Headhunter Dreamcast and Playstation 2, the hunt for Amuze prototypes is open!!!
Developers from the Swedish company Amuze have taken on the daunting task of creating a game combining tactics, action and espionage, in which you play a bounty hunter. The game will be released on Dreamcast, but only in Europe. According to rumours, there are American prototypes, like the cancelled Us version of Shenmue 2 discovered a short time ago. The publisher Acclaim published Headhunter - that's its name - on Playstation 2 on the American continent while Sega took care of the European market.
Headhunter paved the way for a genre of game that had been too rare on the white console with the spiral logo. The Dreamcast had found its Metal Gear Solid, but this one came too late, the battle was long lost. Anyway, as one of the last games released on the so-called "White Lady", Headhunter is worth a visit!
With a production worthy of Hollywood, Headhunter is a title that blurs the boundaries between game and film.
The Survivors project or the beginnings of Headhunter!
After graduation, John Kroknes and Stefan Holmquist, who had worked on video games before, founded the company Krokholm Media, later renamed Amuze. Johan Lindh (quoted in italics in this chapter), who had studied technical illustration with Stefan at university, was their first employee. He joined them to work on a project called Survivors and will take on the role of AD (Art Director).
Amuze company logo in game
«I thought video games would be more exciting than technical illustration. I was more interested in other forms of visual storytelling, like comics and movies, but working on video games seemed cool.»
The conceptual phase on Survivors could then begin. With a pencil in his hand, Johan Lindh began by drawing a bearded individual holding a stick in his hands. Redwood was born. Later, when the Survivors project was abandoned in favour of Headhunter, the three partners redesigned Redwood as the main character of the new technical demos.
«We all loved this character at the time. He may not have been very well illustrated, but he had that little something that made him stand out.»
The technical demo that impressed Sega
Hank Redwood, the colossus!
The elaboration of Survivors was not progressing. Despite the experience of John Kroknes and Stefan Holmquist, the project was stagnating. The game was still at an early stage despite the high goals they had set for themselves. Nothing was going as fast as planned. This situation even led to a great deal of frustration and friction between the two.
«I felt the need to be more specific, so I started listening to what they were saying, trying to figure out what needed to be done and putting things on paper, and slowly, slowly, we got things moving.»
The young company had no funding at the beginning. After frantic efforts by the 2 founders, they managed to convince some investors to put money into the development of Survivors which allowed the company to take the next step and evolve. They were able to hire employees, make non-playable demos, concept art, presentations, but at this point no publisher was interested in signing a contract with them. Amuze was at a dead end. The concept of Survivors was too old and unconvincing. Nobody was satisfied with the situation !
«John and I went to lunch and discussed what to do because we had reached a point where we felt we couldn't continue with Survivors. We started talking about what kind of game we really wanted to make and suddenly we had a feeling that we had something in the works that could be the answer.»
One of the first sketches of HH, maybe before the hero was called Jack (without beard)
That afternoon, Headhunter was born. Several days in a row, always in the same establishment, after long conversations, ideas were carefully written down so that they would not be forgotten!
«As an anecdote, an American TV production company called us to buy our web domain for Survivors. John didn't want to sell it and we didn't think about it until a year or two later when the Survivor reality show came out.»
The announcement of the abandonment of Survivors for what will become Headhunter was not an easy thing to communicate to the studio and to Stefan. After this shake-up, Stefan will focus more on technological art. His biggest win on Headhunter was setting up the visual effects and environment for the fight against Greywolf.
«It was a necessary separation. He was very good at finding technology for art.»
The development of Headhunter could really start. Things are finally picking up. Previously insurmountable obstacles were overcome by taking this new direction with their game. John Kronkses was determined for Sega to be their partner. His wish was granted as Sega will publish the game!
Headhunter technical demos or the beginning of the partnership with Sega!
Headhunter was indeed a 100% Amuze concept and not an order from Sega even if they helped them.
The title was born from a technology that the founding members of Amuze had produced for a shooter game concept, the Survivors project. The style of the game was intended to be close to the "Contra" franchise. Nothing was playable for Survivors. A motorbike sequence following a road was planned with obstacles to dodge, like an arcade game. A 3D bike had been modelled.
Johan Lindh «The bike was designed and built for Survivors. One of the decisions we made was to have most of the world be made up of elements found in the real world, so that we didn't have to invent and design everything.»
Building on the work done on Survivors, a technical demo followed. It involved driving a motorbike through a closed car park inside an airport, with a scripted cutscene as the biker entered a hangar. Seagulls pecked at seeds on the ground and flew away as soon as the character approached them. The birds were not added to the real game as it was impossible to reach 60 FPS like in the demo.
An impressive 3D engine handled complex material shaders or character animations well, all with a large number of polygons on the screen. Sega was impressed by this demo, they were convinced it was pre-calculated when in fact it was real time running on 3DFX hardware.
Sega liked the technical demo and the art direction however they thought that a shooter was not a good idea. The main character in the demo was called Redwood, he would be the only one to find himself in what would later become Headhunter.
«When we created Headhunter, the Renwood character (demo) was reworked and split into two characters: Hank Redwood and the new main character, Jack Wade.»
The evolution of Jack's character: isn't he cute without his beard?
Sega did not like Jack Wade's beard. The console manufacturer wanted the main character to look younger. Perhaps they just didn't like the hair on his chin? Sketches, with Jack clean-shaven, were made to meet the Japanese company's requirements. In the end, the Amuze team got the last word and the shaved version of the hero was dropped.
