YOU MAKE ME LOSE MY MIND!
0
No votes
Total votes: 5

rjay63
Dead House
Posts: 373

Headhunter

Post#1 » Wed Jun 12, 2013 2:04 pm

Ahh 2001, the year I said goodbye. Goodbye to my first proper job, goodbye to WCW Wrestling and goodbye to the golden years of Sega Park. 2001 was also the year we officially said goodbye to the Dreamcast (truth be told, most people never even said hello) but I stuck with it until finally completing Shenmue 2. But just before that final hurrah, another European exclusive was beaming through my early 1980's black & white TV. That game, of course, was Amuze's Headhunter! And was it the Metal Gear Solid killer some described it as? No idea.....I've hardly played Kojima's seminal works but I can say Headhunter is a great mix of action, story and cinema, and worthy of a place in your collection.

The game introduces itself with a set of "Pravda" style news bulletins, presented by the patronising duo of Bill Waverley and Kate Gloss. From these segments you can deduce the totalitarian nature of Headhunter's world. Law enforcement has been completely privatised and is now run by the ACN (Anti Crime Network), convicted criminals are monitored with memory chips and their bail bonds are listed on the stock exchange. Also conventional firearms are outlawed and replaced with “ENP” weapons that kill their victim but leave vital organs undamaged. Yes, internal body parts are now the most prized asset in this dark and sinister future!

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You play the part of Jack Wade who wakes up imprisoned in a laboratory with no idea how he got there. In true kick-ass fashion, Jack manages to break free but collapses soon after and ends up in hospital. While receiving treatment, he learns that the president of the ACN has been murdered, apparently by "Don Fulci" head of the criminal Syndicate group. Jack is then visited by his old boss Chief Hawke who tells Jack he was the top crime fighter at the ACN but now he's fired for life for reasons unknown. Hawke recommends he makes a living as an independent "Headhunter". Angela Stern, daughter of the murdered ACN president then appears and makes him an offer to capture Don Fulci in exchange for a big payout. Suffering from amnesia and facing big bills for hospital treatment, Jack accepts her offer........along with the use of her motorbike for transport!

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Your job is to guide Jack through various missions in order to track down Don Fulci and also to find out what happened to Jack himself. Firstly you need to gain a Headhunter licence by visiting the LEILA centre, a Virtual Reality simulator used for training crime fighters. But before you can access LEILA you need to gain enough skill points by riding the motorcycle at high speeds without crashing. Once inside LEILA, you earn and upgrade your Headhunter licence by completing a variety of tasks; motorcycle riding, stealth, shootout and escape. There are 4 licenses to earn and each gives you access to various weaponry and classified documents. Once you get your respective licence, it's off to kick some Syndicate butt!!

All action games need their fair share of kick-ass weapons and Headhunter is no exception. You start out with a basic ENP Stimulator Automatic and stun gun and work your way up to shotguns, machine guns and even a heat-seeking rocket launcher! But it's not all aim and shoot: there's also grenades and proximity mines that can be used to take out multiple foes and decoy shells to distract/attract enemies by noise. One of my favourite tactics is to stun a bad guy, and then plant a mine right beside them for a friendly alarm call!

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The most important part of any action game are the controls and thankfully Headhunter has got this almost spot-on. Played in third person perspective, Jack's movement is nice and loose and very easy to control with the analogue stick. There's no stiff Resident Evil style controls here! A handy lock-on target system make gun battles a lot of fun and a stealthy wall mode allows you to peak around corners remaining unseen. In a nod to Metal Gear Solid, you can even sneak up behind an opponent and break their neck...always immensely satisfying! All in all, Amuze have done a excellent job and can be very proud of their work here. The only real niggle is the occasional camera issue when coming out of wall mode but it's impact on gameplay is minimal.

Each mission has its fair share of criminals and terrorists to take out along with a boss battle at the end. In terms of A.I, the enemy will attack if they see you and reinforcements will often arrive if you decide to fight them head on. Therefore a mixture of firepower and stealth is required to successful complete your mission so it's up to you to decide what methods work best for you. As well as gun fights and breaking necks, Jack sometimes needs to solve some puzzles in order to progress. Again if you've played Resident Evil you know what to expect although Headhunter is a little easier; it's really just a case of searching each area and making sure you pick up every item. The boss battles themselves aren't overly difficult although some thought is required for victory....you cannot just charge in with all guns blazing! Missions take place in a variety of scenarios including a warehouse, shopping centre..even a ship at sea! These scenery changes help keep things fresh and allowed Amuze to add some nice graphical and gameplay touches throughout Headhunter's world.

