gamer-talk.net - May 19th 2004
Appalling. Gruesome. Repugnant. These are among the many words used to describe Rockstar Norths new action-stealth title. Even non-gamers recognize the title Manhunt when they hear it. Rockstar, most famous for their hit series Grand Theft Auto, has once again pushed the limits and set the boundaries for what can and what should never enter the monarchy of video games. But lets get one thing straight from the beginning: This game is NOT for kids.
So what exactly is the premise of Manhunt? This horrific title starts off with a rather interesting cut scene; a special news report enlightens the unsuspecting audience that previously in the day an execution took place. James Earl Cash, the executionee, so to speak, has been put on death row, sentenced for the crime of murder. But in an alluring plot-twist, the man is not injected with the normal potassium chloride as the press believes, but rather somehow kept alive. (And yes, the game skimps out on the details of how exactly he survived.) Since Cash is dead to the world, he serves no purpose but to one man. Unfortunately, that man couldnt be someone nice like Colon Powel; Your boss, as it would seem, is a man named Starkweather. This sadistic bastard runs an entire company whose sole purpose is to create sick snuff films, and Cash is the star of the show.
After being informed that James' new role on earth is to solely go around and murder people, you begin the hunt. Manhunt, like other stealth titles, has a very intriguing type of tutorial mode, because instead of having a separate option for tutorial (that no self-respecting gamer ever goes to) the first level is fully narrated in real-time by Starkweather, instructing you what to do. And with colorful expressions and writings on the wall giving you witty commands such as <- Kill this stupid f*ck, youll feel like the games merely testing you to see if you have what it takes, rather than teaching you how to play.
Control-wise, Manhunt has a significant learning curve. Of course, when Starkweather explains to you how to play and which buttons do what, it seems strikingly easy, but when you actually get on the streets, its a different story. However, after a good hour of playing, youll most likely get used to how to move ol Cash around while remaining cloaked to his enemies. Since this is an action-stealth title, the game heavily relies on keeping James hidden from the gangs trying to kill you. Rockstar doesnt make it any big secret as to which areas will keep you safe, because basically any time you see a dark shadow on the ground, your foes will remain ignorant of your position. Going along with this concept is a Stealth Meter on the bottom-right part of your screen. Essentially, when your silhouette-like meter is blue, opponents cant see you. All of these aspects of control keep the game running smoothly and most likely will please all players.
Believe it or not, the enemies in Manhunt mainly rely on sounds to find your position. Cash has three different ways of movement, which all react differently audibly. When you run, anyone within about a 20-foot radius can hear you, while when you walk, only people right around you can hear. Of course, if you take slow, quiet steps then, even walking over glass or rubble, you will remain silent. Beside the Stealth Meter at the bottom-right is a circular radar, which shows Cash in the middle, and any enemies nearby.
Staying hidden isnt a tough trick, though, since the shadows provide ample coverage. However, if youre in the plain light and a foe spots you, its time to run. The way you can tell if youre seen is through a color-based meter indicated through each enemy position on the radar. Basically, when the enemy on your radar is yellow, he doesnt know youre around. When hes orange, he knows youre there and is most likely looking for you. If you spot an enemy with the shade of red, however, youve been spotted and even shadows wont help you out. And these bad guys arent easy to pick off with just your weapons; it takes a lot to bring them down in hand-to-hand combat. So if there are more than one or two of them chasing you, its best to run than fight.
Its a totally different story if they dont know youre there, however. This is where the height of Manhunt rests: the murdering. Since attacking these gangs head-on is a bad idea, your best bet is to sneak up and psychotically murder the poor unsuspecting souls. Executions are done in three different fashions; wussy murder, semi-gruesome murder, and OH MY GOD! murder. (Ok, so I made those terms up. But you get the idea.) The way you carry out each type is by holding in the attack button in for different periods of time. There are a number of different types of weapons to choose from for executions, like metal bats, glass shards, and even plastic bags, each with their own exclusive murder-style. My personal favorite is the machete. (I wonder if that makes me a bad person ) Even with so many weapons to choose from, the murders get old fast since, throughout the game, you see them over and over and over again.
Then again, if youre the type of sick freak who enjoys watching people sufferlike Starkweatherthen I guess youll be content with watching these repeating murders, especially since the graphics are so precise. While youll find better graphics in games like Splinter Cell and Unreal Tournament 2004, the unique style of visuals used in Manhunt is aesthetically pleasing. When carrying out an execution, your screen goes from in-game action to an abstract home-video camera type view. This gives the killings a little more character which ultimately makes them more desirable.
Audibly, however, is where the game truly shines. Each voice actor (especially Starkweather) performs their role so perfectly that its scary. The inflections in the voices of the characters and the outlandish charisma of Starkweather give Manhunt a special, personal characteristic not found in most games. Also, every enemy has more than enough different comments and sayings to keep the game fresh. Youll hardly ever hear someone say the same thing twice within five or ten minutes, as in many games. Even the music in Manhunt is off the rocker. Its scary and effective, especially since the music gets more dramatic when youre spotted. Sound effects are just as they should be, like most Rockstar games.
I suppose one of the only negative aspects of Manhunt is the fact that its too damn repetitive. Even though there are over 20 levels, a majority of them will remind you of the last. And when you shoot for the best possible murder when executing enemies every time, youll be seeing a lot of the same thing. This game is pretty long, too. Manhunts about 30 hours on the easiest setting, which is saying something. Its not necessarily an easy game, either. Odds are you wont be playing it through a second time right after you beat it, even if the ending is quite satisfying. But with the over-used killings, the repetitive gameplay, and similar AI patterns, youll get bored pretty quickly.
Overall, the games worth a rent if youre over 18, of course. However, if its an action-stealth title youre looking for, there are definitely better choices out there, like Pandora Tomorrow and Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes. Although, if you simply must add the most gruesome and horrifying title to ever hit the gaming industry to your collection, you wont be sorry.
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