«Personally, I really liked the beard and I thought it made our character stand out from the heroes of other games of that era.»
Redwood driving a yellow motorbike (Technical demo 2)
Scripted Cutscene (Technical Demo 2)
Hank Redwood in the technical demo
The evolution of Angela's character, isn't it beautiful?
Hank Redwood in the final version of Headhunter
Following the advice of the Japanese manufacturer, the developers of Amuze turned to a completely different register than a shooter. With a sketchbook under their arms, hours and hours of discussions, the foundations of the Headhunter concept were laid!
The development and the commercialization!
Shortly afterwards, the studio's developers received the first Katana development kits. The contract with the console manufacturer stipulated that Amuze would receive the start of the instalment payment at the first Milestone. If Sega did not like the first "Vertical Slide", the Japanese company could then retract the contract. Everything had been done, with a lot of hard work, to have a more breathtaking visual rendering than the technical demos during the decisive presentation to Sega.
«When I joined the game, a year and a half into development, the only vertical slice that was nearly finished (the in-game cutscenes were redone there, since I redid the in-game cutscene in a system) was the gas station and possibly Angela's house.»
Jonas Lund (quoted in italics in this chapter) worked on the game. Although his contract stated "Effects Programmer", he ended up doing other things on the project before leaving to study at university just before Headhunter Redemption started. He and another colleague had finished the Playstation 2 port of Headhunter.
«My first task was a kind of "dynamic fog" system.»
The Dreamcast had depth-based fog tables that were used in some places to hide things from a distance, but the developers had also made sure to have denser localised fog in some places. This feature can be seen in the tunnels when disarming nuclear bombs.
«If you rotate the camera inside the tunnels, you can notice this because the fog seems to "disappear" as the camera moves away from the "hot spots".»
During its development, Headhunter featured an online multiplayer mode based on motorbike racing. It was completed but was cut, at Sega's request, due to the discontinuation of the Dreamcast. The gameplay loop and sync were in the process of being set up when the mode was removed.
«The problem is that it would have taken some work because there was no lobby, etc. built»
Basically, the online mode consisted of using the VR environment (LEILA) in which the player had to complete tasks before others, such as racing around the city to capture flags. There was no question of a confrontation between the competitors. The first tests were conclusive despite a slight lag.
«Often, there are many things in progress (such as the entire online mode) that never make it past the initial stage and are eventually cut off.»
Stefan Mario Holmqvist remembers other elements that were dropped. The water dome, for example, was much larger with several arenas connected by tubes, tunnels that the character had to go through to get from one to another. Finally, the area was reduced to a single room, a single arena for the sake of the pace of play. Originally, there were supposed to be 4 arenas with an enemy to fight in each of them before the final fighter could be faced (a kind of tournament). This phase of the game could have been boring, so it was decided to fight only the master of the arena.
Headhunter's most famous cut, the one everyone dreams of trying with a controller in hand, was an altercation against Redwood himself
Initially, Headhunter was supposed to be more difficult. The artificial intelligence was more intelligent and dynamic. The difficulty of the title has been toned down. By completing the game once, the second part will activate the original difficulty and the enemies will become tougher. In part +, the completion of Leila's second mission on Dreamcast is impossible due to a problem (a bug) that will be corrected for the PS2 version.
«Unfortunately someone had commented a "Flag" before most of the difficulty balancing had been done, so we had to disable the flag.»
In general, a "Flag" is a binary value (true or false, zero or one) that is used to activate a function such as debug options (cheats, free camera etc.). It can also be used to control difficulty or AI.
The Gameplay materialized late. At the beginning, the handling was very different. Once a number of levels were made, the control of the character evolved. The team had to go back and redesign and modify many enemy models. The puzzles, locations and storyline, however, underwent few changes compared to the original ideas. The action was slower and clumsier in the early prototype versions of Headhunter.
Originally, Amuze wanted the player to be able to explore and enter more buildings, to move around more, much like what GTA managed to offer later on. For production reasons, too much work for the developers, this idea was not retained. Moving around the city has always been designed to be done by motorbike.
During its development, Sega had announced its intention to withdraw from the manufacturer market. The Dreamcast was dead but not yet buried. Many games were cancelled but Headhunter was spared. The target machine changed from the Dreamcast to the Playstation 2. The PS2 development kits arrived late and the port to the new Sony machine was done in 6 months based entirely on the strengths and features of the DC version. Critics of the PS2 game point to the fact that it is not more polished and pretty on that console.
«Since we had our own engine, it took a lot of work and a long time to get the game to work well on the PS2. I think we started a few months after Sega was announced as publisher. Sega dropping hardware and us suddenly doing PS2 had stirred up a lot.»
The cinematographic aspect is one of the important elements of the game. The cutscenes are refined and worked on with particular care. Two animation people and a scriptwriter spent two days creating the first scene in the game. At the end, the director of cinematics was cursing this chaotic way of working. They had to rethink the process of creating the cinematic sequences.
«I think the biggest win was making a cutscene editor for the game.»
To save development time they created a cutscene editor that was almost 6 times faster than the first tools they were provided with.
«As I had considered creating a custom animation track editor for my own work, I suggested we make one for this game. I got the go-ahead and after a month or so we had a version suitable for the game and the rest of the work on the in-game animation scenes could be done by an animator in half a day!»
Patrik Bach was the leader of the group responsible for the cinematics. Years later, he took over the management of EA/Dice. And today he is the general director of Ubisoft.
