Mace Griffin Bounty Hunter
Mace Griffin Bounty Hunter originally seemed too ambitious when it was first announced, with its non-linear storyline and combination of two distinctly different genres: space combat and first-person shooting. Thoughts immediately came to mind of a new Privateer, Pirates!, or Infiltrator, involving players with smuggling, bounty hunting, or simply charting their own way through the cosmos. Sure, there would be an overall storyline, but the most attractive point was to be the game's seamless transitions between space and ground-based action, and the almost limitless possibilities associated with traveling to different planets.
Like so many other ambitious titles, the final version of Mace Griffin isn't nearly as complex as what was originally conceived -- in fact, it's been neutered to the point where players are led by an invisible leash through interesting but extremely linear worlds. Mace Griffin presents players with a palpable universe in which to explore and delve into, with corporate politics, sleazy races, and a grand sense of scale. The graphics are often stunning on Xbox, with beautiful textures, rich atmospheric effects, and smooth animation. While there are slight stutters whenever Mace Griffin swings around, as if the backgrounds need a moment to catch up, the frame rate is generally solid throughout.
The sound is as impressive as the visuals, with excellent Dolby Digital effects that have spaceships roaring from the front speakers and then zipping past the rear speakers for a truly enveloping experience. The voice acting is above average, with Henry Rollins delivering a suitably gruff performance as Mace Griffin, a cynical soldier wrongly accused as a killer by his peers. Enemies will bark out taunts, talk amongst themselves to track you down, and yell for assistance if they find themselves overmatched in combat.
Where the game falters are the limitations placed on players and the repetitiveness of gameplay. Things start off on a sour note during the opening sequence, which has players wandering through a starship under attack from aliens. While the labyrinthine ship is filled with doors and various routes, they are all conveniently locked or blocked off so players can only access one possible choice. Fortunately, the combat is often fun, with swarms of enemies appearing above and below players, and an interesting mix of weapons with two different forms of attack. Yet nothing really stands out as original, with most of the action more or less a watered-down version of Halo.
Another issue is forcing players to jump across platforms at certain points, which should be outlawed in all first-person shooters. It didn't work in Acclaim's Turok series, and it doesn't work here. There isn't an overhead map to help you judge distances between crates or other platforms, so you end up going through a process of trial and error to cross certain areas. In fact, there's no map on any of the levels, so players must instead rely on a strange horizontal compass along the top of the screen to point them to the next objective. Unfortunately, most of the game is spent looking at the compass rather than exploring the levels presented before them. There are firefights with soldiers and alien creatures, more walking along predefined pathways, and then shooting sequences from the cockpits of various ships.
The transitions from ground to ship are as smooth as the marketing department would lead you to believe, with players walking right up the ramp of a ship and up to the cockpit prior to launch. You even get a chance to dock or land the vessel, but there's not much actual space traveling. Players shouldn't expect the next Wing Commander in Mace Griffin. Traveling to a planet involves pressing a button to activate a launch sequence and hyperspace travel, and before players are allowed to land, they'll have to destroy several incoming fighters. These shooting sequences are annoying, since players take damage from all angles and there's no real sense of dogfighting -- space combat in this game is more an exercise in pointing and clicking from a first-person perspective than actual piloting skill.
With its clean and sharp graphics, crisp sound, and solid shooting action for the Doom crowd, Mace Griffin is worth a look if it can be found for the right price. It's easy to see the potential in a title like Mace Griffin, but the actual product should be better. More attention needs to be placed on the space aspect of the game, and players should have the same sense of freedom as in titles like Halo instead of wandering through narrow halls. Considering the weak save system that only lets you save progress at checkpoints, a lack of multiplayer support or any other online features, and objectives that don't involve much more than shooting anything that moves, you have a game that ultimately ends up grounded in familiar territory when it seemed to be reaching for the stars. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
While there are some slight hiccups in the presentation whenever Mace Griffin turns around, the textures and level detail are sharp. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
Voice acting is above average, and the sound effects make good use of Dolby Digital on Xbox. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The space combat is disappointing, and the ground sequences lack originality. Yet the linear progression is the most troubling aspect of this game, with players unable to make even the most basic of decisions. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The lack of two-player support and online features hurts the game's replay value. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
Most of the manual is needlessly devoted to listing each weapon, and many important features are left unexplained. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide