Fugitive Hunter: War on Terror (PlayStation 2) Review


Recently, I’ve been strangely fixated on experiencing critically disparaged games firsthand. I went so far as to look up the “worst games on PS2” and used a few of the lists as purchasing guides. I’m not sure if I’m a masochist or what, but there’s something neat to me about picking up a lesser-liked title and enjoying it for what it’s worth.

My latest foray into the wacky world of bad games brought forth Fugitive Hunter: War on Terror, a military shooter with an astounding 35 average on review aggregator Metacritic. Since reviews aren’t the only metric I consider when purchasing a video game, I wasn’t too worried going in, but I can’t admit the number was reassuring either.

Now, I’ve played Fugitive Hunter in its entirety, and I’m ready to give you the lowdown. Are the mechanics as bland and uninspired? Is the theme tasteless and outdated? I’m hoping to provide my own take on some of the qualms raised by journalists and YouTube personalities before me—and maybe sprinkle some positivity into the discussion.

Without further ado, let’s get into the review.


Fugitive Hunter: War on Terror

Developer: Black Ops Entertainment

Publisher: Encore Software

Release date: November 18, 2003


Gameplay

Fugitive Hunter: War on Terror is very much a product of its time in that it doesn’t rely on cover shooting mechanics or even zoomed-in aiming reticles to get the job done. This is a classic-style first-person shooter through and through, and I liked that a lot.

The gunplay felt pretty dang good. While nothing here is going to blow your mind to pieces, nothing’s going to feel bad either. Since I don’t have a ton of experience with the FPS genre, I can’t give you the low-down on how Fugitive Hunter stacks up next to its contemporaries, but I can assuredly say that shooting the tar out of bad guys is a ton of fun.

The levels are fairly simple “point-A to point-B” affairs. You’ll need to complete all the objectives before proceeding, most of which boil down to killing terrorists, destroying enemy goods, collecting evidence, and/or capturing the wanted fugitive. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what to do, and I’d say that’s a positive. I like the comfortable simplicity of the core gameplay.

There were some brief platforming sequences that weren’t terrible but definitely could’ve used some work. The main problem is that the level geometry doesn’t always make what is and isn’t a series of platforms very clear. Once I found out where I was actually supposed to go to progress, the act of jumping itself was fine (albeit slightly clunky).

As much as other reviewers rag on it, I actually had a blast with the hand-to-hand combat sequences against wanted fugitives. These up-close and personal melee encounters played out like a rudimentary Virtua Fighter, serving as welcome—and hilarious—diversions from the usual shooting shenanigans.

At first, I had a lot of trouble with the fighting mechanics, but at some point, everything just of…clicked, I guess. I found out that crouching and button-mashing was by far the best technique. (Also, I accidently pulled off a wicked combo once that I was never able to recreate.)

Various pickups are scattered throughout each level, including health boosts, first aid kits, armor, temporary invincibility (represented by an American flag, no less), and extra continues.

What kinda sucks is that there are no hidden collectibles or secrets to speak of whatsoever, meaning there’s also not much reason to reenter levels beyond the base fun factor. It would’ve been nice to have something—anything—to scour for as a completion bonus.

Difficulty-wise, Fugitive Hunter is generally quite reasonable but cranks up the challenge in later levels. Enemy soldiers are very aggressive, so I had to be quick on my feet to make any headway.

This challenge forced me to improve my skills, and I’m grateful for it. Whereas my easy mode playthrough was full of silly mistakes, my hard mode playthrough was a much more deliberate effort. In that sense, hard mode was “easier” for me despite being more punishing with damage.

That being said, the last two levels even more of a pain in the neck on hard than they were on easy. Don’t expect Fugitive Hunter to pull any punches. As a frame of reference, I went from having eight continues saved up to zero on the second-to-last level, so I never ended up beating Bin Laden on hard mode.

The Osama Bin Laden level kicked my rear end even when I had to deal with it on easy mode. With smart planning and quick-witted play, I was able to able to subdue the infamous Al-Qaeda leader eventually. (A true relief after so much struggle.)

All things considered, Fugitive Hunter is a thoroughly enjoyable game, as evidenced by eagerness to play it again. The title isn’t without its fair share of flaws, sure, but I personally feel that the gameplay delivers.

Content

This is the part of the review where I say, “Fugitive Hunter: War on Terror isn’t a long game, but it doesn’t have to be either.” Why? Because it really doesn’t. Despite the short length, I was extremely pleased with the succinct nature of the experience.

By most accounts, you can knock out the entire campaign in two to three hours, no sweat. While I didn’t time my full playthrough, I watched the clock to know that I was able to complete most missions in less than 30 minutes.

As someone who can’t stand being locked into video games for extended periods of time, this brevity was a true gosh-send. The experience felt very “pick-up-and-play” in that I could knock out missions here and there as I had the time.

The campaign itself was satisfying and noncommittal enough for me to actually play through the game again almost immediately after completing it the first time, something I rarely do with any video game.

My enjoyment of easy mode was mode was fairly consistent throughout, but once I got halfway through hard mode, I started to tire of playing. I have a feeling that I’ll have to take a break before my playthrough or risk totally burning out.

The only major letdown in the content department is something I touched on earlier: the lack of collectibles. There’s literally no incentive to play again once you’ve reached the credits besides getting a higher score or satiating your own amusement. Part of me wishes there had been something more, ya know?

Fortunately, there is something “more” as far as extras are concerned. This game is chocked full of juicy behind-the-scenes featurettes, including promos, mocap shoots, freestyling by rapper Mr. Re, 3D model and animation render tests, stunt recording, a director’s commentary track, location scouting, the character creation process, and a developer interview.

There are also “basic” and “advanced” training videos, which are…different, to say the least. It’s not exactly standard for a game to relay its controls through videos as opposed to an interactive tutorial. (I can’t complain, though. I was too cheap to buy a copy with the instruction manual on eBay.)

Say what you want about this buggy, dated, possibly tasteless game, but I couldn’t deny the passion the team clearly had for what they had created. The plethora of revealing extras made this all too clear.

It’s worth mentioning the limited but sufficient options. You can switch between one of three preset control schemes; switch between easy and hard difficulty; toggle vibration, auto save, blood, and auto weapon switch on or off; switch between stereo and mono sound; and adjust the music, sound effects, and speech volume independently of each other.

The Fugitive Hunter package isn’t the perfect. However, I believe that the game didn’t overstay its welcome and that the extras were a pleasant addition. If only there had been collectibles.

Controls

The somewhat unconventional controls in Fugitive Hunter gelled with me almost immediately. The button layout and implementation felt surprisingly capable under all circumstances.

For the shooting segments, there are actually three control schemes to choose from, but I never switched from the default. This layout sees you jumping with L1, crouching with L2, firing your primary weapon with R1, and shooting your secondary weapon with R2. You switch weapons with the triangle button, target lock with the square button, reload with the circle button, and interact with the cross button.

Something fairly unique is the use of directional buttons. You lean right or left with the right or left buttons and zoom the “sniper view” in or out with the up and down buttons. The leaning mechanic was a really neat concept that I loved playing around with during crossfire.