From Knights of the Old Republic to Battlefront, there's no shortage of iconic Star Wars video games. However, not every single idea winds up being a success worthy of building a series around. One title that should've been a bigger deal was 2002's Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, an action game for PlayStation 2 and GameCube starring none other than Jango Fett.
From the very second that Boba Fett made his on-screen debut in The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars bounty hunters have just had an undeniable cool factor to them. That's why a video game allowing players to fulfill that role basically sells itself on a conceptual level (even if players have to settle for the less cool Jango Fett). After all, who can think of something cooler than using a jetpack to dodge gunfire while also assassinating a space alien outlaw?
This massive potential is why LucasArts treated the game as a big deal internally. Not only did they get Temuera Morrison to reprise his role as Jango Fett, but Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound both contributed to the game's cutscenes and sound design, respectively. While it hasn't aged well, Bounty Hunter had incredible production values for a 2002 game release.
One thing that separated Bounty Hunter from many other action games of the era was the pure versatility in combat. Jango Fett winds up having access to a ton of different weapons throughout the story, and players wind up using everything from blaster pistols to dangerous missiles. There was also a great amount of mobility to the experience, as the character could dodge gunfire by jumping out of the way or even using his jetpack in order to get to higher ground. The one thing that the game undeniably did well was allowing players to really feel like they were controlling a highly skilled bounty hunter that was among the best of his industry.
Why Star Wars: Bounty Hunter Didn't Become a Huge Success
Bounty Hunter had all the potential in the world, but potential is only one part of a product. The end result matters much more than what could have been, and that's unfortunately where the game faltered. Despite the aforementioned high production values, Star Wars: Bounty Hunter lacked much polish in terms of gameplay. Everything from how players tracked their bounties to the action itself was clunky and less intuitive as it should have been. Throw in a wonky camera that often got in the way of the gameplay, and it all resulted in a game that was a frustration to play. Sure, players felt like an intergalactic badass when everything went smoothly, but that sort of immersion all disappears when the camera begins to jerk around and the person behind the joystick loses all sight of the target they were chasing.
There were highlights to be found within the rubble, though. The game, which served as a prequel to Attack of the Clones, had an interesting narrative that went into Jango Fett's backstory. It also had a nice variety of action to it as it blended together gunfights, platforming segments that had Jango climbing all kinds of pipes and objects, and some light puzzle solving. It basically had the template down that AAA blockbuster action games like Uncharted would follow in the decade afterwards.
If anything, Star Wars: Bounty Hunter was a game that begged for a sequel. However, unlike flawed Star Wars titles like The Force Unleashed and Rebel Assault, LucasArts never attempted to refine the formula that they came up with. Instead, they moved onto focusing on different types of games (hello Kinect Star Wars), and largely left single-player action games in the rearview mirror unless they starred a brooding Jedi.
The Untapped Star Wars Video Game Potential Lingers
It's been over 15 years since Star Wars: Bounty Hunter released and yet there hasn't been another action game in the same vein. The only title that struck a similar chord was the now canceled Star Wars 1313, an ambitious looking action-adventure title that was going to revolve around the life of Boba Fett. After being unveiled in 2012 (our own Rob Keyes and Ben Kendrick were at that presentation), 1313 immediately became one of the most anticipated titles as it only needed a few seconds of gameplay to get on the radar of gamers. It seemed liked fans were finally getting the gritty, high quality action game that they had been clamoring for, but that dream all came to an end when The Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm and laid off the majority of LucasArts.
The fact that LucasArts took 10 years to announce another game in the style of Bounty Hunter shows a massive missed opportunity. If they had announced such a title a generation prior, it could've wowed players on high-definition consoles by hitting similar notes to the Uncharted series. The blueprint was already there for success, and the company just dropped the ball by not iterating upon it.
It's not hard to imagine what could've been if LucasArts had decided to turn Bounty Hunter into a series. Additional titles could have fleshed out the stories of fan-favorite characters such as Dengar and IG-88, while taking players to new places in the expanded Star Wars universe. Just take a look at God of War to see the appetite that players have for high-budget action games, and there's no denying that the company could've had a blockbuster gaming franchise on their hands if they had played their cards right.
Interestingly, the current Star Wars video game license holder Electronic Arts could very well be the company that profits off of LucasArts' failure. The controversial publisher currently has Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment working on an untitled Star Wars action game. It remains to be seen how it'll look and play, but the outcry after 1313's cancelation shows what type of game Star Wars fans want to play.
Only time will tell if another game will fulfill its potential, but Star Wars: Bounty Hunter remains one of the most interesting "what if?" moments in video game history.