Taking place between the events of Star Wars Episode I and II, Star Wars Bounty Hunter focuses on the Mandalorian armor-wearing father of ‘Big’ Boba Fett, placing you in control of Jango Fett as he mixes it up third-person action style in a game that features an assortment of moves that were seen in the last Star Wars flick. While LucasArts did a good job in terms of portraying the ruthless bounty hunter and making sure his interactive character matches his silver screen counterpart in terms of mannerism and personality, the same attention to detail was unfortunately not given to the game’s other, more important facets, like level design, graphics, and gameplay.
The storyline in Bounty Hunter is definitely the game’s brightest area. It chronicles the events leading up to Episode II and is told through both in-game dialogue and impressive-looking pre-rendered cut-scenes featuring top-notch CGI. Reviving his role as Jango, Temuera Morrison lends his voice to the game’s protagonist and as a result, avoids common pitfalls associated with stand-in voice-talent. The plot revolves around how Jango was chosen to be the template for the Republic’s clone army, and even though the player is given initial insight into the insidious plan, Jango himself remains in the dark for quite some time before realizing how he fits into the Republic’s brutal intentions.
In regards to the gameplay dynamics of Bounty Hunter, LucasArts has done a respectable, if unimposing job of integrating Jango’s lithe maneuvers into the gameplay system. Jango can pimp dual blasters and target two enemies at once, perform evasive rolls, climb and hang from ledges, crawl through small corridors, and utilize an assortment of different weapons including a flamethrower, automatic blaster guns, a gauntlet whipcord to snare his opponents, toxic darts, thermal grenades, a sniper rifle, a jetpack-mounted missile, cluster missiles, and even manned laser turrets. In addition, during most of the game you’ll have access to Jango’s jetpack, which allows him to propel himself into the air for short durations. The control feels a little loose overall but once you grow accustom to the unnatural gameplay dynamics, pulling off complicated stunts becomes possible. The auto-targeting feature ensures that you’ll never need to sweat the details in regards to taking out enemies, though you can also manually aim by holding down the R2 button.
The most frustrating aspect of the game is its level design and hazy mission objectives. These two issues coupled often result in an experience where you’ll not only not know where you can go, but even where you’re supposed to go. Backtracking is a constant exercise that you’ll have to get used to if you are to progress; even the first mission in the game can be excruciatingly tedious. The fact that the environments in Bounty Hunter are sprawling is great from a technical standpoint, but doesn’t do much to aid the player in finding that small wall panel that you’re supposed to go through, or that elusive computer console you’re supposed to activate in order to reach the next area. It’s really only after you’ve explored a particular level for far too long that you inadvertently stumble across the object or area that is key to your progression.
The main gameplay issues come in the form of the game’s dopey camera system, which often makes playing the game needlessly difficult thanks to the fact that it rarely gives you a good vantage point of your surroundings. You can manually control the camera with the right analog stick, though doing this is often more problematic than it’s worth since the camera has a tendency to go AWOL in tight areas and is far too sensitive to user input otherwise. This problem is most evident in the areas where you are unsure where you need to go to proceed; holding R2 to get a good idea of the environment is often annoyingly necessary. The frame rate also acts up quite a bit, fluctuating wildly during hectic instances and compounding the aforementioned camera problems.
The game’s main draw, its focus on bounty hunting, proves to be as flaccid as the game’s level design. In order to actually ‘hunt’ for ‘bounty,’ you’ll need to activate the first-person targeting mode by using the direction pad. This allows you to scan nearby enemies and see if any of them have a bounty on their head, during which time you’ll be completely defenseless and often take damage from surrounding gunfire. Then you’ll mark your target and kill or debilitate them before walking up and collecting your bounty, at which point the body will magically disappear. In the instances where you are able to scan and mark bounties without the surrounding enemies unleashing waves of damaging blaster fodder at you, this system works pretty well. Unfortunately, the aforementioned scenario is as rare as a ghost orchid.
Visually, Bounty Hunter ain’t much of a looker. The textures are bland, the level design uninspired, and clipping occurs way too frequently. Bottomless pits pepper the game’s 18 levels, and invisible walls are brazenly apparent on more than a few occasions. Most levels repeat architecture in different places, making you wonder whether you’ve already explored certain areas or not. The inclusion of the jetpack sometimes compounds the confusion since there are many instances where you can propel yourself up to a higher platform only to find that it leads to a dead-end. The pre-rendered cinemas are pretty snazzy though. In terms of sound, Bounty Hunter features most all the expected sound effects and orchestral music you’d expect in a Star Wars game, though these aural aspects do little to heighten the enjoyment of the game outside of the expected Star Wars-ey style of immersion. The professional voice acting during the many cut-scenes is definitely the highpoint.
Overall, Bounty Hunter serves up some decent platforming elements, and blasting hordes of opposition is fun to a certain extent, but there are so many trifling aspects to the experience that you’ll probably want to give up before you have a chance to appreciate the game’s interesting storyline which, by the way, almost makes trudging through the game a worthwhile tour de force for hardcore Star Wars fans. But for everybody else who is just looking for a fun time playing as a cool character with cool abilities and weapons, Bounty Hunter should be relegated to a rental at best.