- May 26th 2004 Review

Accept violence in games with one condition: to entertain me. In fact, any gameplay element should have its own reson d'etre. The first question to pop up into my mind after seeing a few gameplay videos from Manhunt was quite a natural one. Why do we need so much violence? In Postal I could answer for myself by just playing the game. In this case, unfortunately, it's all covered by mist until now.

Just imagine a mad man with a knife in his hand as he walks towards you with cruel intentions and right when he is ready to strike, a hole appears in his head. It might be funny to watch this once or twice, but after a while it gets boring or for those who don't like to see plenty of blood, disgusting. From my point of view one thing's sure. This game is not for everyone. If you like snuff movies, then you've got a must buy with this title. If you loved Titanic, just buy the video tape or even better, the DVD. Television is everything and everything means money and power.
The protagonist of the game is the new star of a deadly show organized by a mad producer. Long story short, there are 20 levels during which James Earl Cash, after surviving the death penalty with a lethal injection, becomes a cold-blooded killer in front of the video cameras, as he has to erase everything living and who's got a gun (mice excluded). As it was way too boring to do this over and over again we have to deal with variations on the same theme. You either have to eliminate a soldier before he sees you or else he'll execute one of your relatives, or to use certain installations or machines to kill the others or to hide and attack when the expect less.

There are basically three situations. I'd call the first one "if it moves, shoot it". It's true that firearms seriously enter the scene a little too late (after the first half of the game) but in the beginning all the fun comes from those small accessories that can kill a person in a split second. A simple plastic bag or a piece of glass can be lethal in the hands of the skilled and trained people. What's most interesting is that if you get close to your enemy from behind using the sneak mode, then you can keep the fire pressed for a few seconds in order for Cash to execute a more special type of crime. All these sequences are showed to the player through the lens of a video camera. The longer you keep that button pressed, the more violent the scene is. It's clear that Starkweather, the producer of the show, will appreciate your actions so he'll try to suggest you during the game to entertain him with such violent killings. This could be the second situation you can find yourself in. The lat one is quite funny. You hit and run, hit and run, hit some more and run some more, eventually you hide a little in the meantime but the run is the most important feature here. By the way, there's no always run button so I couldn't understand why I wasn't allowed to run all the time. Stealth needed? No shit.

I must admit the plastic bag is some kind of a star itself. "It's small, but it's ours" says an advert here (insurance company :)) so it's better to rely on what you find through the level or after killing scum bugs. The items are divided in categories, Cash being allowed to carry just one weapon from each type. You want the revolver, get rid of the knife. Want the knife? Get rid of the meat chopper and so on. The simple or baseball bat are also present (in a different category though) and I must confess they fulfill their duties. In fact, any weapon is good if you know how to use it.
A special category is represented by the weapons that cannot hurt the others but which can be used in many other useful ways. One good example is the brick which you can through to distract some of the members of a gang patrolling together. If this doesn't work there's always the crowbar which makes lots of noise if you hit a trash can. Until someone decides to give a shit and come to check the place you can enter a dark corner (an obviously become stealth) and hit as violent as you can when the unfortunate soul gets close. It's nice that we can hide the body but why hide it if no one's coming to look for it?

The AI! Yes, the AI! What AI? It's everywhere and it's missing. Your enemies act exactly like a flock of crazy sheep. Either all of them head to your location, or they all run or they all hide. Sometimes they try to use the surroundings to avoid the bullets but they it's not a convincing move. At least the bum I had in my custody stood still at the beginning of the levels while I took care of all the bad guys. Still, if you are chased you can hide in the shadows and your followers will immediate give up the search. If so funny to play with them but if I think clearly it's a pretty serious problem. Besides the fact that Manhunt is an extremely linear game, I was negatively surprised that all the actions of your enemies are scripted. I enjoyed the freedom from GTA3 but all I have now are the thoughts of joy, not the feelings.

Visually speaking the game's full of red. There's red everywhere, especially when it spreads. What can be more beautiful than pieces of brains soaked in blood near the body of the deceased idiot who attacked you? Unfortunately, this reminds me I don't like fried brains. Maybe it’s because we’re talking fried and not raw? As I said, the best represented scenes are the ones where violence is queen, those crimes executed with the highest degree of skill. The video camera effect with its noise (you can disable that noise in the game's options) give the game quite a charm. Unfortunately, it's getting boring rather quickly.
The graphic engine used to develop Manhunt is an improved version of the one which powered the GTA3 engine. It’s a nice thing it runs flawlessly on ATI video cards now, as the latest GTA3 title had some problems with washed textures. What's even more interesting is that you don't need the latest video card and processor to run the game, the minimum system requirements evolving around Pentium III, 192MB RAM and a GeForce 2.

I owe you an answer for the question in the intro. I don't deny that violence within certain limits produces pleasure. It's quite obvious. What's not obvious is that a certain category of persons with little experience of life, not able to understand what's happening around them or not making the difference between good and evil are still allowed playing such games. Parent supervision is always necessary but from irresponsible parents come irresponsible children. What's hilarious is this kind of people organizes protests and files law suits against the producers, unlike the responsible parents who instead of shouting do their best to protect their kids. Anyway, I'm happy I was able to play it. It's not as good as I expected to be. I can even say it tasted quite bad, but it's presence on the market is really needed, as it's a rather poor market from this point of view. I'm currently waiting for the first MMORPG inspired from the LULA universe where I could hit my whores, dope them and send them to work whenever I want to, day or night. Let's see what all these associations of the old, virgin, Christian, unmarried and lonely, married and dumped or whatever they call themselves women got to say now.

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