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Xbox Review - 'Mace Griffin Bounty Hunter'

by Justin on July 18, 2003 @ 12:21 a.m. PDT

Mace Griffin Bounty Hunter takes place hundreds of years in the future, where both human and alien settlers are rapidly colonizing the galaxy. The player will assume the role of an ex-Special Ops officer, Mace Griffin. Against a backdrop of corporate, political and religious intrigue, Mace Griffin is framed for being involved in his comrades’ deaths.

Genre : FPS
Publisher: Vivendi
Developer: Warthog
Release Date: June 18, 2003

Xbox | GameCube | PC | PlayStation 2

Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter was originally scheduled to be released a long time ago. Its release date kept getting pushed back, though, quite possibly because the people behind it felt that it wouldn't be able to compete with the king of FPS games on the Xbox - Halo. The two titles certainly have a lot in common, but the main difference here is this: every time you see something implemented in Mace that you saw in Halo, it probably isn't as good, and it certainly isn't as cool as it was seeing it for the first time in that now-classic title.

You play as Mace Griffin, ex-federation soldier, now bounty hunter. The game starts off with some hokey cinematics showing how Mace got to where he is today. Basically, he was on a certain mission with his crew, disobeyed one order in order to save the whole gang, and was punished afterwards for not following orders. Isn't that logical, folks? The story really is not that interesting or innovative. After a break of several years in jail, Mace turns to bounty hunting, and that's where your missions begin.

Now, the funny thing is this: despite being a bounty hunter, you can't decline any mission offers. And once you get there, you're always following someone else's orders. Isn't the whole point of being a bounty hunter to work independently, follow your own morals, and get the job done no matter what? Apparently not in this game. You essentially go from mission to mission, flying in your ship, talking to some people who need your help, then take out a couple guys - then, uh oh! Plot twist! Looks like someone's escaping! Better jump in your ship and take him down! Lather, rinse, repeat.

Now, it wouldn't be so bad if the gameplay were actually good. Unfortunately, that's not the case - it's extremely lacking. First of all, the control scheme needs to be addressed. It's like some guys looked at Halo's basic configuration, mixed it around a little so it wouldn't be an exact carbon copy, and made it so that it's hardly customizable at all. The two analog sticks are used for movement and looking around, but you can't adjust the sensitivity of either. Mace runs about as fast as your average 90-year-old man, and it takes him a total of three seconds to spin around entirely. You're going to die a lot just because Mace is really not too maneuverable.

Mace can do a couple of other things, like jump and reload his gun. Really exciting, innovative stuff. His health bar is straight out of Halo, too - there's actual life that, when is depleted, will cause you to die - but there's also a regenerating shield. Of course, this shield fails to work most of the time, as Mace will often magically lose actual hit points when his shield is perfectly full. And is it just me, or is there a big flaw with this whole "Halo ripoff" idea? Yes, the Master Chief in Halo ran somewhat slow (but he could turn his head fast!), jumped fairly high, and had a regenerating shield - but he was wearing a freakin' suit of armor. Mace Griffin comes trotting in, with nothing on but your standard clothes, and yeah, he doesn't jump quite as high (rendering that ability practically useless), but he's running just as slowly and somehow has a magical regenerating shield. Note to developers: use logic when making games!

The guns that Mace gets to use are, unfortunately, boring and generic. You've got your basic arsenal of FPS guns - a pistol, an automatic gun, a sniper rifle, a rocket launcher, a shotgun - and oh, the creativity stops right there. Each looks okay (better than most of the stuff in the game), but none of them are really innovative or interesting. Each gun has an alternative fire mode, but it's usually something silly like causing the pistol to fire automatically, which doesn't make much sense, as the thing has a freakin' revolver, allowing you to unload it all of your ammunition in two seconds. Okay, I can live with it, but from a gameplay standpoint, it's kind of silly, as it will take you five seconds to reload. The alternative fire mode becomes worthless, as you're reloading more than you're actually shooting, and I think it's safe to say that it just goes against the intended purpose of the function in the first place (shooting more).

Not helping matters is the AI of the enemies -- these guys belong in a mental institution. While there may be some slight satisfaction at first, plowing through tons of enemies with ease, it's not so fun once, thanks to your faulty generating shield and a need for more savepoints, you have to plow through a ton all over again. Fighting enemies that don't put up much of a challenge can get boring real quick. I've seen some enemies fighting in a group, and when I think I've killed them all, I see one just standing around, pointing his gun at some imaginary antelope or something. Sometimes you can walk right by them, and they still remain transfixed by, well... nothing, really. The AI needed a lot of work.

If the game has one thing going for it, it's the seamless transition between moving on ground to piloting a ship in space. You can be standing around in a docking bay, then step inside of a ship, and simply walk up, sit down in the pilot's seat, and fly the thing right out the door. Well, sort of. While it's cool that you can actually do that, you can only fly at certain points during a mission, adding to the already rigid, linear feel of the game. Once you're out the door, though, flying is fairly fun. You have a lot of control over your ship, and while you're basically in the same environment all the time (the black void of space), it's a bit of fun to just fly around. You can turn it, set the speed of the engines, and even strafe (although, admittedly, the strafing is ridiculously slow, making it basically unusable). If you could just hop in your ship and fly off at any minute, Mace would have been that much better. Unfortunately though, despite the fun you can derive from flying around, the game feels extremely straightforward.

Adding further insult to injury, there is no multiplayer mode whatsoever. I couldn't tell you why this is, as pummelling a couple of buds might have actually been fun for a little while. There's not even the slightest mention of a co-op mode. If you do decide to pick up this game, be warned that it has practically no replay value.

The graphics in the game are passable, but nothing impressive. Character designs are uninspired for the most part. A couple of months ago, Mace sported a cool, stylish cowboy hat, but apparently someone didn't like that idea, and Mace now sports a hatless, utterly cookie-cutter design. Imagine a tough guy with muscles. Boom. There's Mace. Each level looks a bit interesting when you first enter it, but after twenty minutes of seeing the same textures and models throughout it, you'll wish you were on the next level already. Some of the animation is okay, as seeing enemies crumple over dead or fall off a ledge is a bit satisfying.

The sound is nothing too impressive. The voicework is just okay throughout, and even the voice of Henry Rollins can't save the lame dialogue that the writers came up with for Mace. The music in the game is never very interesting or memorable. The sound effects are okay, as guns tend to pack a bang and explosions sound like, well, explosions. You may be able to resist the Mute button, but it's not worth turning on the Surround Sound.

Overall, Mace is a product that, despite being delayed several times, still feels very weak compared to the king of FPSes. It clearly implements a lot of the features introduced in that game but tends to do them with lesser quality. While flying around a spaceship, then hopping out and exploring your surroundings is a good idea, each mission is so straightforward and restrictive that it drags down the whole experience. With merely adequate graphics and sound, Mace Griffin really doesn't have much left to offer. If you're really interested, give it a rent to see what it's all about, but more likely than not, you'll be too bored or frustrated to still be playing the game by the time it's due back. Just don't jump the gun and purchase it. Your wallet will hate you for it.

Score : 5.8/10

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