«The cutscene people worked fairly methodically. Apart from being a bit bogged down with rendering/converting, they made pretty steady progress. That DC video compressor was pretty slow if memory serves!»
The soundtrack accompanying the game was produced by Richard Jacques who had previously worked on Metropolis Street Racer and Jet Set Radio. It was during this period that he gained recognition by impressing the public with his compositions. The song "Jack's Theme", recorded by a 100-piece philharmonic orchestra in the legendary Abbey Road studios (made famous by the Beatles), has remained a reference in the field of video game music ever since. Amuze was convinced that the sound really contributed to the cinematic aspect of the software.
Once Headhunter was on the shelves, Amuze turned its attention to producing a Survival Horror for the Playstation 2. This project, which wasn’t very well defined, went from being an action horror game to a more emotional horror game. The idea of the title, focused on the story, was very similar to Heavy Rain. The game was presented to Sony, which was not enthusiastic about it.
Johan Lindh: «After we finished Headhunter, our network was infected with a computer virus that wiped all connected machines of all JPGs. There were a few copies left, but we lost most of the files.»
At the same time, after the success of the first Headhunter (100,000 copies sold on Dreamcast and 500,000 on Playstation 2), Sega had proposed to Azume to make a sequel to its star game, which would be called Headhunter Redemption. The gaming press was less complimentary than for the first episode.
«Technically there were 2 collapses as the investors killed the first company after the first Headhunter and that's why, if you look closely, it was 2 separate legal companies that made Headhunter and Headhunter:Redemption. The offices etc. were taken over though and many people remained between games.»
In April 2005, Amuze, abandoned by Sega, closed its doors. However, at the end of 2004, the team had started to develop a next-gen game under the Unreal Engine which will never see the light of day.
Jack and his faithful horse!
The ACN (The Anti-Crime Network) assault truck
From sketch to rendering in game ("Professor Sweiberg")
From sketch to rendering in game (Mind Scanner)
From the sketch to its rendering in game ("laboratory staff")
Gift to Amuze when recording the soundtrack
Joypad magazine offered customised frames to the publisher if their games were well rated!
«The whole dotcom crash fell on us (for many of our investors, Headhunter was probably one of the few things that got their money back, even if they were shaky).»
The Headhunter archives (technical demos etc.) are preserved by one of the founding members of Amuze, John Kroknes. For legal reasons, they cannot be shared publicly.
The scenario and the sources of inspiration!
The world of Headhunter is very reminiscent of Paul Verhoeven's films, particularly Robocop and Starship Troopers, two satirical films criticising American civilisation. Jake Wade, the hero, was modelled on the anti-heroes of action films. The comedy Midnight Run, in which Robert de Niro plays a bounty hunter, was another reference for the game's development team, especially in the relationship between Jack Wade and Hank Redwood.
Johan Lindh «We liked John Carpenter's films like "Escape from New York" and "The Thing". We also liked the idea of 70's TV series like "Kojak", "Beretta" and "Hill Street Blues".»
The story of the game follows Jake Wade, a bounty hunter who, at the beginning of the game, escapes from an unknown location. In the hospital he learns that he has amnesia. He has forgotten everything about his former life as a police officer and his early career in the ACN, the government agency that fights criminals who threaten the supremacy of the United States. He must relearn the basics of his job by participating in virtual reality tests called LEILA.
He meets Angela Stern, the daughter of his former boss, who hires him to solve the murder of her father, who is the president of the ACN. Throughout the adventure, Jack is helped by his former supervisor, Chief Hawke. He also discovers that his main rival for the title of best bounty hunter is the unpleasant Hank Redwood.
«At the beginning we wanted to create episodes (chapters of the game) like a TV series, but in the end we didn't succeed. At the same time we wanted it to be filmic.»
The game takes place in a futuristic Los Angeles in 2019. Human organs are eagerly sought after for cosmetic surgery and life extension. They have become a veritable goldmine. The designated donors are the criminals that bounty hunters relentlessly hunt down.
The dictatorial government controls information through an absolute stranglehold on the media (presented in FMV sequences by fictional journalists Bill Waverley and Kate Gloss). They are unable to keep the peace in a country where crime is rampant. A strict regime of laws does not allow any citizen revolt, the inhabitants are repressed and any expression of rebellion is suppressed. The context and scenario are worthy of a Hollywood feature film!
«We liked the way Frank Miller (comic book artist and film writer) used the news in the comics "Daredevil" and in "The Dark Knight Returns".»
Headhunter promised gigantic theatres of operation and numerous cinematics. Here the goal was not to shoot everything that moved. On some occasions, it was better to sneak up on your opponents than to shoot them dead. There were puzzles to solve. The scenery was interactive, so it was not a good idea for Jack to stay near the petrol pumps when he was being shot at!
The game brilliantly mixes police investigation (with riddles and clues) and combat scene (with big guns and lots of blood). The icing on the cake is the possibility of visiting the entire city on a motorbike. It is even possible to take part in urban rodeos (illegal races) and pocket the bets.
«We had played the Sega arcade game "Harley Davidson & L.A. Riders" and we wanted to be able to ride around a city like that in our game too.»
Today, the licence is owned by Sega and I don't think we'll get a Headhunter 3 for a long time if ever!!!
The Dreamcast prototype
If the graphics of the game are very close to what we will finally find in the final version, the whole area of the cinematics was still Work in Progress with cutscenes often early and unpolished. It is on this precise point that this prototype is interesting. The work done by the Amuze developers is remarkable.
