Headhunter (video game)
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European Dreamcast boxart
For the majority of the game, the gameplay is that of a third-person shooter as players control protagonist Jack Wade. Jack travels between the main levels of the game on his motorcycle, and these sections take the form of a racing game, with the motorbike's acceleration and braking controlled using the sensitive analogue trigger buttons of the Dreamcast control pad.
The game takes place in the near future in a city similar to Los Angeles, California. Criminals are punished for their crimes not only by serving time in prison but by having their internal organs surgically removed (if they lost to another prisoner in an underwater arena) and transplanted to benefit the wealthier members of society. Officially responsible for law enforcement are the Anti-Crime Network (ACN) organisation and their employees, the bounty hunter-like Headhunters. In order to prevent damage occurring to the criminals' organs as they are apprehended, conventional firearms have been banned, replaced by Electric Neural Projectile (ENP) guns that fire special bullets which do not damage flesh but instead emit an electrical charge that causes severe pain in victims, paralyses muscles and eventually kills the brain. According to the game, ENP technology was developed by Biotech and the main manufacturer of ENP handguns is Smith & Easton (a reference to the firearms manufacturer Smith & Wesson), although the technology can also be used with grenades, proximity mines, rocket launchers and other explosives.
The game begins with Jack escaping from a secret laboratory, but soon after going outside he faints and falls unconscious. He wakes up in hospital and learns that he is suffering from amnesia and that although he was once the very best Headhunter, his license has now been revoked. In order to investigate the murder of ACN founder Christopher Stern, he must re-earn his Headhunter licence by taking part in virtual-reality tests (called LEILA tests) and capture some of the most dangerous criminals in the city. Throughout the game, Jack is aided by Christopher Stern's daughter Angela and his old boss Chief Hawke; although he also finds that his main rival to the title of best Headhunter is the unpleasant Hank Redwood.
Characters and themes
- Jack Wade - The main character also considered to be a believable Los Angeles residential bounty hunter character.
- Angela Stern - Jack's aid who works for the ACN, only to find out they are collaborating with the Wolfpack in order to get weapons for organs.
- Adam - A genetically altered man, made to be perfect. Adam resembles a Giant Man who resembles the superior race, a perverse vision of Blavatsky's work on the ideal Atlantean.
- Doctor Ernst Zweiberg - the man responsible for creating Adam.
- Eve - A virus which in turn will be released by ACN to destroy the human race and form a perfect one.
- L.E.I.L.A. (Law Enforcement Intelligence and License Approval) - a virtual reality simulator which give ACN bounty hunters a license.
- Wolfpack - a criminal gang in league with the syndicate.
- The Syndicate - An organized crime syndicate led by the mysterious Don Fulci. Serve as the primary antagonists for most of the game.
- ACN (Anti-Crime Network) - the future law system which plans to distribute the virus in shipments of X-Must Energy Drink.
- Biotech - Inventor of the futuristic weapons in the game.
- Grey Wolf - an enemy turned friend of Jack Wade.
- Alan Sharpe - President of ACN and occultist. Actually identical with Don Fulci
- Don Fulci - Reclusive leader of The Syndicate. Actually identical with Alan Sharpe
- Ramirez - a member of The Syndicate who divulges critical information of the connection between ACN and the Syndicate.
- Hank Redwood - a stubborn bounty hunter for ACN.
- Gladiator - a boss
- Underwater Arena - an underwater gladiatorial prison owned by ACN.
- Queen of Hearts - Import/Export ship for X-Must Energy Drink.
Comparisons with other games
Many reviewers of Headhunter stated that much of the game draws obvious influences from other games, most notably Metal Gear Solid; major similarities include the emphasis on stealth-based gameplay (such as the ability to snap enemies necks from behind and to press the character's back against a wall and look around corners), Jack's favoured method of communication being through a Casio wristwatch videophone, presented similarly to the Codec sequences of the MGS games, and the LEILA test sequences being similar to the MGS VR Missions. Puzzles in the game, as well as the final boss battle and a mansion area near the end of the game, also drew some comparisons to the Resident Evil series. Also Jack Wade is the name of a character from the movie GoldenEye.