- November 21st 2003

Gamepro Review

Manhunt is a tough game to view objectively. On one hand, it's a challenging test of skill that's frequently frustrating and often rewarding. On the other, it's loaded with potent violent imagery as it depicts the world as a dark, evil, rotten place where almost no one gets out alive.

PS2 8mm

From a third-person perspective, you play James Earl Cash, a man given a death-sentence reprieve by "the director," an unseen nemesis who communicates via an earpiece (the USB headset option is a great touch). You can earn your freedom but only by passing through several rundown areas populated by foul-mouthed, reprehensible street slime (supremacists, survivalists), looney-bin inmates, corrupt cops, and merciless S.W.A.T. teams. Oh, there's a bounty on your head, too.

The Toolbox Murders

You begin with handheld weapons---glass shards, wire, plastic bags, hatchets---and acquire more potent "tools" as things progress. Stealth, though, plays a vital role in scoring a successful kill. You can use cans, bottles, and, ahem, severed heads to lure enemies to look in the opposite direction as you sneak in from behind.

Playing into this gameplay facet is Manhunt's biggest gimmick: executions that vary in brutality depending on how long you remain poised behind a potential victim before striking. Successful slayings are presented via grainy, handheld footage reminiscent of a snuff film. Yes, this is all very gory, grisly, and absolutely not for kids or anyone with a weak stomach as people are decapitated, disemboweled, perforated, shot, and chainsawed---all to the cackling delight of your offscreen savior (brilliantly voiced by Brian Cox) who relishes each kill.

But Manhunt is more than a snuff show---there's some genuine skill required, too, as the difficulty is pretty steep thanks to thorough A.I. Scenes (or levels) are frustrating, time-consuming, and loaded with trial and error---they're akin to those in early Tomb Raider games in that if you try to run through a level or take your enemies head-on, you'll be shredded in short order. In that aspect, Manhunt is far more challenging than enjoyable, and you'd probably feel unclean to admit that you enjoyed it.

Manhunt's aesthetics pack a punch. City walls are peppered with graffiti, and the red palette is put to excellent use as blood splatters, flesh shears, and the occasional skull shatters across the screen. However, areas are very dimly lit, and the occasional awkward camera angle does hinder the action. The audio track fares slightly better (especially when played in surround): Voices are clean and audible, and sharp sound effects, such as footsteps of approaching enemies or the jarring jolt of gunfire, keep you immersed in the action.

"I Wonder Who the Real Cannibals Are?"

If you crave a dark, challenging game, Manhunt completely fits the bill if you have the fortitude, patience, and (parents, listen up) maturity to hit its mean streets. And although Manhunt bears the same developer name as Vice City, those expecting this to be a simple Grand Theft Auto offshoot will be sorely mistaken. Off you go.

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