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iPad  header logo

Bounty Hunter: Black Dawn

For: iPad   Also on: Android, iPhone

Tracking a renowned shooter

Product: Bounty Hunter: Black Dawn | Publisher: Freyr Games | Format: iPad | Genre: Multiplayer, Shooter | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Bounty Hunter: Black Dawn iPad, thumbnail 1
When it comes to cool things 11-year-old boys want to be, bounty hunter is right up there behind ninja, footballer, and astronaut. Oh, and Iron Man.

As well as being hard nuts who get to carry around weapons (in America, at least) and chase down perps, bounty hunters also occupy that legally shady area between respectable copper and loony vigilante. Way cool.

Bounty Hunter: Black Dawn isn't quite as cool as its theme would suggest, though. It's too much of an ardent fan letter for that.

Picking up the scent

Put simply, Bounty Hunter: Black Dawn is a straight rip-off of console hit Borderlands.

It's in the same futuristic-Western setting, and has the same colourful 3D comic book graphics. It's also has the same FPS-meets-RPG structure, where combat is as much about your level and weapon class as your physical aiming skills, and where online multiplayer is closely integrated with a mission-based single-player campaign.

There's also the way hit points spill from your enemies as you shoot them, and there's the multi-class set-up that lets you specialise according to your playing style, whether that's as a tank, a sniper, or a support class.

The game even lifts Borderlands's major loot-heavy hook. This sees myriad day-glo pistols, machine guns, and sniper rifles spilling from downed enemies and chests alike, ready for you to hoover them up and compare stats.

The trail goes cold

As online iOS shooters go, Bounty Hunter is even more beholden to its console source than Gameloft's Blitz Brigade (which at least had the decency to lift elements from two different games). But it's not quite as good.

Missions are too small scale and repetitive - go here, shoot these enemies, collect five widgets. It's incredibly basic, as are the dull level design and garish, half-baked 3D graphics.

Enemy AI also suffers. Your foes tend to wander around obliviously until you shoot them, at which point they'll charge towards you and attack brainlessly.

The controls are reasonably accomplished, or at least as accomplished as virtual FPS controls can be. There's a clear delineation between looking around and looking while shooting, which is a vital thing to have.

There are a few too many spread-out buttons for additional stuff like reloading and lobbing grenades, and the auto lock-on is perhaps a little too all-or-nothing, but it's generally playable.

Back in the hunt

What really saves Bounty Hunter from being completely mediocre is two of the key core elements it's pinched from Borderlands.

IAPs explained
There are plenty of weapons available for purchase with real money, but they're not essential to progress - at least they weren't in the hours we spent with the game.

You may find yourself having to grind to level-up before you can beat a certain level, though. Skill will only get you so far, as significantly higher enemies will make your acid-spewing sniper rifle feel like a pea shooter.

£1.49 / $1.99 will get you 210 Mithrils, the game's most valuable currency and the key to getting the most exotic weapons, but there's plenty of cool ordnance for the thrifty.
One is the pure and simple appeal of simply collecting lots of new weapons with their minor variations in power, reload speed, range, and so on. It makes you keep pushing on through the bad bits to find that next killer weapon.

The game's other saving grace is its online element, which has actually been implemented quite well. There's a fair amount of lag here, but as PvP isn't the main event that doesn't matter so much.

Simply joining someone else's game and helping them take down a big baddie, healing them when injured, and drawing fire when the team is under the cosh lifts the game's workmanlike gameplay a fair bit.

There are pretty significant issues when it comes to balancing - rushing into a challenge that's several levels above your own is an exercise in futility and grinding frustration - but in general the on-the-fly camaraderie that I experienced was surprisingly effective.

iOS isn't exactly weighed down with compelling online shooters, and even then Bounty Hunter: Black Dawn isn't among the best. But by stalking one of the coolest console kids in town and copying some of its moves, it manages to exude its own awkward charm.
Bounty Hunter: Black Dawn
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 28 June 2013
This unabashed copy of Borderlands lacks fluidity, scope, and polish, but it still manages to entertain with its seamless online co-op play and moreish loot-hoarding system
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