Warthog's newest sci-fi first-person shooter isn't necessarily a bad game, but it certainly doesn't rank among the stars of the genre, even if it does borrow heavily from them. Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter takes place several hundred years in the future and contains many of the trappings found in bad science-fiction media -- poor dialogue, poorer voice acting, cool-looking firearms, and a story that seems cobbled together simply for an excuse to blow things up and spill some blood.
In fact, the main character's back-story seems just a tad unnecessary. Mace Griffin, voiced by Rollins Band front man and spoken word entertainer extraordinaire Henry Rollins, begins the game as a member of the Rangers, an elite force protecting the rights of citizens everywhere. During a mission where Griffin is sent off alone while the rest of the team sits on their laurels (I guess Warthog didn't want to add in a team-based level), things go horribly wrong. To the upper crust, it looks like Griffin disobeyed a direct order from his commander, causing the death of said commander and the team.
After a decade of imprisonment, Griffin is back out on the streets (er...interstellar biways?) as a "dangerous and embittered man." The Rangers have been discredited and disbanded, and Griffin takes up life as a bounty hunter. As a hunter, he surmises, he can find out who set him up to take the fall. From the cutscene where his commander bites the dust though, it doesn't look at all like Griffin was framed -- it looks like he was incompetent. Nevertheless, that's the story and the developers are sticking to it.
Although gamers pick up the action right before Griffin's career-ending catastrophe, the game truly begins with his first assignment as a bounty hunter. From there on, the pace of the game is quick and intense, and a slip-up means gamers will be replaying a level from the beginning. Unfortunately, the lack of in-game saves and the sheer number of villains at hand in any given area means even the most skilled player will likely be re-doing a few levels.
Thankfully, the villains aren't all that tough. The enemy AI is somewhat predictable and most of the typical cannon fodder follows patterns that don't take long to pick out. For instance, the religious zealots wearing digital smiley faces in the first mission come out shooting, stop, drop and roll. If there was some reason for this, it might not be so bad, but the AI doesn't seem to be reacting to Griffin's own strategies. Rather, they appear to be following scripted tactics designed to look effective. The AI alone would make for an easy game, except that there are so many enemies to contend with. During the peak period in the first mission, Griffin must do battle with about a dozen enemies at once, including two or three heavy artillery types and a psycho priest.
As a first-person shooter, Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter is good but not great. One difference that might interest some sci-fi fans is the addition of space battles from the cockpits of various fighters. Between missions and even during missions, Griffin must take to the stars and shoot it out with hordes of fighters. Over the course of the game, which is made up of thirteen missions, players will have the opportunity to pilot four diferent ships with eleven various starship weapons. On the ground, Griffin will have access to ten different weapons.
Graphically, Mace Griffin looks good. There's nothing special about the images on-screen though, and some of the CG cutscenes could've used a bit more care. The sound, while adequate, does have its problems. On several occasions during the game, I'd hit a load screen, and the last sound to be played would go into a loop until the loading was completed. The annoying ring that looped for about thirty seconds during one load screen was a sound I could've done without.
Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter is kind of a take-it-or-leave-it game. Fans of the first-person shooter genre might want to add it to their to-do lists. Some of the environments and enemies are worth seeing, and the game is definitely playable, even if there aren't enough save points.