Manhunt was one of the most infamous games ever released when it came out last year on the PS2. Manhuntís claim to fame was the gruesomely realistic violence with pretty much normal everyday objects. It seemed to be made for solely pushing the limit on violence and pure distastefulness, which games seem to be popular these days. Other very violent games have sold well before, namely Soldier of Fortune, Halo, and Rockstarís very own Grand Theft Auto series. It seemed that Rockstar was also looking to strike financial gold again, while pushing the limit as with their two previous GTA games, and after all, third timeís the charm.
The game starts off as you, a criminal on death row in Carcer City, named James Earl Cash. Youíve been sentenced to death, and it seems that the execution has been carried out, but what kind of game would it be where the main character is killed off in the beginning? Your execution has been faked for the public, by being only knocked out. When you awake, you hear the Directorís voice, the man who has saved you, and he wants retribution. So, you go around killing other criminals, namely gang members (referred to as hunters), and so begins Manhunt, the most controversial game in a long while. Gameplay:
The gameplay in Manhunt is pretty primitive, as itís essentially kill or be killed. When you start, you have nothing, but your fists, and being a pugilist will get you nowhere. As you continue on your journey through the bowels of Carcer City youíll find some normal items to be used as weapons; that in other games would just be considered garbage. As you pick up your first plastic bag or glass shard, it may seem that you just run up to your enemy and stab him with the glass shard, until heís dead. However, since Manhunt is a stealth oriented game, youíre going to need to be quiet and sneak up on unsuspecting enemies. When you spot an enemy, you must lurk in the shadows until his back is turned. Once you find an ample opportunity to strike, you walk up to your victim, while holding L to lock on, and holding X to charge your attack.
As you progress, you pick up bigger and better weapons, but that doesnít really change the gameplay all that much, it still involves a copious amount of trial and error and stealth. You still rely heavily, perhaps too heavily on sneaking around in the shadows. James Earl Cash is pretty weak for a hardened criminal, more than one guy going toe to toe with you, usually means your demise. If youíre seen, you will either lose a lot of health, or may too much noise which will call more guys over to see what the conundrum is. Itís not an impossible game, but itís certainly not easy, and you will be dying a lot, even on the easy difficulty.
This game is pretty sadistic, and it contains a lot of violence and gore. While not as gory as Soldier of Fortune, itís as violent, if not more so. The weapons you use to perform your executions for your snuff master are normal objects used with extreme anger. You use a variety of weapons, from plastic bags, piano wire, glass shards, knives, sickles, machetes, baseball bats, axes, pistols, shotguns, and even a craneís magnet in which you use to drop a refrigerator on your foes. The longer you hold the attack button when you are closer to your victim, the greater the severity of the attack. Some of the attacks are really violent and sick, such as decapitated someone with piano wire, and then using their head to make noise to attract more hunters, or hacking at their neck until their head brain bits fly onto a wall. The severity and sheer amount of brutality to the attacks, coupled with the personal style of the killings, is what sets this game apart from others. The realistic factor and sheer amount of hatred shared by characters in this game is unlike any other game. Tapping someone on the shoulder only to have them turn around to receive an ax in the face, struggling with trying to decapitate someone, and trying to slice their stomachs open is a lot more personal and violent than just shooting them with a gun. As you acquire more weapons, itís hard not to be morbidly curious and want to see all the different ways that your new weapon can inflict death.
