Once again being brought around in a hospital, you learn of your past glories as the most feared Headhunter around - a type of government funded bounty hunter - the death of your boss and the rise of crime in your absence. You're an angry man with a beard, you want answers, and you want your memory back...but first you need to re-enrol as a freelance Headhunter, get your license, your gun and your motorbike. Somebody will pay for this, but who and why? That's down to you, Wade.
Amuze, the Sweden-based developer of Headhunter only ever made two games - Headhunter (and the later PlayStation 2 port) and the PlayStation 2/Xbox sequel Headhunter: Redemption - but it's clear from the quality seeping from every pore of Jack Wade's adventure that the development team had a real grasp of the Dreamcast hardware.
Big business rules everything, and the biggest and baddest of these big businesses is the ACN - the Anti-Crime Network. In this vision of the future, criminals are apprehended by ACN Headhunters and their organs are removed as punishment and donated to law-abiding citizens to prolong their law-abiding lives. As an ACN Headhunter, Jack Wade is the top dog, but then he goes missing and the criminal underworld is the key suspect. On top of this, the ACN founder is murdered at his desk. Now it's up to you to find out just what the hell is going on, get your identity back and turn up the heat on the criminals running the show from behind the scenes.
The LEILA missions can be a bit of a pain and are very reminiscent of the Metal Gear Solid VR missions, but they need to be completed in order to unlock higher licenses and weapons to progress the main story. The main game is very much a cops and robbers style yarn, with Jack Wade apprehending various criminals and gathering information about why he was kidnapped, who wiped his memory (and why) and who killed the head of the ACN. You travel around the city on a motorbike, and while these free-roam sections aren't especially interesting by today's standards, back in 2001 they were something of a novelty.
I mentioned Metal Gear Solid earlier and it's clear to see the influences in Headhunter. Not only with the stealth-based gameplay and the cover shooting mechanics, but also in things like the Casio communicator scenes where other characters will dial in to Jack with hints and mission objectives. It's all a bit too similar to the Codex sections from Metal Gear Solid, but as the old saying goes: imitation is the best form of flattery. Indeed, according to this 2004 interview with Eurogamer, Headhunter creative director John Kroknes took lots of inspiration from the 1980s output of Hollywood director Paul Verhoeven when creating Headhunter, and this is clear to see.
Headhunter isn't just an homage to the best 80s action films, it's also an homage to the best puzzle games and it really isn't afraid to show it. On top of this, the cut scenes (while looking a bit ropey by modern standards) are full of wry humour and on more than one occasion I found myself smirking at interactions between Jack and other characters, if only because of their outrageous tongue-in-cheek cheese factor. Jack Wade could quite easily be a character played by Kurt Russell or Chuck Norris, and the ease with which he belittles his main headhunting rival Hank Redwood borders on the comedic at times.
orchestral score in Headhunter is nothing short of filmic in its scope and bombast. From slow tension building arrangements to full on action sequences, everything in Headhunter - everything - sounds utterly fantastic. It's just a crime that Dreamcast owners in Japan and the US never really got the chance to appreciate either the visual or aural delights of Amuze's stellar action game.