Video Game: Headhunter

Headhunter was a video game series developed by Amuze and produced by SEGA between 2001 and 2004. The first Headhunter was released for the Sega Dreamcast in 2001, and due to the system's cancellation, this version was only released in Europe. It would eventually be ported for the PlayStation 2 the following year for other regions.

Inspired by action movies of The '80s and science fiction films, the first Headhunter takes place Twenty Minutes into the Future. Jack Wade is a headhunter who's suffered a case of Laser-Guided Amnesia after a mysterious incident involving him in a lab, and escapes with good old-fashioned explosions. A headhunter is basically a bounty hunter that doubles as a cop, whose job involves non-lethally taking down criminals, who then get their internal organs moved to help out the rich part of society. Jack's amnesia means that he's introduced to everything about society in this future. Expect motorcycling, shooting guys down with stun guys, and a conspiracy involving criminals and science gone bad. The game's cinematic soundtrack, composed by Richard Jaqcues when he was working at Sega of Europe, was performed by a live orchestra and the first video game soundtrack to be recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London, where many film scores were recorded prior.

Headhunter Redemption followed in 2004 for the PS2 and Xbox, and was much Darker and Edgier than its predecessor. Set 20 years after the events of Headhunter, the world has become much, much worse. After a virus was released that nearly crippled society and a great earthquake occurred, there are now two parts of society, Above and Below. Above is the surface, while Below is underground that appears to be occupied by criminals and machines, the latter of whom pose a bigger threat to the people Above, as they are controlled by a mysterious individual only known as The Man Who Walks With Machines. Jack, divorced from Angela, also lost his son when the machines abducted him years ago, leaving him a bitter and Grumpy Old Man. He finds a partner in Leeza X, a rebellious young criminal hacker who grew up on the streets of Above, and the game focuses on exploring much of her past. As they discover that a gang of weapon smugglers may be connected to Below, there's hope that Jack might find his son and the tension between Above and Below may finally end. While the first Headhunter had a mix of light and dark tones, this one didn't pull things back, creating quite a contrast between the games. It did well, but not as good as the original. Richard Jacques returned as the game's music composer, and while it was not performed by a live orchestra this time around, the soundtrack retains the cinematic feel.

Both titles were the sole games developed by Amuze, which shut down in 2005.

Not to be confused with the films The Head Hunter or Headhunters.

Tropes for Headhunter include:

