Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter
This review was based on the PS2 version
The first-person shooter (FPS) genre is packed with an abundance of superb titles, unfortunately for the console crowd many of these titles are on PC because FPS’s lend themselves far better to the mouse and keyboard configuration rather than the controller. Half-Life and its sequel are prime examples; brilliant and inventive with an intuitive control system that simply didn’t translate fully to the limited console controllers. There are exceptions to this rule – Halo being the most obvious, but on the whole consoles, particularly PS2, lack the number of quality shooters the PC can boast. Enter Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter.
What makes Mace Griffin different is that the control system works equally as well with a controller or a keyboard-mouse. You don’t have to worry about looking to see if you are pressing the right buttons or continually fiddling to perfect the aim mechanism, the various control configurations allow you to adapt the controller buttons to perform the various functions in whichever organisational order you wish.
More than that though, the system is simple to learn and effective in really difficult sections (of which there are several) where you have to react quickly and precisely. The only difficulty comes during the rare but irritating places where you have to jump to reach another part of the level. I have yet to see or be convinced that there is any good reason for jumping to be included in FPS’s, it leads to frustration and much controller/keyboard bashing. Thankfully in Mace Griffin these sections are few and far between. So with Mace under control, what about the game itself?
As the title suggests Mace Griffin is a bounty hunter, a former Ranger who is discharged when a routine space inspection goes terribly wrong. Griffin’s squad ship is called upon to answer a mayday call from another spacecraft that is seemingly stranded and in need of assistance. So after a few cut scenes you’re thrown straight into the action.
Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter isn’t purely a FPS as you learn fairly quickly after the game begins, instead the game is a hybrid FPS and space-shooter, mixing the personal one-on-one action with a healthy dose of space dog-fighting. As a result the gameplay has a unique feel, you’re never quite sure when you will be called upon to board your spacefighter and defend a cargo ship or attack a group of space pirates. Both sections look equally impressive with the bulk of the action taking place gun-in-hand as you pursue enemies, storm asteroid fortresses, protect crimelords, defend friends and attempt to get to the bottom of the plot.
To begin with the environments look mundanely similar but as you progress the various asteroids, planets and ships you land on take on enjoyably differing appearances, offering their own challenges. Your enemies aren’t particularly numerous in diversity but there are some intriguing designs, the Temple worshippers, whose ‘church’ you have to storm, with their happy-face helmets (yes you read it right) are the pick and very amusing … until they start killing you. Each of the many weapons you pick up has a distinctive design, sound and the prerequisite ability to deal out death in multiple flavours, ammo isn’t limited but you’ll regularly find yourself wishing you’d conserved more.
The flying sections are tough and take a lot of getting used to. These interludes between the main gameplay look very polished and sound great – enemy ships scorching past you at serious speeds is a highlight. For fans of the PS1 series Colony Wars there is a distinct similarity with Mace Griffin’s flying sections. Mace uses a standard Ranger ship that carries different types of laser weapons as well as two types of rockets; homing and normal. Each of the space battles involves a lot of dog-fighting, there are always vast amounts of enemies in the area – sometimes as many as 40-50, which makes each of the flying sections time-consuming. Hunting down the last few enemy ships regularly becomes a chore (particularly when you still have to dock afterwards as well) and with no homing rockets it can be very annoying, especially if you have little health left. Hardcore gamers and people who enjoy a challenge will relish these battles but for the average gamer they can become a major distraction and a source of frustration.
Unfortunately Mace Griffin suffers in comparison with many other FPS’s because it is solely a one-player game, so your mates will have to wait their turn. That said this game is a tough s.o.b when cranked up to the highest difficulty setting, enemies don’t miss, ammo and health are sparse and the flying sections become nail-biters. Definitely one for the hardcore players out there. Due to its difficulty Mace Griffin’s lifespan is a serious plus-point, it took me two months of on-off gaming to crack it. The save feature also means you can go back and play the best sections (some of which are very cool) again and again, adding further replay value.
Overall Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter is exactly what the cover wants you to believe it is, a tough, no frills ride that won’t give you a lot of ‘wow’ moments but it will keep you entertained right to the brutal conclusion and beyond. One for those who like their FPS’s nails-hard.
Reviewed by Owen Jones © 2005