The cut content present on the prototype
Digging through the game files, this prototype becomes extremely interesting even if its Debug Menu and cutscenes (detailed below), alone, were already worth a look. Extracting the contents of disk 1, we find two files corresponding to levels specific to the build. These are, without a doubt, cut maps. They could be leftovers from the online mode detailed above.
It is, for the moment, impossible to play it. These 2 levels are not linked to the Debug Menu and certainly not assembled in the game. You would have to extract the AHFF files to access the script to learn more.
Jonas Lund «The game uses its own scripting language which is quite fragile. Adding functions to the scripting system would require recompiling all the scripts»
Update : After an analysis of the 2 levels by Megavolt85, they must have been used as demo maps at an early stage of the game development. Comparing S37_39_MALL_MF.AHF with S37_39_MALL_MF_B.AHF, most of the files are the same, missing language data and some animations.
Another notable fact to mention is that the second GD-R contains a second 1ST_READ named 1ST_READ_OLD. It is not common to see this duplicate file in a build, the Fur Figthers prototype already had this same duplicate. Nothing very interesting though as the 1st_read.bin of the first disk coincides with 1st_read_old.bin of the second disk, too bad!
The "NoiseBox" window, before arriving at the title screen, has undergone adjustments in its layout and appearance. The title of the screen has been moved to a different location. The name "Sound Design By" does not yet appear.
The introductory cutscene does not start directly after the "NOISEBOX" screen but only while waiting for the auto-demo, by not pressing any buttons on the title screen. You have to be patient to admire the disproportionate manipulation of information by journalists Kate Glosse and Bill Waverley!
The icon on the memory card is that of the development studio Azume and not the head of Jack Wader, the hero of Headhunter.
In the Options, it is impossible to configure the game to show subtitles. The functionality is not present.
The navigation sound effects in the menus and sub-menus differ slightly from one version to another or their volume settings are not the same, so it is difficult to say.
In the "Adjust Display" menu, the small arrows "right", "left", "up" and "down" indicating that it is possible to adjust the numbers on the screen do not yet exist.
In the language settings, all languages are selectable, but only English affects the translation of the game. The name of each language should be in its own language and not translated into English. The choice of Italian is specific to the build and will be deleted later.
The credits (accessible through the Debug Menu of Disc 2) differ between the prototype and the final version. On this beta, the Playstation 2 port is mentioned. The scrolling time of the credits is also shorter. Once the credits are complete, a window opens summarising the player's game session. The information in the box on the screen is aligned on the left, not on the right. Check out the speed record set on a motorbike!!!
In the main menu, by choosing L.E.I.L.A the player arrives at the choice of levels for this game mode (virtual reality explained above). The "B" button to go back does not work on the prototype, you will have to restart the console.
The NPCs we meet, like Angela in her villa, have no animation. They are frozen like trees.
A new feature, probably used to make screenshots or promotional trailers, allows you to change the camera's angle of view once on the bike. To do this, the directional cross keys orientate the camera in the desired direction. The "X" button allows you to return to the initial position.
On his bike, Jack takes reckless risks. While riding at speed, a blue skill point meter appears in the lower left corner of the screen. This indicator should be called "Skill Point". Only the numbers that increase or decrease appear on the prototype.
In driving phases, the objective to be reached on the map is represented by a yellow triangle and not orange as the cursor should be.
During some phases of the game on foot, the mini-map does not show the objective, its direction, with an orange pointer.
In some levels, the default zoom of the mini-map is more pronounced than usual.
When accessing the objectives in the sequence to be played, in the START menu, these are sometimes incomplete. Sometimes they are the goals of other parts of the game (provisional). The words used may also differ.
Items (ammunition etc.) to be collected may not be in the right places or may simply not be there.
The action key for picking up an object is "A". Underneath, it normally says "PICK UP". On this prototype of Headhunter, the help for using the button mentions "PICKUP".
In the L.E.I.L.A missions, the "TARGET TIME" limit for reaching the destination or completing the objective does not appear in the player interface. The player cannot fail in these missions. Sometimes it is not written "TIME" above the counter of seconds and minutes. Sometimes the health, Jack's name and the number of available ammunition are not displayed in the lower right corner.
Texture bugs occur. This is certainly due to the use of the Debug Menu.
One of the levels takes place in a shopping mall: Jacky will pass through it several times. During one of his visits, the fog is thicker than usual which makes the difficulty of the area more increased. To get there, you have to choose SCENE S37_39_MALL_SF_B from the Debug Menu and open one of the doors to start the sequence.
Some of the missions in Headhunter are stressful. You have to complete the objective in a limited time. Countdowns in the prototype are longer and less oppressive. Other parts of the game should also deploy time counts but this prototype version does not display them yet (bombs in the sewers).
The boss battles
Adam (Debug Menu Entry SXX LAB DOME BOSS):
The mechanics of fighting the boss Adam were either not perfected or changed on purpose. The villain of season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer normally attacks in two different ways. Basically, with his futuristic weapon, he can launch an explosive charge (blue blast effect) and fire a red laser covering an area of half a circle from his pedestal. He alternates, in a defined order, the two assault techniques, first the blue one twice, then the red one and so on.
On the prototype, Adam rarely projects blue light bombs, only when Angela's future mate is out of range of his blaster. He does not alternate between the two special attacks. He aims his red laser beam directly at Jack without scanning a 180 degree area around him.
Jack can aim at the boss in various places in this prototype. Below the life bar, a message is displayed indicating which part of the enemy's body has been hit, for example "Hit Helmet Shield". Adam is, here, almost invulnerable. As a result, his life bar drops more slowly than usual.
