Futuregamez.net - January 21st 2004
Rockstar North are a development team that would be known to millions worldwide as the developers of Grand Theft Auto. Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City have been massive hits. Both games caused controversy and were altered in Australia to remove the prostitutes which you could pay for sex and then kill to get your money back. Sexual violence apparently. Well if the Australian censors had a problem with that game how the fuck did this game get past them? This sets new benchmarks for violence, swearing, blood and general depravity of the human race. It's fantastic!
In this game you play James Earl Cash, a murderer in Carcer City who is sentenced to death by lethal injection. Rather then waking up at the gates of hell, however, James awakens - very much alive - ans is told he is about to become famous. James is about to be used as the star of a "real" snuff movie. Your director, Starkweather, moves you from one gangland location to the next where your only chance of survival is to take them out - by any means possible.
Don't mess with these guys.
Essentially, Manhunt is a stealth based action title which takes place in a setting not to dissimilar to that in The Running Man (Steven King short story turned into Arnold Schwarzenegger movie - which incidentally is being released in America as a Special Edition DVD in March). You start out the game with basic weapons - a plastic bag, glass shard, piece of wire. But you slowly work up to more deadly weapons such as a baseball bat, crowbar and the most gruesome of all, the machete. During the game you can carry one of each type of weapon including single use (plastic bag, wire), light weapon (crowbar) or heavy weapon (shotgun). Some of these weapons can also be used as tools, the crowbar can break chained gates, the machete can cut rope and guns can blow off door locks. The guns become available around half way into the game, although the ammo is fairly limited and you will soon resort back to the "execution" weapons. A radar is also present in the game which not only shows how much sound you are making (more on that later) but also where then enemies are, which way they are facing and their alert level, either yellow (normal patrol), orange (searching or alert) or red (you're spotted).
The execution camera viewpoint.
Executing someone in Manhunt is performed simply by sneaking up behind then and pressing either the X or Square button. The longer you hold it down the more violent the kill and the better your end mission rating, but you also increase the risk of being discovered. These executions start out somewhat time with plastic bags to suffocate people but soon move up to macarbe. With a machete you can hack off someones head. But this doesn't take a single clean blow but rather three or four gut wrenching hacks before the head comes off. As you perform the execution the camera changes to a TV styled presentation, which is presumable what makes it into the "snuff" movie.
One way of distracting the enemy is to throw something. In the earlier levels you can pick up bottles or bricks to throw, but after you get the machete and lop off a few heads they become yet another object to throw - and quite often freak out the gang members still alive. Terrific.
The game's not perfect. The biggest problem is that Manhunt can become repetitive. How many times can you hide in the shadows, hit a wall to get the attention of a gang member searching around, sneak up behind then and then execute them? I also wasn't overly happy with the way in which you can move around in the shadows with an enemy lookin at you not a meter away and he won't notice you at all. In that respect the AI is a little lacking. Similarly the enemies seem to have zones that they will remain within unless they have spotted you. It's possible to be on one side of a wall making a noise in some places and enemies won't react unless you are within their "area".
Bring out the gimp!
I hope you like the colour red, because this game is full of it. The blood flows freely thats for sure, but overall the graphics in Manhunt are impressive. The levels are gritty and have a dark and menacing look to them. Most impressive are the enemies which have some of the best costumes seen on game characters. They really do look like they belong to seperate gangs, and not merely the same person with different colours.
Sound plays a crucial role in Manhunt. As you move around you make a sound which shows up on the radar. Walking on concrete is silent, however running will make a noise. Walking on a surface such as gravel will make a noise. If an enemy is within the sound range they will come and investigate. Of course this can also be used to attract enemies to you so you can remain in the shadows. One interesint aspect is the use of the USB headset. If you have the headset the speech from Starkweather will come through the earpiece while you will also be able to shout into the microphone to alert the enemies. The use of sound as a gameplay tool is not new, but is done very well in this game.
The tunnell from Firestarter?
Technically, the sound in Manhunt is impressive. The speech is particularly menacing with plenty of (often comical) one-liners from enemies while the director always has a sadistic tone in his voice as he leads you through the levels. Starkweather is voiced perfectly by Brian Cox (Braveheart, Adaptation, X-Men 2, The Ring). Actually if you check IMDB (here) you will note that most gang members are voiced by someone that has previously worked in films or TV. The music is placed nicely in the background and changes tempo perfectly according to the action on screen. The sound effects are also quite superb with some menacing effects during the executions. One disappointment is that Rockstar have opted for Dolby Pro Logic II rather then DTS sound which they used in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, still Pro Logic II is pretty good.
This game certainly isn't for everyone. The levels of voilence can't be emphasised enough. My grandmother would have a heart attack if she saw this game (fortunately she won't drive up here to visit us), and if ever there was a cause for an R rating in games then this is it. Still, as a stealth based title Manhunt is engrossing.
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