For about the first half of the game you move from shadow to shadow, you sneak up on whoever you want to kill, and then you hold X, and then kill them as gruesomely as you can, and thatís it. The longer you hold X, your lock on reticule will change from white to yellow to red, which determines and severity and viciousness of your attack. Pretty much the only variety that killing an enemy offers is to pick which weapon to use and when to use it. You can make noise with items that you throw such as bricks and cans, and they can also be used to stun your enemy, if you are fleeing from them. The game does pick up in pace once you start getting guns, but it still remains unchanged for the most part. Once an enemy sees you, you have to run or fight, and once you get a considerable distance apart, you can hide again, and reformulate your attack, as the enemies arenít too bright and lose interest in your pretty quickly. The game does get boring with little variation in gameplay value, and some more variation couldíve helped Manhunt a considerable amount. Graphics:
If Manhuntís visual presentation was not the way it was, the graphics would just look like another PS2 hand-me-down. However, Rockstar incorporated a grainy video feel to the game, to make it feel like you were watching a video, somewhat like Steel Battalionís newsreel style of visual presentation. When you execute an enemy, it cuts away to a shot of the both of you, and it looks like a pretty bad quality VHS tape, which adds to the realism and ďcoolĒ factor of the game. Due to the unique visual presentation, Manhunt does not support any HDTV, but thatís not really a problem. The characters are all pretty varied and well designed to show the different types of gangs that lurk in Carcer City. They look pretty realistic and Cash himself looks pretty good as well. Like I stated before, itís hard to find many flaws due to the grainy video feel that the game is presented with, which makes it a task to notice something like the texture quality. The VHS quality style presented for the game is good to fit the game, but also it is used to disguise otherwise mediocre graphics. All of the levels are also quite well designed, which aids in the realistic feel of Manhunt. They all have a distinct dilapidated feel to them, as everything is falling apart and dirty, and it really does a good job of giving the game a big sense of foreboding. Audio:
The audio part of Manhunt is impeccable, simple as that. James Earl Cash doesnít talk very much, but when he does, he sounds exactly like youíd picture him to. The hunters voice work is pretty good, as is the Directorís, and it sounds even more personal, if you have a headset and you hear his voice through that. While the voice work is great, the sound effects are just as good, if not better. Everything from breaking glass to walking on rocks to walking on blood, it all has a unique and well done sound. However, the best sound effects are saved for the executions. Itís pretty powerful when you are using a piano wire to decapitate something, and you can hear them gasping for air, and the piano wire slowly cutting through the layers of skin and bone in his neck. Hearing your victims gurgle on blood and gasp for air while you gruesomely decapitate them is very macabre, and something not found in any other game. During combat and executions, the weapons also contain unique sounds, depending on what type of weapon they are. Thereís just something unsettling about hearing an ax 'clunk' as it collides with someoneís face and watching your character hack many times at someoneís neck and hearing them gurgle, gasp, and hear the knife hacking at the skin and bone. The sounds are just as disturbing, if not moreso than the visuals, and make Manhunt completely unique in the audio department. Controls:
The controls in Manhunt, while simple are also sometimes wonky as well. Youíll mostly be using L and X in order to lock on and charge up your attack. However, one of the best strategies to use while being chased (run backwards while holding L and X and aiming with the right thumbstick to throw an object and stun your foe) is somewhat hard to pull off without oddly arranging your fingers. The controls are decent, and it will take a couple levels to get used to them completely. They are not bad by any means, they just probably worked better with a PS2 controller, and the translation to Xbox wasnít the best. The control scheme is as follows:
Left Trigger Ė Lock on, aim
Right Trigger Ė Run
Left Thumbstick - Move
Right Thumbstick Ė Look around
Dpad - Peek out, first person looking
B Ė Switch weapons
X - Attack (I find X works better than A personally)
Y Ė Action, hug wall
Black Ė Not used
White Ė Not used Replay:
Iíd say the replay value in this game is pretty slim, sure thereís another difficulty, but the game just isnít fun enough to warrant another play through. The very little variation in gameplay will probably be the deciding factor in if you replay or not. For myself, there was only so many times I could sneak up behind someone holding L and X before I had to play another game. At many points, I just found the game to be incredibly dull, and I just wanted to beat it out of spite, and to see what the next weapon would offer in the form of an execution. There are some bonus features which you can unlock, but they are mostly pictures and something you probably wonít concern yourself with. If you like challenges, you may want to play again, on the harder difficulty, but I donít think that many people including myself will bother. The regular game is a good length at about fifteen hours over twenty levels, but the excessive trial and error, will probably make it longer and more frustrating. Summary:
Manhunt is a game that has tons of style, it just lacks substance. It has the usual Rockstar style story that is bare bones and seems like it was thrown in as an afterthought, which is a real shame. It seems that more attention was paid to making the game as dark, disgusting, and violent as possible, rather than providing a more entertaining gameplay experience. Itís by no means a bad game, itís just not that good of a game, and incredibly repetitive. Manhunt is not a game for the young or faint of heart. Itís incredibly gory and violent, and for the morbidly curious or obsessed, you may want to pick up this game. However, for the majority of the population, there are five other, better stealth games available on Xbox (two Splinter Cell games, two Hitman games, and Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance) which offer superior gameplay experiences. Although, if you have beaten those five games and you canít wait a month for Thief: Deadly Shadows for your stealth fix, then by all means check out Manhunt, especially if you find it at a discounted price or rent it. As a full price game with only a minor graphical update from PS2, itís not worth it.Scores:
Replay: 6.9Overall: 7.3