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Headhunter

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Released: 2001

Genre: Adventure

Format reviewed: Dreamcast

Publisher: Sega

Developer: Amuze

Why is it that the near future is always so rubbish? Take Headhunter – it’s set about twenty minutes into the future, but law enforcement has been privatised, criminals are having control chips forcibly implanted into their brains and the TV news is telling you “all you need to know.” It’s a terrifying world, particularly if you’re Jack Wade, who wakes up with amnesia only to find that his boss at the Anti-Crime Network has been murdered and he’s out of a job. Returning to work as a freelance bounty hunter, he’s approached by his ex-boss’ daughter, who wants him to solve the murder.

For all the terrible circumstances that surround Jack Wade, the game is anything but bad. It had been hyped as a major Dreamcast release and while it was clearly the victim of mid-development budget cuts due to Sega’s fading fortunes, what remained was a very good third-person stealth adventure that had more than a little in common with Metal Gear Solid, not least its impressive cinematic ambitions. These were greatly aided by some of the best visuals ever to grace the Dreamcast, as well as an award-winning soundtrack from Richard Jacques and a plot which could still deliver shocking swerves right up to the final battle.

Still, we can’t help but wonder what might have been. If the planned features had made it into the final game, such as online motorbike racing and optional side missions which displayed via your VMU during open-world sequences, we might be remembering Headhunter as a revolutionary game rather than a very good one.