Gamezone.com - November 24th 2003
 

Gamezone Review

The majority of us enjoy different forms of entertainment, whether it be video games, movies, sports, and so on. Some of us enjoy a more action based format, while others really crave puzzle solving, mysteries, or a wide variety of other things. Many times, movies and games can be used to mess with our heads or make us feel uncomfortable, with big screen films like Seven or gaming titles like GTA III being used as escape opportunities that delve into the dark side of human nature rather than seeing or playing the “good guy” all the time. Well, Rockstar has been famous for making gaming titles that tend to revolve around just about anything and everything illegal, and their new title for the PS2 called Manhunt is no exception. What happens when a disturbing shock plot like the movie 8mm meets a game like Metal Gear Solid head on? Read on to find out …

Manhunt opens as James Cash (a man guilty of crimes too heinous to mention) is walked down death row and is executed by lethal injection for the entire world to see. Soon after, he wakes up in a room to the sound of a voice and is told that a man is offering him a second chance … a man known only as “the director”. Cash is not being given a second chance at life to right wrongs and save the innocent though as some plots go. Instead, the director is a man who tapes and sells snuff and murder films, and he wants Cash to be the star in his new grisly murder movies. Cash is then unleashed into the run down and gritty Carcer City streets, and his job is to kill the roving gangs that have been paid to kill him for the camera before they get to him first.

OK … here’s where the really violent part of the game comes out. The thugs that walk the streets are tough and looking to kill, so Cash has to remain extremely quiet when moving around them but also needs to dispose of them in a number of disturbing ways for the man who saved his life and his cameras. Whenever you approach an enemy from behind, the L1 button will target the bad guy, and when it turns to a white flashing color, you hold down the attack button as long as you can. It will change from white to yellow to red, each color representing a more brutal style of execution, and it is important to be as vicious as possible when performing killings since they all play into getting a better rating at the end of the stage and unlocking four new bonus areas of the game. A white target (hasty killing) usually is just a fast disposal … like asphyxiating your enemy with a plastic bag, while moving into the red (gruesome) areas goes into such things as decapitations, dismemberments, disemboweling, and a number of other pretty sick disposal methods that I won’t go into detail about for the sake of GZ fans with weak stomachs.

All violence aside, the gameplay is pretty solid. Manhunt is a 3rd person title, and the controls are responsive and worked well, both for the sneaking around aspect and the heads up melee fighting if you happen to get spotted. The majority of the game and the object over all is stealth though, and similar to Metal Gear Solid, Cash can silently walk around, strafe along walls, or hide out in dark, shadowed areas to avoid detection and get the jump on an unsuspecting hunter. He can also hit walls to lure in someone, or throw items like bottles, bricks, and even the severed head of an opponent to make noise and bring hunters to him, rather than risking death himself by stepping out in the middle of an open courtyard or something.

Aside from the stealth gameplay, which was a lot of fun, another unique little thing about Manhunt was the use of the PS2 headset for anyone who has one. When using the headset, it will actually separate out the voice of the director from the rest of the game so he will speak to you directly into your ear. In addition, yelling into the microphone will also cause the hunters to hear you and could alert them to your position … so if you’re using it you have to remain as quiet as you are trying to make Cash be on screen.

Graphically, Manhunt looks really good and sets the tone well. The environment has a run down, abandoned, and “yukky” kind of look to it, similar to games like Resident Evil or Silent Hill, and the streets are littered with garbage and tons of four letter words. The animations were decent for the characters, and one of the coolest features of the game is how the camera will change from the 3rd person perspective while you are controlling Cash to a grainy 8mm kind of view and footage (like you are actually viewing the game on a movie camera) when you perform an execution, complete with blood squirting up and splattering the lens. Cash will also deteriorate as he takes damage, showing cuts, bruises, and becoming spattered with his own (or his enemies) blood along the way.

The sound to Manhunt also just adds to the game’s overall dark feel, as the music has an industrial, chugging kind of sound to it that will escalate if Cash is spotted. You will also be able to hear Cash’s heartbeat as he hides out in the shadows, and the thugs roaming around are foul mouthed and spew out a ton of taunts, insults, and more four letter words than I’ve heard in most R rated movies … not to mention if you have them on the ground they will beg and plead with you with things like “I have kids!” right before you drive your heel down into their windpipe.

Overall, Manhunt is an extremely violent game which will probably have a lot of people walking away feeling a little “not right” after playing it. When you remove all of the gritty, hardcore violence you are left with a fun stealth game that tends to be pretty addictive, even despite the horrible things that you are forced to do along the way. If you are a fan of stealth and 3rd person action titles like Metal Gear Solid (and are an adult), Manhunt could be a good buy for you.

As a quick note to parents who are reading this, I know that sometimes the overall thought can be “well, I know it has an M rating but it’s just a game”. Trust me on this one … kids under 17 should not be allowed to be anywhere around this game, and it contains scenes of some of the most disgusting killings that I have seen either in movies or in a game, not to mention being filled with more four letter words than you’d care to shake a stick at. If you’ve got kids, this is one of those titles that they should never know that you own.

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