  • Action Girl: Angela becomes playable later in the game and is just as deadly as Jack. Justified that her dad, the president of the ACN until his murder, taught her how to defend herself.
  • Badass Beard: Jack Wade and Greywolf.
  • Badass Biker: Jack and Greywolf, the latter being the leader of a Biker Gang.
  • Battle in the Rain: It's raining during the Rooftop Confrontation against Greywolf.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Just when Jack is about to get screwed over after being named champion of the Aquadome, Greywolf saves him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Hooray, Jack and Angela saved the world and share a Big Damn Kiss. Oh no, it turns out that Jack killed Angela's dad after being hypnotized, plus The Virus is activated by the hypnotic X-Must commercial.
  • Black Comedy: The Biotech ads seen in the loading screen consist of this, advertising the convenient and life-changing services that organ trade provides. Lost your legs in a car accident? No problem, Biotech can give them back! Want to spend your last days in luxury? Biotech provides a retirement home that gives you just that, and you can donate your organs on the spot!
  • Bloodless Carnage: Justified by the use of Electro-Neural Projectiles. These rounds kill only the brain, leaving the rest of the organs intact, allowing for their harvesting.
  • Blood Sport: The Aquadome Arena's gladiator games, where imprisoned criminals fight for the public's entertainment. Winners get a biotech implant with 30 days of freedom for two at a rehab facility, while losers make a generous donation to the organ bank.
  • Cool Shades: Jack and Angela can sport these at the player's choosing, but its purpose is purely cosmetic.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jack seems to live and breathe this.
  • Deuteragonist: Angela Stern.
  • The Don: Don Emelio Fulci, who rules the criminal underworld and pulls the strings on much of the plot.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Greywolf saves Jack in the Aquadome, he claims it's because his mother taught him never to owe anyone a debt, and this makes things even.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Doctor Ernst Zweiberg. His goal? Create a "perfect" being who will rule the world after humanity is wiped out, including himself. His creation's name? Adam. Along with the Biblical reference, the idea of a Master Race comes across as Does This Remind You of Anything?
  • Heel Face Door Slam: Greywolf quickly cooperates with Jack after he's defeated and the headhunter saves him from falling off a building, providing useful information in exchange. He later comes to Jack's rescue in the Aquadome and the two escape the underwater prison together, only to be captured. Once Jack is rescued, his top priority is to find his new friend. When he does, Greywolf is already dead.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: Hank Redwood, now the number one headhunter in Jack's absence, introduces himself by trying to dupe Jack into thinking he was always second best. Jack doesn't buy it, and remembers that Hank had an abusive father, flunked high school, never had a girlfriend, and his dog walked out on him. An angered Redwood then challenges Jack to reach the top from the bottom and reclaim his crown once more.
    Hank: Oh, and hey! My dog never walked out on me!
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Jack's own drives much of the game's plot, as well as the twist in the game's climax.
  • Law Enforcement, Inc.: The ACN is the main police force in the game, but Headhunters can go independent as well.
  • The Man Behind the Man: After Fulci is exposed and disposed of, it turns out Zweiberg is the one really pulling the strings.
  • Neck Snap: Jack's preferred method of initiating a stealth kill. As well as Angela's.
  • Not So Different: Greywolf sees himself and Jack on different sides of the same coin, two guys doing their jobs and doing what they can to make a buck with the way Fulci is running the show. Jack's not entirely convinced of this at first.
  • Psycho for Hire: Esteban Ramirez, a Recurring Boss.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: The game's script is filled to the brink with them by heroes and villains alike.
    Greywolf: Sorry headhunter, but I like my men to taste blood. And this here is my number one lieutenant. Jack Wade, meet Bruce. Bruce, kill Jack Wade.
  • Press X to Not Die: Against Hank Redwood in a shoot-out, which is out of the blue as there isn't anything that indicates this.
  • Product Placement: Jack's VM-52x watch is Casio-branded. Also doubles as a cell phone!
  • The Reveal: Alan Sharpe is actually Don Fulci, Jack was Brainwashed into killing Angela's father, and Zweiberg is The Man Behind the Man.
  • Revenge: After Jack recovers from the hospital, Angela hires him to get payback against Don Fulci and the people who murdered her father. She doesn't want him behind bars, she wants him dead.
  • The Rival: Hank Redwood. At first, he just comes off as a jerk. Turns out he's working under the bad guy's payroll.
  • Virtual Training Simulation: Jack will need to partake in these to upgrade his headhunter license and continue the game, with missions involving riding the bike, stealth and gunfights.
  • X Meets Y: The game's mechanics and story drew comparisons to other popular games at the time it was released, and for good reason. Hugging a wall to hide or sneak a peek at anyone around a corner? Virtual training missions? A mansion related to a much bigger scheme involving science and a big bad corporation? A gigantic man-monster with only "kill" on the mind? Not that this was necessarily a bad thing.

