Dreamcast owners have been waiting for Headhunter for quite some time now, and it's being seen as one of the big titles on the run up to Christmas, and indeed one of the biggest titles that the Dreamcast will see. Now it's finally arrived, we can see what all the fuss has been about.
Headhunter starts off with two very cheesy news readers giving a television news report, which sets the scene showing events in a futuristic California, and provides your lifeline to the "world" and what's going on as the game progresses.
Action starts off with Jack Wade waking up from an operation in a laboratory - realising something's not right, Jack jumps up and bursts through the doors, setting off the alarm system to the complex which he's in, with sirens wailing and lights flashing. The first gameplay then comes in to action, and sees Jack having to escape from the high security complex, shooting any lab staff that he comes across, and finally exiting the compound. However before getting far the pain takes over Jack, causing him to fall to the ground unconscious.
Jack then wakes up in a hospital, suffering from memory loss. Several minutes of story setting dialogue take place, which includes a visit from Jack's boss, Hawke, who informs him that his licence has been taken back, and he'll have to re-train. Another visitor arrives at Jack's bedside, this time it's Angela, who is Sterns daughter. She explains that Jack was working on a top secret project for her father, and wants you to hunt down the people who killed him, asking Jack to go back to her house where you're able to get some memories back from the books and photos in the house. These memory recapturing possibilities don't only set the story for the game, but also give the gamer access to vital information, and throughout the game the storyline has been worked so it's both realistic and useful.
You're then given a motorbike, and it's off to the city to gain your licence from LEILA. Up until this stage, there's not been very much gameplay, and the first experiences are with a motorbike that has pretty poor handling. The bike seems to steer around a central axis, and occasionally suffers from a total lack of response. There's also no falling off the bike, even after hitting in to a wall or another vehicle.
To gain your Headhunter licence, you need to take the VR simulator tests at the Law Enforcement Intelligence and License Approval (LEILA) centre, and these are made up of a number of challenges, which test your skills, including motorcycle, shooting, and generally getting you ready for the game, and to make sure that you're fit for the job of the Headhunter.
Several licence levels are available, starting at the class C licence which gives you access to the basic weaponry, and goes right up to a AAA licence. New guns have been developed which cause no physical harm but stop the brain from working - you're not limited to using this gun though, and can use more conventional items, and even a rocket launcher or proximity mines.
It soon becomes apparent though that the gameplay in Headhunter is very linear, and you have to complete the missions set, and not just generally do as you please. This isn't a major problem, but it will impact on the re-play value if what you need to do is always the same.
To start off with the controls seemed quite complicated, and that's only because Jack can do a lot - crouch, draw the weapon, aim, roll, walk with his back against the wall, look round the corner - it's all there, and makes for an extremely playable game. Of course, the optional pre-game training, and the simulation at the LEILA facility allows you to perfect all theses skills, so by the time you're in the proper action, things should not be a problem.
Throughout the game you get further news updates, which give you more details of what's happening, but also get to see how the media has twisted the stories to make everything seem as though you are in the wrong.
The game action is spread across two discs, and provides literally hours of secret agent style stealth combat, using a wide variety of weapons, and plenty of skill - you can't just go at it with guns-a-blazing. You really have to think carefully about how you're going to work your way through each area, and track down the cities most wanted in an effort to re-gain your number one rating as the top Headhunter.
Headhunter is definitely one game that every Dreamcast owner should own - it's got great gameplay (despite not being anything particularly new), good graphics, is oozing in style, and proves to be truly addictive.Overall score: 8 out of 10
Recommended Price: £29.99
Available: November 16th 2001Buy Headhunter for the DC from Amazon