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Graphically the game is very good although it's not going to give Shenmue or Soul Calibur any worries. Headhunter is a very grey and dark coloured world but this is appropriate considering its background. The game runs smoothly with the occasional slowdown on some motorbike sections and during "busy" parts of the game but overall the frame rate holds up nicely....important in any action game. The character models are well done and this can be appreciated more if the game is running in VGA on an old style CRT monitor. Sadly there is "draw in" of city buildings during the motorcycle sections and some graphical glitches during cut scenes but overall Headhunter is a good showcase for the Dreamcast's power. The standout visual moment has to be the rain physics during the first boss battle...very well done indeed!

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The orchestral music score by Richard Jacques & The London Session Orchestra is absolutely superb and Richard rightfully deserves the praise he received for it. Unlike his work on Metropolis Street Racer that divided opinion, there can be no doubt that Headhunter stands as a defining moment in his career (although ironically a track from MSR makes an appearance in the first mission). Atmospheric, dramatic, melancholy....each tune fits the mood of the game perfectly. Dominic Gibbs who previously worked on James Bond films was also drafted in alongside Richard as Sound Editor and his influence shows. It's little wonder the soundtrack was later officially released on CD. Secondly the story and the accompanying cut-scenes are top notch; voice acting and dialogue is excellent throughout (although one cut-scene does spoil it near the very end) and you can tell Amuze put a lot of effort into making Headhunter a very cinematic experience. The newscasters Bill Waverley and Kate Gloss are played very well by their respective actors and displays that sinister smarm you expect from news channels controlled by repressive regimes. Bill Waverley's expressions are hilarious and the innuendo exchanges between the newscasters is very funny indeed..."you know Bill, I always keep a Stimulator by my bedside!" Special mention too for the chain-smoking old battleaxe at LEILA's reception....was that an actress or did Amuze just record a conversation with a UK government helpline?! :lol:

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But its the general storyline itself that makes Headhunter stand out. For me it's a satire on US bounty hunters and how far people are willing to sacrifice their liberty to regimes that promise them safety in return. Although in production long before the events of 9/11, Headhunter was worrying relevant in the following years and with all the current drama surrounding the PRISM scandal, it still is today. Even its emphasis on vital organs can be found in aspects of real life and the X-Must energy drink commercial..well Amuze must have had a time machine! Every cut scene, news broadcast and even each document you pick up on each mission...they all add to the experience and really make you want to help Jack discover the truth about himself. Even the loading screens (of which there are plenty) have sinister adverts on display while you wait......another great touch that immerses you in Headhunter's world. It comes as no surprise that an former X-Files scriptwriter, Philip Lawrence was involved in the making of Headhunter. The story is full of twists and turns throughout and although things become a little far fetched in the end, it's done with such class and style you'll forgive this exaggeration. I know the whole “Total Recall” thing has been done to death now so if you've played a similar game recently, a bit of “cooling off time” before tackling Headhunter would be a sensible idea. ;)

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Sadly not everything is perfect in Headhunter and it's mainly down to the motorcycle sections. The fact you need to race around the city at speed to gain skills points for LEILA is ridiculous and really lets the game down. You have these very well crafted cities with cars on the road and lots of little areas that be explored by bike if you feel like it but here's the problem: there's no incentive for doing so. It would have been so much better to have Jack earn skill points for doing courier-type deliveries from one location to other. This would have allowed players to experience these levels in a lot more detail and make the Headhunter world feel even more compelling. The final confrontation with a rival "Headhunter" towards the end is a colossal disappointment; it should have been a epic battle but its nothing more than a crude QTE that's over in seconds! Also you would think the developers would quieten Jack down with some sort of tiptoe feature before breaking a neck - you can hear his footsteps coming a mile off! Some people may also be put off by the sheer number of loading screens that occur so patience is definitely a virtue! Finally there are quite a few crash bugs in Headhunter as the game was rushed near to release so I recommend you save in the game often to avoid a "controller-breaking" moment.

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Headhunter is a fairly short, linear title that can be completed in around 6-10 hours and apart from a slightly harder version of the game (that's very bugged), there's little incentive to play again although the game really does its job the first time around. It's unfortunate Headhunter was only ever released in Europe for DC, but considering Sega had discontinued the console and was already releasing titles on other systems by then, perhaps it's understandable. I doubt the game sold well in Europe anyway...I haven't been able to find any sales numbers so far!

