Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter
Mace Griffin. It's possibly the single most ridiculous name in gravely voiced, moody FPS hero history. They may as well have called him Cudgel Pigeon. Or Pepper-Spray Partridge. Bludgeoning-Instrument Lark maybe? Or even Sceptre Hawk. Actually, I like that one. In fact, from this point on, I want you all to call me Mr Hawk. Or Seep if you’re a friend. Clear? OK, let’s move on...
Only The Rich And The Stupid
With beginnings like this, it was inevitable that Mace would struggle in life, as this futuristic shooter-cum-space-combat hybrid so clearly shows. Mace, an intergalactic ranger, has found himself a nice little cushy job keeping the peace outside of intergalactic McDonald’s fly-throughs. Nothing lasts forever though.
Before long, he's banged up for ten years for his alleged part in an alien conspiracy to destabilise the peace (Wimpy are suspected). A decade of falling for the old 'pick up the soap, ranger-boy’ trick can do strange things to a man, and on his release Mace can think of nothing more than wreaking revenge on those who set him up. (And whether he will stay true to Big Bad Bill now he’s out of the slammer.)
Mace’s plan is far from flawless though. No ship, no money, no job. Is our hero doomed to failure? Will he have to beg on street corners, lying to terrified passers-by that his car’s run out of petrol and could they just lend him a pound so that he can get home? As if.
Here Comes The Pain
So starts the shooting. Setting himself up as a Bounty Hunter for a ruthless fish-faced businessman, Mace sets about scouring the universe for fun-sized chocolate-covered coconut bars (not really) while embarking on a series of lunglurching, heart-stopping levels. Naturally these eventually lead to the guys who set him up, and generally require you to shoot everyone who’s not you.
Somewhat cartoonish in style, the console influences of Mace Griffin are clear to see, with no save functions except automatic ones. But despite often having to retread large sections of Mace's great Bounty bar hunt (due to falling off a ledge like a cack-handed idiot (yes, that'd be me) or getting shot to pieces by Al, which provides some stiff opposition when it spies you - rolling, strafing, taking cover and even bitch-slapping you round the face when it gets close enough), you never feel like grinding your back teeth into a fine powdery pulp through agonising molar-gnashing frustration.
Griffin’s major strength lies in its sheer entertainment value. Challenging, but not frustrating. Cliched, but presented with a sheen even Mr Muscle could admire his biceps in. And while some of the dialogue is so wooden it’d need to cover itself in varnish before venturing out in a thunder storm, the presentation, rousing music, bullet-riddling action and brain-teasing (but not brainliquefying) puzzles make this one of the best packages we’ve seen since the last time Anna Kournikova bent down to pick up a tennis ball.
Attention to detail is also a major plus point. Enemies crash to the ground when at the receiving end of a shotgun blast, rising groggily to their feet in a vain attempt to resume hostilities as you finish them off with a swift burst of heavy machine gun fire. Stop shooting just short of turning your opposite gunslinger into a lead statue and you'll see them flailing wildly, caught in the throes of death, finger still clamped on the trigger of their wildly firing gun.
Stiff Upper Hit
Pity then, that the polish is patchier than a ship full of pirate captains. Approach an enemy from the side and shoot, and they'll often just stand there like the living dead, before rapidly turning into the dead dead. Stumble across some comrades and they'll ignore you, with no Half-Life-like interaction allowed. And, while it’s clear Mace Griffin is desperately trying to be a Western in space, why do pretty much all of the NPCs have to sound like they should be called Cletus and live with their sister and their 12 kids in a trailer? Rednecks In Space would have been just as apt a title as Bounty Hunter.
Space combat makes up about 20 per cent of the game, and is part of the reason proceedings remain fresher than a Shake and Vac-ed carpet. Controllable either by mouse or by stick (that’s joy. not wooden), the simplicity is offset by the sheer number of enemies.
Much like Freelancer, it’s pacey and punchy, packed with twists and intergalactic gladiatorial laser jousting of the most basic yet entertaining calibre. And while space-combat veterans will brush these sections aside like an irritating gnat. FPS fanatics will find it a welcome respite from the ledge-jumping, altemate-route-finding blast-outs of the ground-based firefights.
Mace Griffin. Truncheon Stork. Club Flamingo. Call the game what you will, but you can’t detract from the fact that this is an entertaining ride.
It’s not up there with Halo or XIII, this month's Essential shooters, but if they’re sold out, you could do a lot worse than buy into Mace.
Download Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter
A HOOK! A hook! My kingdom for a unique selling point with which to wow the masses, to dazzle and delight! How about combining the frantic action of a first-person shooter with the frantic action of a, uh, first-person space sim?
I say sim. It's as much a space sim as the space flying bits of UT2004, which is to say not at all. Which the developer of Mace knew full well, and so kept the flying bits to a minimum, concentrating instead on the relentless foot-based blasting with relish.
Meaty weapons, a half-decent plot and dumb-as-planks bad guys all add up to a shooter that promises much, delivers a little, but troubles no-one.
Crave August 2002--Imagine playing a futuristic Clint Eastwood bent on revenge against a corporation to times as corrupt as Enron, and you've got Mace in a nutshell. Although the game doesn't have any multiplay, Crave's confident its first-person ground-combat and arcadey space dogfights will make up for the absence. Now is too early to tell, but if the gameplay's as good as the graphics, they may be right.
Mace Griffin isn't a horrible first-person shooter, but its numerous rough edges wear you down over time. It's tough to overlook its frequent pauses for loading, brain-dead enemies, unrealistic animations, and repetitive graphics. Once you've been in a new environment for five minutes, you've basically seen about every grate, wall, door, and enemy you're going to see for the next hour. The space-shooting sections could have broken up the first-person-shooting action well, but the time limits the game imposes (and lack of a save-any-where function) mostly just make them annoying. Multiplayer splitscreen or online modes could've helped round out the game, but Mace has neither. Considering the game's small selection of dumb enemies, the firefights are surprisingly enjoyable--but the gameplay still gets tedious. Most levels follow the same structure: "Fly in, fight enemies in space, shoot enemies on the ground, and...Hey! Wait! Someone's escaped! Go get in your ship and shoot them down!" Repeat and serve. It's worth renting, but buyers beware.
You don't play this game; it plays you. You can do only what you're supposed to do. Not sure where to go? Just find the only door that opens. Mission objectives admirably rise above mere switch-finding, but the linear gameplay is as rigid and joyless as painting by numbers. Mace doesn't have any choices to make, either. If he's a bounty hunter, why can't he decline any assignments? And why doesn't he ever get paid? He could use some more interesting weapons. Or some beer.
Strip away the pretty sci-fi eye candy and celebrity voicework and you'll see Mace Griffin for what it truly is--repetitive. Almost every mission adheres to that boring formula Joe mentioned, so surprises are scarce. Blasting baddies in metallic corridors isn't awful, but the spacefaring bits drag--imagine trying to shoot out the tires on a Ferrari from your sputtering Ford Pinto.Jn space. Overall, the elements just don't add up to much first-person-shooter fun, leaving you with little reason to pay this game's $50 bounty.
Never screw with an ex-Ranger. Period. Let alone an insurgent ready to unleash an arsenal of weapons and bloody vengeance on those who stand in his way. Labeled by Crave as the leap forward that gamers have been anticipating, this new shooter ships in the fall and touts seamless land-to-space combat transitions and vast levels. We hope the Halo-meets-Wing Commander formula works.