Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 06/20/03 | Genre: First Person Shooter
Mace Griffin Bounty Hunter is a title that has seen many delays. I recall seeing it at E3 several years ago, at E3 2001, when it was going to be published by Crave. While the game didn’t have a story in place, it showed an engine that allowed players to move back and forth between a Wing Commander style action in a spaceship and a first person shooter without any load time. Two years later, the game has finally made it to retail. Crave is no longer in the gaming business and their Mace Griffin project was picked up by Vivendi Universal. Developer Wart Hog has done a great job in finishing up this delayed project. In fact, the title is missing just a few elements to make it spectacular.
The story of the game places you in control of Mace Griffin (duh!). Mace is member of an army called the Rangers. These guys are the elite special-ops forces that tackle the toughest missions. During the first mission you control, your crew is destroyed and you are framed for the murder and sentenced for ten years for this crime that you didn’t commit. As you get out of prison, the world around you has changed–the Rangers are no longer a group within the world–and you become a Bounty Hunter for hire. Your goal is to get revenge against the forces who framed you and to teach those who sentenced you a lesson. A friend you made while serving time assists you in your efforts by providing you a ship and some basic weapons. You begin your journey for revenge by running missions to upgrade your equipment…
I will probably always enjoy my first person shooters more on a PC. There is nothing a controller can do when compared to a mouse and a keyboard. However, slowly I am getting more accustomed to the game consoles controller. In the console versions, players have the freedom to pick the button configuration of their choice. The default setting is actually quite good though. There is one action button used for activating switches in the game world and warping to areas when in your ship. Another button is used for jumping and there is also a primary and secondary button for firing your weapons. Don’t forget to reload your gun or you may run out of ammo in the heat of battle.
By keeping the number of buttons to complete different activities in the game world down to a really manageable level, it really helps the player focus on what is going on in the game world and instead of worrying about what button to fire. However, developer Wart Hog made one really big mistake: jumping. I wouldn't be upset if there wasn’t a jump option in the game, but why are there so many obstacles in the game world that are only overcome by jumping? Like in a lot of other FPS games that incorporate jumping to reaching the next portion of a level, this is more of an act of frustration than a good gameplay mechanic. When the player reaches one of the locations that require you to jump, you will almost always have to redo it four or five times before getting through even the simplest of jumping obstacles. Most of the time, your path is blocked and a series of conveniently placed boxes that will be stacked so perfectly and allow you with just the right angle to make a jump and continue on through the level.
My biggest problem with the majority of publishers who release their titles on multiple consoles is that they do not take the time to optimize the games for a specific platform. This is very evident in the Xbox version where there are several instances where the frame rate drops dramatically. The PlayStation 2 also suffers from these slowdowns in the framerate, and they happen more often. On top of that, there is some problem with the colors bleeding in the PS2 version. While I understand that the PlayStation 2 is a bit dated now and it can be harder to make games look and play as well as Xbox versions, I do not understand why there should be any problem with slowdown in the Xbox version of Mace Griffin Bounty Hunter. Instead of publishers allowing their development units time to optimize the game for each specific platform, they release a ?raight port?f the game that does not take advantage of anything a particular system offers.
Visually, besides not being optimized for each platform, the Xbox version looks much better than any of the other versions. If you are fortunate enough to own more than one console, I would lean towards the Xbox version. That said, many people enjoy the feel of the PlayStation 2 controller. Personally, I find that Mace Griffin Bounty Hunter plays a lot like Halo–so I am quite comfortable with the Xbox controller.
All thirteen levels are nicely detailed but developer Wart Hog didn’t throw in a whole lot to make the game stand out above its peers. This is not necessarily a bad thing?but with the endless number of First Person Shooters on the market today, it would have been nice to have better than average visuals. Of course, if the game was optimized for each console, this would not be an issue.
One of the biggest features that first amazed me about Mace Griffin over two years ago was the ability to move from a Space Combat view into a First Person mode. This has made it into the final product but in a much more limited way. You usually have to fight off enemies before journeying to a mission and then blast your way after the mission has been completed. But the space combat is a very small part of the final package and sometimes feels like it was an afterthought. I would like to see a sequel where there is less emphasis on jumping in the first person mode and the Space Combat taken to a long Commander level.
While I am on the subject of things that are missing from Mace Griffin Bounty Hunter, there is a need for a multiplayer and co-op modes. While the story doesn’t really call for a second player, it would have been nice to be given some sort of side-kick or rent-a-buddy that could fight off the hordes of bad guys with you. Since the days of Quake on the PC, I have enjoyed playing co-op through FPS games. In Halo, this was the mode I enjoyed more than even the deathmatch levels.
Overall, Mace Griffin Bounty Hunter is a solid First Person Shooter that is worth looking into. But be warned–this game is missing multiplayer and co-op modes. For those of you who are looking for a single player experience, this will be a fun journey to take. Just don’t expect anything groundbreaking. That said, Mace Griffin is good enough to warrant a sequel. I just hope we don’t have to wait another two years to get our hands on it.