Les plus grands derrière pour la photo !
The battle arena has some differences compared to the final version. A bright red flashing circle is not shown on the ground. This delineation prevents the hero from getting close to the boss in hand-to-hand combat. Jack can go shake hands with Adam in this beta, best friends in the world!
Phase 2, after the cutscene in 3ds Max Biped model 1, looks normal.
Ramirez (Debug Menu Entry SXX SHIP DECK BOSS)
The confrontation with Ramirez must be buggy. Jack Wade is unable to aim at the spotlights and destroy them in order to see his opponent's true face. At a certain distance, he shoots him directly when he should first destroy the spotlights in order to kill him. After this phase, the boss starts throwing grenades that must be avoided. This stage of the fight is not present.
The other bosses do not have any special specificities.
The Debug Menu
Main Debug Menu
Scene menu: Allows you to access the level or scene of your choice among 107 possible entries.
Load/Save Menu: Allows you to access the options for saving and loading a game (in game).
Vertex Buffer Menu
Vertex Buffer Menu: Nothing happens on the screen, its usefulness is currently unknown.
Enemy Menu: Allows you to open system information related to enemies.
Stream Volume Menu
Stream Volume Menu: Allows you to change the sound status.
The photos below are from the PS2 version which you can download below. Whether on the GD-R Dreamcast, the PS2 prototype or the final DC version (hack), the Debug Menu is 98% similar. However, between the Dreamcast prototype and the modified commercial version, there are some differences. To open it, at any point, you have to hold the "X" button and then press START.
The Debug Menu is very complete. It allows you to modify the game according to your preferences (Cheats) or to open development options used by the Amuze team. This menu allows you to explore Headhunter from a new angle. It includes 16 sub-menus, of which here is a brief overview:
Item Menu: Allows you to add to your inventory the items (weapons etc.) that exist in the game.
Misc Options Menu
Misc Options Menu: This menu could be considered as a Cheat Menu. By deactivating "Collision", the character will be able to walk through walls. This is where it will be possible to activate invincibility.
Movie Menu: Allows you to view the cinematics, cutscenes among several different entries.
Collision Menu: Specific menu for setting various parameters concerning collisions.
File/DB/OBJ Menu: Allows you to add the objectives to be completed readable in the pause menu?
Debug Info Menu
Debug Info Menu: Appearance of system information related to the selected choice.
Sound Menu: Modify some sound effects (fire, bullet impact) by changing the values?
Trigger Menu: Allows you to display the map-specific markers.
"Sound Database Menu" is nothing special, while the "RT Cutscene Menu" allows you to select small cutsceness of the area where the hero is.
VM Menu: Memory card option.
The cutscenes and the Debug Menu
The comparisons were made from the extraction of the videos from the final version or from the cutscenes of the hack of the final version of Headhunter with Debug Menu. The game has over 70 cutscenes. Only 5% of them seem to be finalized if they are really! If they are all present in the files of the game, they do not seem to be all assembled while playing it as we can see between the Debug Menu of the prototype and the commercial version.
Debug Menu Prototype
Debug Menu Final
MOVIE option submenu (GD-R)
The sequences may react differently, for example when running it from the Debug Menu, it will have no sound whereas when viewing it from the data extraction, the audio is there.
At least it's clear!
On the prototype, to access the videos from the Debug Menu, you have to open the Movie option in order to access 6 different sub-menus comprising the scenes numbered from 1 to 59.
On the final version, when opening the Debug, we arrive directly at the selection of videos numbered from 1 to 94. Some of the videos are successions of several cinematics numbers that are not found on the prototyped version. If you select one of the numbers in the beta that corresponds to a sequence of numbers in the commercial version, the following error message appears: "Unfinished Movie". This warning can also occur elsewhere.
Cutscenes don't seem to be assembled in the build even though they are present after extracting the prototype files. It is impossible to select cutscenes above number 57 from the Debug Menu.
Other cutsenes are only accessible from the SCENE option of the Debug Menu, such as multi-digit entries.
Differences in cinematics (global generalities)
The developers of Amuze have made it a point of honour to offer cutscenes worthy of an action-espionage film. This prototype version allows us to see all the work that has been done on the staging, modelling and fine-tuning of the cutscenes until the game's release in Europe.
Some camera shots are missing, often the close-ups. Some sequences are shorter. Objects or scenery are grotesquely modelled, the player may even wonder if he is not playing a video game of the 32-bit generation. System information appears during cinematics. Sometimes a beeping sound is used as a cue for the start of dialogue. As the game progresses, the problems become more and more frequent.
Chronometer number 2
Many scenes have a chronometer at the bottom left, which can be represented in 3 different ways. It may appear, in some situations, in the top left corner.
In the lower right-hand corner, it is sometimes possible to read the date of the creation of the scene, the camera shot.
In other cases, the name of the cutscene is displayed at the bottom of the screen.
At times, a blue square appears in the middle of the window. Its purpose remains a mystery, perhaps something to do with the centring of the image or video.
Chronometer number 3
A red bar appears in some scenes. This may be due to metrics related to the angle or view of the animation.
Jonas Lund «The blue square and red bar look like the rest of a 3dsmax viewport renderer or something like that»
Jack Wade, a mysterious man with an advantageous physique (what a stud), regularly wears sunglasses on the prototype version. Normally, women should be able to look him in the eye! In some scenes, he is not yet dressed in his bullet-proof waistcoat.