All in all, Headhunter is a great game for any Dreamcast owner and one I'd highly recommended. It may be short but it's certainly very sweet! Anyone for an X-MUST? :twisted:

Final Score: 8/10
Last edited by rjay63 on Thu Jun 13, 2013 5:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.
My Metropolis Street Racer Blog: http://www.msrdreamcast.blogspot.co.uk
MSR ghosts/time trials and official DLC: http://www.dreamcastlive.net/metropolis ... r-dlc.html

rjay63
Dead House
Posts: 373

Re: Headhunter Review

Post#2 » Wed Jun 12, 2013 2:06 pm

Dreamcast Vs PS2 Version

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As mentioned above, Headhunter was a European only Dreamcast release. I doubt Sega had any plans to release it in Japan but a US release seemed likely until Sega ditched the DC and became a multi-platform developer. Therefore it was decided that the game would be ported to the PS2 for US and PAL markets which was quite understandable considering that consoles large user base. Having played through the Dreamcast and PS2 versions, there is very little difference between them although each have their advantage over the other. I'll discuss these below:

Playing on 1080p TV's/monitors
For me, the best way to play Headhunter on either console is via a CRT display. However the Dreamcast version will look better on a 1080p screen as it uses the VGA Box. Ideally you should attach a decent VGA to HDMI upscaler between the VGA box and your 1080p screen otherwise the game looks very “waxy”. I have tried to force the PS2 version into higher resolutions via component/VGA but the game refuses to boot. Maybe if you use a XRGB Frameister for the PS2 version things would be different but that's expensive kit. So the DC wins this battle

FMV/Cut-Scenes
If you playing either version of Headhunter on a standard CRT TV, the PS2 wins in this area. This is down to the higher storage capability of the DVD disc format. The DC version is spread over 2 GD-ROMS which is still nowhere near DVD levels. Amuze were forced to use compression technology on the Dreamcast version (something called 4X movie) and while it's still pretty good quality, you can tell the difference. Also the still adverts on the loading screen have much higher picture quality on the PS2 than on the DC. So PS2 wins in this area but not a particularly important victory.

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Dreamcast
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PS2

Bugs **SPOILER ALERT**
The PS2 wins this battle but only because Amuze had more time to get everything right. On the Dreamcast version, there a quite a few random crash bugs particularly at the part where Angela Stern blows up a prison wall to rescue Jack (if you try and skip the cut-scene) and also with the motorcycle as it sometimes gets trapped inside tunnel walls! On the harder versions of Headhunter (Level 2 onwards), the Dreamcast version is impossible to complete if you collect the infinite ammo award from the “star” dispenser: the game refuses to let you pick up the Code Breaker later on that's vital for completion. There are also problems with the A.I on the harder versions during the LEILA “B Licence” stealth test; the guy just stands there instead of moving when you throw a decoy shell. It's possible to get past him but is extremely difficult. Amuze rectified all these bugs on the PS2 version although I recommend you play the game on a “FAT” console as there can be random sound issues on the slimline models. Again my advice for Headhunter DC version is save as often as you can and don't bother with the harder versions (there's no new endings or missions).

Slowdown
PS2 wins out here but for the reasons above; Amuze had more time with this version. The DC has nothing to be ashamed of though and the difference between each version is very slight.

Controls
The DC controller is better on the bike sections as it uses the analogue triggers (easy to adjust speed) although it's hardly a major advantage. Overall I guess it depends which controller you like best; I have unofficial ones for both consoles.

Price/Availability
Headhunter is cheaper on the PS2 and can picked up very easily. The Dreamcast version is a bit more expensive but still fairly easy to find.

To conclude, I have to admit the PS2 version is superior overall but that's down to the DVD storage format and the extra time taken to iron out the bugs from the European DC release. However the PS2 superiority is only slight and DC owners have the advantage when it comes to playing on modern displays. Of course as Dreamcast fans, there's was only one option anyway. Just enjoy Headhunter however you want to play it!
Last edited by rjay63 on Wed Jun 12, 2013 3:04 pm, edited 3 times in total.
My Metropolis Street Racer Blog: http://www.msrdreamcast.blogspot.co.uk
MSR ghosts/time trials and official DLC: http://www.dreamcastlive.net/metropolis ... r-dlc.html

rjay63
Dead House
Posts: 373

Re: Headhunter Review

Post#3 » Wed Jun 12, 2013 2:09 pm

**Extras**

Well sadly the official websites for Headhunter shut down many years ago and archive.org's robots were forbidden from preserving them so they're gone for good. :( However you can find some development information on Headhunter via Amuze's archived website here at http://web.archive.org/web/20020803113217/http://www.amuze.com/index2.html (flash required).