Tropes for Headhunter Redemption include:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: "Make your day great with 6808!"
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: The spunky Leeza X is The Protagonist for most of the game.
  • Anyone Can Die: Out of the whole cast, only Jack and Leeza survive to the end.
  • Bastard Bastard: Hank Redwood Jr.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Yay, the world is saved once again! Unfortunately, Leeza's dad, Jack's son, and Angela are all dead. Still, humanity is now free from the control of the Machines, so there's hope that events like in the game don't repeat themselves.
  • Black Comedy: Some of the arguments that can be overheard ingame. For example, one domestic dispute can be overheard where the wife implies that her husband had previously torn off one of her arms and is taunting him to do it again.
  • Blood Sport: Like the Aquadome before it, Leeza is forced to partake in the Maze Studio's "live-death" game shows where colony inmates fight to the death for Above's entertainment, with the promise of gaining access to Liberty for those who survive.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Hank Redwood Jr.
  • Children Are Innocent: Jack's son Chris is depicted as this in flashbacks. Unfortunately, he was targeted and kidnapped by the machines because of said innocence, a trait that is not only valued by Candy Floss, but also sought out by Liberty.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The IRIS allows Leeza to hack into the 6808 mainframe.
  • Cool Shades: They're back, but this time they serve an actual purpose, providing a HUD called IRIS (replacing LEILA from the previous game) that allows Leeza and Jack to access information on enemies and databases. Jack can also send Leeza software updates from Above.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The board of the Stern corporation is filled with these. When Jack finds them, he discovers the entire board is nothing but a series of computers controlled by the machines, who not only control the president and orchestrated the failed missile strike, but have also made the unanimous decision to remove Angela as Chairman and eliminate her.
  • Cyberpunk: The setting is much more futuristic than the previous game, with one of the opening cutscenes showing a city filled with large skyscrapers that shine at night. Technology also plays a huge part in civilian life, with said technology threatening to take over the world.
  • Darker and Edgier: The game starts off showing how The Virus released at the end of the first game nearly destroyed the world, that Jack and Angela did not live Happily Ever After and became bitterly divorced, their son was taken by the machines and hasn't been seen since, Anyone Can Die, and the game concludes with a Bittersweet Ending.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Just because Leeza's The Protagonist doesn't mean the game is short on this. She actually surpasses Jack in this department.
  • Demoted to Extra: Angela Stern, the deuteragonist of the previous game.
  • Depraved Dentist: Candy Floss, a former dental surgeon who conducted mechanical experiments on children, and came to love their screams and tears of torment. Good reason he was sent Below.
  • Doppelgänger Attack: Psycho Star slides across the room, which creates copies of himself that home in on Leeza.
  • Driven to Suicide: When Jack goes into Research & Execution, he finds Che, mutilated but still alive. She asks him for his gun, which he gives her to use on herself.
  • Escort Mission: Leeza has to help Che crawl across No Man's Land by sniping any machines that pop out and threaten to kill her.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: What happens when prisoners from Below are taken to Liberty. Instead of being granted freedom on the surface Above, they're plugged into a supercomputer Hive Mind controlled by the 6808 chip and drained of their life energy. Among these is Jack's son.
  • Flashback: The game opens with one involving Jack rescuing Leeza from her father when she was a child. Another reveals how Jack's son was abducted by machines.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Che's dialogue is filled with it.
  • Heroic BSOD: Poor Jack goes through this when he discovers what's become of his son in Liberty and unplugs him to put him out of his misery.
  • Hive Mind: Liberty is revealed to be this, containing a legion of people from below whose bodies and minds are plugged into its system.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Angela Stern, despite Taking A Level In Jerkass, is largely responsible for developing a cure for the Bloody Mary virus and is committed in wiping it off the face of the earth. Unfortunately, this puts her at odds with the board of her corporation, whose decisions she constantly challenges.
  • Honey Trap: Leeza pulls one in order to get the missile codes from a certain captive who is a bit full of himself.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The biomechs.
  • Infant Immortality: Brutally averted.
  • Karma Houdini: Psycho Star. He's probably the only character other than Jack and Leeza that's still alive at the end.
  • Lady of War: Che, the female leader of an opposition movement found early in the game, is a hardened warrior who rules her men with an iron fist but is loved for it.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Turns out The Man Who Walks with Machines, Leeza's dad, is actually used as a puppet by a network of machine-like humans in a Hive Mind who were part of a computer network system Leeza's dad made but got out of hand. They want to destroy the humans Above as a way of getting revenge on humanity.