Name of the video clip
Blue centering square ?
Jack is possessed!
Angela Stern, who will fall for Jack's charm, also wears sunglasses. I understand the choice of the developers to remove them, she is thus prettier, more graceful. In the beta, she doesn't change her jumper, she's always dressed in black clothes. Don't you prefer her in yellow?
When the two lovers are exchanging torrid and heated messages via video conference with their watch, the interface of the communication tool is a "Placeholder", something temporary. This generic image is also used in other situations (when the characters observe a map on the watch, for example). They are definitely inseparable, what a great romance !
The characters often do not move their lips when they speak.
A beeping sound, a landmark, regularly announces the beginning or the end of the dialogues.
The looks of the protagonists of the Headhunter story on this prototype version are sometimes empty, they do not give off any feeling. At times, the inside of their eyes are white, as if they were possessed by a supernatural force. Ed and Lorraine Warren should investigate!
They lived happily and had many children!
Anomalies in cutscenes deserving special attention
Comparison video (SCENE01_06)
Comparison video (SCENE09_12)
Disc 1/SCENE 01_06 : This sequence is the one that is started by not pressing START on the title screen. It replaces the auto-demo. It plays faster than the cutscene in the final version, the camera shots are the same. It lasts only 3 minutes 40 instead of 5 minutes 31.
Disc 1/SCENE 07_08 : It looks like a cutscene from the final version, except for one thing: the gun Jack uses to escape is not the same brand as the one he normally uses!
Disc 1/SCENE 09_12 : This time the scene is missing some of the set pieces. Where are the graffiti on the walls, the cardboard box and the electric wires connected to the roofs of the building?
Comparison video (SCENE13_16)
Comparison video (SCENE 18)
Comparison video (SCENE24A 25)
Disc 1/SCENE 13_16 : The first part of the cinematic is nothing special. The camera shots of the hero's flashback passage have nothing to do with the known ones. The object that Angela should be holding in her hands, the hospital record of Jack's test results, does not yet exist. On the prototype, the video is cut off at 2:58, whereas it usually ends at 4:47.
Disc 1/SCENE 18 : If you want to see what Headhunter looks like on PS1, this is the place (unfinished scenery)! There is no background of the corridor behind the door yet, it is replaced by a white background that Jack and Angela walk through like magicians at the beginning of the cinematic. When the young lady shows Jack a map of the locations, it is either temporary or early. The visualization of the map lasts a few seconds longer on the prototype, creating a gap with the commercial version. The sets in the rest of the video, in the garage of Angela's house, are not finished at all.
Comparison video (SCENE 19)
Comparison video (SCENE 20)
Disc 1/SCENE 19 : Apart from a slight delay and scenery worthy of the 32 bytes console generation, everything is normal, if we dare say it!
Disc 1/SCENE 20 : The same features of the previous SCENE are repeated here. When the old lady hands Jack the identity card, it is not modelled and is replaced by a black rectangular shape. The other object that Wader holds in his left hand is also a temporary geometric shape.
Comparison video (SCENE 26)
Comparison video (SCENE 30 32)
Comparison video (SCENE 33)
Comparison video (SCENE 36)
Disc 1/SCENE 24A_25 : This sequence starts with a 3 second still shot until the bounty hunter exits into the street. During this time, which lasts 5 seconds in the final version, viewers should see the interior of a room with a dead body against a wall.
Disc 1/SCENE 26 : The animation of the rain is not present. The backgrounds are empty, without backgrounds, without details and not worked. A texture problem is visible at the beginning of the scene (a green wall). Some camera shots are missing while others are specific to the build. If the animation of the prototype sequence stops at 2 minutes 13 (3 seconds longer than usual), the timer at the top left of the screen keeps running until the end of the video.
Disc 1/SCENE 30_32 : The objects on the table are not the same as the retail version. The frame on Jake's right has a drawing painted by a 3 year old and not a more realistic design. The frame on Jack's right will eventually be removed. On the prototype, a close-up shot of a TV set with 2 journalists (blue background without the mini-screen between the 2 presenters). In the final version, this sequence will be replaced by a general view of a graffitied wall with a television screen in the centre on which the news of the day will be broadcast. When zooming in on the current report, there is no news banner like on a 24-hour news channel. A temporary black screen appears on which it says "Alan Sharpe at scene of hostage crisis".
Disc 1/SCENE 33 : Here it's just a matter of polishing. OK, the circuit board is not yet on the desk. The sheet of paper the computer key is on is not at all the same paper used in the final version.
Disc 1/SCENE 35 : The orientation of the camera zoom on Angela's face at the beginning of the scene will be changed when Headhunter is released. The rope that Jack throws to the young woman was not yet inserted into the prototype. A shift occurs towards the end of the scene. The flames and burning objects (a wooden beam in this case), in the stairwell, are not shown on this prototype version.
Vidéo comparative (SCENE 35)
Comparison video (SCENE 35A)
Comparison video (SCENE 37)
Disc 1/SCENE 35A : The prototype video has an earthquake effect that will be removed later. The textures on the characters had not yet been laid down for this cutscene, we see their digital skeletons (3ds Max Biped model 1). The bounty hunter in the cowboy hat throws a robotic spider at the bay window of the room Jack is in. The robot clings to the glass slightly higher than in the commercial version.
Disc 1/SCENE 36 : The sequence of the metal spider breaking the bay window into a thousand pieces is missing, creating a gap between the prototype cutscene and the retail version.
