Hands-on: Star Wars Bounty Hunter

LucasArts shows off its upcoming action game on the PlayStation 2.

LucasArts held an event today to show off Star Wars Bounty Hunter to the press. This action game starring the bounty hunter Jango Fett is in development for the PlayStation 2 and the GameCube, and a pre-alpha build of the PlayStation 2 version was on hand to give attendees a look at the game. While still a bit rough in places, the game looked quite promising.

The game's pedigree is getting an added boost from the different companies pitching in on its development. LucasArts is handling Bounty Hunter's development, Industrial Light & Magic is doing the CG for the game's 18 minutes' worth of cutscenes, and Skywalker Sound is handling the game's sound. Bounty Hunter's vocal cast includes Temeura Morrison, who played Jango in the film; Leanna Walsman, the actress who played Zam Wessel; film actor Clancy Brown, who voices Montross, one of the villains in the game; and veteran voice actress Lucille Bliss, who does the voice of Razzata. The game's voice acting will be supplemented by its soundtrack, which draws on the many of the familiar Star Wars themes composed by John Williams. In addition, composer Jeremy Soule--who has done work on games like Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale, among others--will contribute some character themes, some ambient music related to the environments, and the scores for some of the game's cutscenes.

The game is set 10 years before the events seen in Episode II and provides some insight into how Jango Fett become the clone template. The story centers on Jango being commissioned by Darth Tyranus, née Count Dooku, to take out Komari Vosa, a rogue Jedi who used to be Tyranus' apprentice. The assignment kills two birds with one stone for Tyranus, who's being hassled by his boss, Darth Sidious, to get rid of Vosa so she doesn't mess up Sidious' long-term plans of creating a clone army and overthrowing the Republic. If Fett manages to complete the assignment, he'll get a tasty bounty and be immortalized millions of times over in clone form. Always up for a challenge, and some credits, Fett agrees, sending you on 18 levels of bounty-collecting fun spread across six worlds. Along the way, you'll encounter six major bosses, as well as a number of secondary bosses. As you search for your prey, you'll encounter numerous characters of all shapes and sizes. Although he's something of a loner, Jango has at least one friend in the game--a female toydarian named Razzata (think of a rust-colored and slightly feminine Watto) who offers useful tips and some moral guidance. All told, Bounty Hunter contains 120 unique characters to talk to and shoot at.

On the subject of shooting, Jango is armed to the teeth. You'll start out with his dual blasters, flamethrower, and whipcord. You'll also be able to use a heavy blaster, grenades, and a sniper rifle that lets you zoom in and take people out from afar. To help you pick your targets, you'll have access to an ID scanner that will give you information on individuals. The ID scanner is especially useful when working on the secondary bounties you'll be able to pursue for extra credits, which can be used to unlock extras in the game. Your final piece of equipment is Jango's jetpack, which will let you soar through the air. Its use is somewhat limited, as you'll only be able to fly roughly 10 meters up and 20 meters out before it kicks out, but you'll be able to collect power-ups to extend your flight time. You'll be able to supplement your arsenal by taking over stationary laser turrets and using them to blast anything in sight.

Of course, there's more to controlling Jango than just plugging everything around you full of blaster fire. The bounty hunter is actually quite spry and will be able to perform a variety of moves, most of which are standard for 3D platformers but feature a healthy dose of style. You'll be able to perform dives and jumps, and those moves can be enhanced by some carefully timed jetpack usage. One of the moves we were impressed with was Jango's ability to use his blaster while hanging from a ledge. Using Jango's weapons is a cool experience thanks to the ability to independently target with both blasters on the fly. You'll also be able to lock on to a set target and move around it thanks to the camera-relative movement control that is implemented when you're locked on.

Graphically, the game is coming along on the PlayStation 2. The game features quite a bit of detail, as well as a variety of special effects such as dynamic lighting and particle effects. The only real hitch in the game at the moment is the frame rate, which fluctuated quite a bit. Fortunately, the game has yet to be optimized. At the moment, the target frame rate for the PlayStation 2 is 30 frames per second. The graphics are likely to be the one difference between the GameCube and PlayStation 2 versions, as the actual content will be identical on both platforms. While the PS2 model of Jango is composed of 2,700 polygons, the GameCube model of Jango will be made up of 7,500 polygons, and the GC version will run at 60 frames per second and feature high-res textures and progressive-scan support.

So far, Star Wars Bounty Hunter is coming together surprisingly well on the PlayStation 2. Despite some small performance issues, the game is looking sharp. Hopefully LucasArts will be able to tighten everything up before the game ships this November, as it looks very promising. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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