* It was rumoured that Headhunter would come with online functions but I think these would have been restricted to leaderboards and minor DLC (different enemy patterns, time of day etc).

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* Headhunter's VM communicator is based on an actual Casio wristwatch, the WQV-2, hence the product placement. It was apparently the world's first digit watch camera capable of taking 100 black & white images. Pretty cool for 2000/2001: http://www.urban75.org/photos/casio.html
Last edited by rjay63 on Wed Jul 10, 2013 7:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
My Metropolis Street Racer Blog: http://www.msrdreamcast.blogspot.co.uk
MSR ghosts/time trials and official DLC: http://www.dreamcastlive.net/metropolis ... r-dlc.html

User avatar
monster9000
dark night
Posts: 52

Re: Headhunter Review

Post#4 » Fri Jun 14, 2013 11:09 am

wow what a great review for an awesome game, Thankyou!

User avatar
dark
Resident Evil
Posts: 1795

Re: Headhunter Review

Post#5 » Tue Jun 18, 2013 5:33 pm

I have Headhunter. The first time i played it was in 2011 so I might be a little spoiled in terms of what I expect from adventure games. Headhunter is pretty good for a DC game, the graphics are pretty good and there is a lot of variety in terms of graphical settings. I heard that sega invested a lot of money into this game for good production values (to be an answer to MGS) and that the release of the PS2 version was to help recoup some of this development cost. It seems to me that the European DC version has gone down in price and is very affordable if bought from a European website/seller (I got my copy for about $10). It's well worth it for that money.

Overall, I do not think the game has held up well in 2013. I find the story and the acting to be very stilted and cheesy and that limits my enjoyment of doing the missions and moving forward in the game. I understand this game takes place in a dystopian future, but it seems like every 5 seconds the game just keeps shoving the same message into my face that in this future you can harvest organs and no one has any civil liberties or privacy (I think advertisements for these fictional products/services pop up at virtually every loading screen). I don't mind that this is a main theme of the game and that there is associated corruption that your character is working against - my gripe is more with the frequency of the constant cheesy advertisements for products and services in the game dealing with organ harvesting and invading privacy, and the heavy handedness that the news casters use when doing their news casts - that during their newscasts they will always put in a couple of little jokes about harvesting organs or whatever and it just seems really stuck in and weird. I guess the frequency is to show that this is something taken for granted in the future, but instead, it comes off as the game being self conscious about this aspect and continually presenting it just in case you forgot.

Another gripe I have is that the news casters are supposed to be American? But I really think the actors are European or dialogue were written by Europeans (maybe the Swedish developers). The actors (especially the male newscaster) seems to have a weird exaggerated American accent, and the newscasts don't feel like American style newscasts. The actors don't seem like they are American at all in terms of mannerisms or how newscasters talk and report on stories in the US.

The combat and stealth controls are a little confusing, and I find myself having to relearn them if I set the game down for a month. But when you remember them, they are pretty good. There is a good amount of control over your character's actions. There seems to be less of an emphasis on stealth in Headhunter compared to MGS - and as a result, the game felt more repetitive and boring as I played further and further in and mostly killed guards directly through brute force with my weapons rather than solving tactical puzzles.

As for the canceled online functions - I heard the game was to have online motorcycle racing.

rjay63
Dead House
Posts: 373

Re: Headhunter Review

Post#6 » Tue Jun 18, 2013 10:40 pm

monster9000:

Thanks for reading! :)

dark:

I've found out a little bit about the two newscast actors. The lady is Lorelei King, an American actress who has lived in England since 1981.

http://www.loreleiking.com/

The man is Mark Caven who seems to originate from Canada and he's an professional actor: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0147062/

He also has a business in helping people speak English properly. Here's a video of him in action...unintentionally amusing! :)

My Metropolis Street Racer Blog: http://www.msrdreamcast.blogspot.co.uk
MSR ghosts/time trials and official DLC: http://www.dreamcastlive.net/metropolis ... r-dlc.html

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