Comparison video (SCENE 43)
Comparison video (SCENE 44)
Disc 1/SCENE 37 : At the beginning of the video, the room is not separated into two parts by a glass partition that should be visible in the foreground. The final version lingers longer on the zooms of the print sensor causing a delay in the prototype scene.
Disc 1/SCENE 38_38A : The image on the computer screen always remains the same and must be temporary. When Jack talks to Ramirez, the lift door behind him does not close. A neon sign with a message written in red appears above the lift, this will be removed from the commercial version. The metal archive cabinet, close to the Mexican cowboy, does not yet exist. As in the previous SCENE, the layout of the room is not known.
Comparison video (SCENE38 38A)
Comparison video (SCENE 41)
Vidéo comparative (SCENE 45)
Disc 1/SCENE 41 : During Bill Waverley and Kate Bloss' news programme, the character who wishes to remain anonymous (blurred, pixelated image) stays on air longer than usual, creating a gap between the prototype and the master.
Disc 1/SCENE 43 : On the finished copy of Headhunter, the cutcene has been shortened by about 18 seconds. Apart from the PS1 game sets, some camera shots will be removed, including a zoom on a control screen (puzzle planned?) or changed when the game is released.
Disc 1/SCENE 44 : The phone not being modelled, it is replaced by a pink rectangle in 3D, moreover its location on the table is not the right one. As this is the last interesting cutscene of the GD-R 1, I let you admire the process used by Amuze, 3ds Max Biped (model 1), to animate the characters!
Disc 1/SCENE 45 : The cinematics freeze after a few seconds, nothing else to report.
If you have read this far, you are brave. It's not over, this was only disc 1!
Comparison video (SCENE 46_48)
Disc 2/SCENE 46-48 : The water effect that suggests the action is taking place in the depths of the ocean is not present. On the big screen in the arena, a provisional image shows the back of an American football player and not the live broadcast of the show called "Aquadome". In the final version, part of the amphitheatre and decorative elements will be modified. After the zoom on the fans, a man stands against a computer desk. This element is not included in the final version. On the prototype, the propellers of the radiators can be seen turning. Some camera shots are missing while others will be rectified.
Comparison video (SCENE 49)
Disc 2/SCENE 49 : This video sequence takes place in the same environment as the previous one, some anomalies are repeated. The camera shots used do not correspond at all to those we know (no rotation on the arena, fixed zoom on Wade, etc.). The cinematics are changed as a result. The two soldiers don't wear gas masks but a metal mask like Jason's. The biker who comes to Wade's rescue should put a gas mask on him, but it is not yet modelled. (the animation of the gesture is there though).
Disc 2/SCENE 52_52A : The painting in the background is drawn by a 3 year old child and not by a great renaissance painter. The most fascinating thing about this scene is the use of 3ds Max Biped animation technique (model 1). You can see the frame of the character before the textures are applied.
Comparison video (SCENE 52_52A)
Disc 2/SCENE 53 : Apart from basic scenery, when Angela opens the electrical box to initiate the opening of the doors by creating a short circuit, no sparks fly. The interior of the box is not designed (no relief, no depth effect), so she uses the screwdriver in a vacuum.
Disc 2/SCENE 54_55 : The water looks strange. The model of the ship is not worked on, just a uniform grey shape (only its outlines are visible). The animation of the ship's wake has not yet been implemented.
Comparison video (SCENE 53)
Disc 2/SCENE 56 : The object Jack hands to Angela is not modelled, it is an ordinary green rectangle.
Comparison video (SCENE 54 55)
Comparison video (SCENE 58)
Disc 2/SCENE 58 : Jack holds a poor guard at gunpoint. On the prototype, his face is hidden by a welder's mask. Normally his face would be visible to remind us that he was not on the side of the good guys. The access card he hands to Wade is not modelled, it is a simple red geometric shape.
Disc 2/SCENE 59_60 : This cutscene is very similar to the one in the commercial version, except for a few details. The helicopter's headlights don't light up as expected, so the player should be dazzled. When the fat man dies in his chair after a burst of machine gun fire, there are no bullet holes in the back of his seat. The sparks (light effect of the impacts) are non-existent. Textures on the man in the hat are problematic, green and blue streaks can be seen on his skin for a few seconds.
Comparison video (SCENE 59_60)
Disc 2/SCENE 60B_62 : This sequence is very interesting. White crosses, like targets, materialise the bullets fired from the helicopter (same lighting problem as the previous scene) before they are animated with a trail of smoke and the light effect of a gunshot. The barrels on the bridge of the boat do not explode. There are still camera shots that change from one version to the next, notably when Jack is talking to Angela in the control room of the liner. When the two look closer at a computer screen, the picture that appears is a placeholder (a hairy man, very hairy). Maybe it's a private joke. Watch the video until the end, when the boat explodes. It looks like the slime from Ghostbusters 2!
Comparison video (SCENE60B_62)
Jonas Lund «It looks like a photo of an old meme.»
Disc 2/SCENE 64 A : At the beginning of the scene, the camera is static on the couple sitting at the table instead of zooming in and out of them. Angela was not yet a big music fan, she had not yet bought the jukebox that should be in the background. During the cinematic, the beautiful young woman with loose hair (she normally ties her hair up in a bun), holds a CD-Rom in her hands. If the action of the gesture is present, the disc is not.
Comparison video (SCENE 64 A)
Disc 2/SCENE 65 : The textures on the beer can Hank Redwood is drinking have not yet been applied to it. It is grey and ill-fitting in his hands.