  • Mechanical Evolution: The ultimate goal of the game's true enemy, the original 6808 chip, in order to become a life form that can grow, evolve, and ultimately surpass humanity.
  • The Mentor: Jack plays one to Leeza throughout much of the game and monitors her progress from Above. Thankfully, he's not out of action for too long and is playable for a good portion of the game.
  • Mercy Kill: Jack allows Che to do this to herself with his gun after Candy Floss tortures and mutilates her, and Jack does this to his son when he discovers he's part of Liberty.
  • Mood Whiplash: The game takes itself much more seriously with a setting much more grittier than the previous game, but when Leeza first makes her way to Entertainment, things change. She finds herself on a Wild West and space TV set (with enemies wearing appropriate costumes), and the battle music changes into something completely cheesy and upbeat. This culminates in a duel with the TV entertainer Psycho Star, whose boss fight is colorful, trippy, accompanied by disco music and is just plain weird. Naturally, given the mood of the overall story, the fight against him was considered a highlight of the game.
  • Noble Demon: Che. Although she hates Above and wants to deprive them of electric power to give them a taste of darkness, she is convinced that cooperating with The Man Who Walks With Machines will lead her people to freedom, and is an honorable fighter. She also helps Leeza once she's bested by her and learns that she's been double-crossed by Psycho Star.
  • Offing the Offspring: The game opens with Leeza's father attempting to do this to his daughter, but Jack comes in and saves the day. After the Time Skip, Leeza's father reveals she was the key in bringing the 6808 to life, which he tried to prevent The Men in Black from doing. Later, Jack discovers what's left of his son in Liberty and is forced to do this. Twice.
  • Psychopathic Man Child: Leeza's father. Because the Machines used him as their connection to human beings, his mind is now reduced to child-like levels.
  • Rebellious Spirit: Leeza's appearance and attitude embodies this, but she has more heroic qualities than one would expect.
  • The Reveal: Leeza's dad is really The Man Who Walks With Machines, the 6808 contains his DNA, Jack's son has been imprisoned by the Machines, now a sickly, crazed, horrifyingly warped version of himself that's forced to be put down, and the Machines are actually an unintentional product of Leeza's dad's work.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Jack normally doesn't take work if it involves going Below, due to the incident with his son, but that finally changes when Leeza is captured and Angela is killed after discovering their son is still alive.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: One occurs on the roof of the Stern building.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Leeza does this often. For instance, her first encounter with Che:
    Che: I rule them with a fist of iron, and yet they love me. A woman, yet I wear more battle scars than any of them. A sister to my men. A mother to my people-
    Leeza: Get over yourself already.
  • Spicy Latina: Che, the first boss encountered by Leeza.
  • Straw Feminist: Che is quick to let Leeza know that a woman, not a man, is the leader of the opposition in Manufacturing and is more hardened than the men under her. Before their duel, she boasts that her weapon was taken from a man she defeated. She later helps Leeza in discovering the truth, but only seems eager to help her only because she's also a woman.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Angela, the Deuteragonist of the previous game, is killed midway through the game.
  • Take That: President Goodman is a blatant expy to George W. Bush, who bears a similar voice and accent, states that his father was also a previous president, declares action against the terrorists of Below, and most notably, stutters whenever he speaks. The latter is due to the fact that, in reality, Goodman is nothing more than a literal puppet used by the machines, which introduces another case of Does This Remind You of Anything?
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Angela Stern, big time. Aside from being a constant hindrance to Jack, she still blames him for what happened to their son, and makes it clear she thinks very little of Leeza and that Jack took her in.
  • Torture Technician: Candy Floss
  • Vasquez Always Dies
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: Liberty.
  • Voice of the Legion: The inhabitants of Liberty.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Candy Floss laments that being sent Below means he can no longer hear the cries and screams of children that he tormented and experimented on Above. However, to his undeserved delight, Jack's son became one of his subjects when he was captured and taken Below. He's put out of his misery by his own father.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Files in the Stern corporation's database reveals that Angela has constantly challenged the board's decisions (with all the right intentions no less). They decide to remove her from power and eliminate her for this reason.
  • You Killed My Father: Hank Redwood Jr. eventually discovers from his employers that Jack killed his lowlife father, and wants revenge.