Comparison video (SCENE 66 67)
Disc 2/SCENE 66_67 : It feels like a Playstation 1 game, as it has since the beginning of the analysis. The door that Jack opens has a different colour pattern than the door in the final version without colour. It has a nicer design, with a mystical feel. When the bounty hunter arrives in the room, he can watch a replay of a previously played scene on a giant screen. Normally, this giant screen would be divided into 4 mini monitors (fixed camera on a location). The black and white rendering of the effect of a surveillance video does not exist when the individual with the gun has Jack watch a recording of him killing a man in an office. This mini-scene is filmed as a cutscene from the game.
Comparison video (SCENE 68)
Comparison video (SCENE 71 + SCENE 72)
Disc 2/SCENE 68 : In the final version, a screen is suspended from the ceiling in front of the hero. It is not installed on the prototype. Doctor Frankenstein, the elderly person who looks like Professor Calculus (Tintin), normally holds a disc in his hands. This is not the case in this beta, nor is the soda can when he gives Jacky a drink. On several occasions, camera shots should zoom in on the suspended monitor to show players settings related to the "Adam" project. Since the screen doesn't exist, the camera simply fixes an element of the setting.
Disc 2/SCENE 71 : As in SCENE 52_52A, we can see the skeleton of the boss to be confronted. Its armature is represented, this time, in a different way (3ds Max Biped model 2). Angela is not holding a kind of syringe in her hands, she is not modelled.
Disc 2/SCENE 72 : The anomalies are exactly the same as the previous scene (syringe and 3ds Max Biped model 2).
Disc 2/SCENE 73_75 : Jack is not wearing his bulletproof vest, he is not really afraid of anyone. The background with the computer monitors is not noticeable. When the camera zooms in on a CCTV video, it zooms into a black space. The next part of the cutscene is in 3ds Max Biped model 1 and is not polished at all, unlike the first part. One sequence is missing, the one where the monster breaks the glass of a gun cabinet to get a weapon. As a result, the scene is a few seconds shorter.
Comparison video (SCENE 73_75)
Disc 2/SCENE 76_79 : The camera shots used on the prototyped version are totally different from the known cutscene. The scene lasts longer. One sequence is unseen, it is not normally seen. It is the moment when Jack leaves, the camera dives under the central computer desk to discover Professor Calculus unconscious on the floor.
Disc 2/SCENE 80 : The developers really liked to see the insides of the bumps to fight. This passage uses the 3ds Max Biped process (model 1).
Comparison video (SCENE 76_79)
Disc 2/SCENE 80A : What can we say about this cutscene except that the 3ds Max Biped technique is once again used (model 1).
Disc 2/SCENE 80B_83 : Check out this cinematic ending to Jack's adventure, it's the craziest one yet!
Comparison video (SCENE 80 + SCENE 80A)
Comparison video (SCENE80B_83)
The chapter on cinematics is long, excuse me. Originally, I couldn't release the Headhunter prototype so I had to detail it as much as possible. Luckily, I was able to acquire a second one for you to enjoy as well. If I had known before, I would have shortened the cutscenes theme!
The graphic differences in game
The differences are few. Headhunter is large, listing all the features would take a long time. Exploring it is not obvious as the game is linear. Here are some examples, on the left the European prototype, on the right the final version Pal
Disc 1/S31_FA : The truck layout is corrected in the final version, maybe the truck drivers had been fined too much on the prototype. One of the drivers had to be sacked, only one trailer is left!
Disc 2/SXX_LAB_BOSSROOM : Why are the lift doors locked? How do you get away from a wave of enemies?
Disc 1/ANGELA_F1 : Angela must have saved electricity in her house as the monitor is switched off. Originally, he must have had another room for target practice as the sign against the wall suggests. Where did the door to this room go?
Disc 2/SXX_LAB_BOSSROOM : Doors just love being different in this level. Okay, it's only a matter of brightness!!!
You can download Headhunter (Aug 13, 2001 Dreamcast Prototype) in GDI below
The Playstation 2 prototype
This prototype resembles the final version, the differences are few or non-existent. The particularity of this beta is its active Debug Menu. If it was already known, it is now more necessary to modify the game or to hack it, in order to have access to it. To open it, you have to hold the "Square" button and then press "Start"
You can download the Playstation 2 prototype of Headhunter below
I would like to thank Jonas Lund, Stefan Mario Holmqvist, John Kroknes and Johan Lindh: for their availability, their kindness and for taking the time to answer my questions. Johan Lindh also shares some of his archives with us. Their testimonies bring new information about Headhunter and its development.
Two other people were very important to Headhunter. Without them, who knows if the project would have come to fruition. They are Peter Johansson for the game design and Philip Lawrence for the story and screenplay.
I thank all the people involved in the Headhunter project (MobyGames). Amuze has made an incredible game that is well worth a look, maybe it was released too late.
Special thanks to:
Prototypes with Debug Menu: Skies of Arcadia Dreamcast - Time Stalkers Dreamcast - Sega Marine Fishing Dreamcast - Sonic Shuffle Dreamcast - Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare Dreamcast - Headhunter PS2 - Shadow Man Dreamcast - Shenmue 2 Dreamcast (Game Jam) - Shenmue 2 Us Dreamcast - Geist Force Dreamcast - Jet Set Radio Dreamcast (E3) - Disney's Dinausor Dreamcast - MDK 2 Dreamcast - Test Drive: V-Rally 2 Dreamcast - Stunt GP Dreamcast - Slave Zero Dreamcast