Rockstar games dont want to create controversy. They just want to make interesting games. They just happen to make interesting games that attract the attention of the media and congress that use their games as a scapegoat to blame for the state of the world. Their latest opus Manhunt is no different. It may be their most violent game to date, and its really, really fun.
This game takes the genre of survival horror to the hilt. It reinvents the rules set by classics like Metal Gear Solid and more recently Splinter Cell in the realm of stealth action with full sensory audio that details every sound effect around you from the taunting of your pursuers to your own footfalls as you run around. This game was made for 5.1 audio. Sound, as well as shadows, is crucial to your survival; they can be your best defence or your worse enemy depending on how well you can master your surroundings.
Drawing from such sources as Jacobs Ladder and 8MM and the granddaddy of all Hunting man stories The Most Dangerous Game youre James Earl Cash, convicted murderer sentenced to lethal injection. You die, or at least the world thinks you did, but you awaken inside of a new hell, youre the new star of snuff film director Mr. Starkweathers new pet project, where youre forced to survive a night in a rundown part of Carcer City with numerous gangs and collected psychopaths all on the hunt for you. The only way to survive is to kill the opposition, as the director catches it all on tape in gruesome grainy detail. Your only hope may lie with an investigative reporter who has the information to finally put away Starkweather for good and finally give you the revenge youve been waiting for since you woke up to your Second life.
Getting back to the whole sound aspect, thats where the game shines the most in being innovative. Unlike Metal Gear Solid, which is based on the enemys field of vision, Manhunt uses sonar-based radar displays both your enemies and sound. Make noise, and a red circle will pulse out, if it reaches a gang member, theyll hear it and come looking for you. Lucky for you, youre smart enough to hide in the shadows before they saw you. You wait in the shadows until they decide to move back into position, thats when you make the kill. Using everything from plastic bags to bladed weaponry to make your silent assassinations you have no mercy for your hunters. Once youre behind your prey you hold either the square or X button for one of three kills, three being the highest and most gruesome. Once you let go the action cuts to grainy video footage of your opponent being killed. For some, this may give you nightmares.
The graphics are fittingly grimy and dirty, you may want to wash yourself after playing, its that filthy looking. Every place youll explore is run down and dead, from the junkyard to the city zoo is rotting and rusted, and teaming with gangs looking to collect your head. Every character in the game is styled appropriately to their gang; youve got everything from southern racists to baby mask-wearing killers this side of John Wayne Gacy. The character models are similar in construction from Vice City, but the damage incurred to them is far more sickeningly realistic. Take for instance the third level execution you can perform with a baseball bat. First you choke down your target to his knees, allowing you to batter up and take a crack at his skull, shattering with eggshell fragility, making it look like the casualties the day after Halloween. Oh and did I mention his grey matter goes all over the place, including yourself? Makes the satisfaction that you probably failed two execution attempts at this guy all the sweeter.
The controls arent overtly complicated. But some commands take a while to get used to. For one the act of silent execution takes timing to master, basically its hold down the button, then let go once youre close enough to make the kill. The shoulder buttons allow you to strafe left and right to cover more ground as you sneak by and around the area. You have two basic forms of attacks with the Triangle and X buttons; later in the game you use firearms, the control for that isnt too difficult to get around, for anyone whos used the aiming system in Splinter Cell its basically that. Theres no jump button, but jumping is really the last thing youd want to do to attract attention, so youre kept on the ground. Like Solid Snake, you can stick to walls and slide your way across in the shadows or tap the wall to gain attention to any nearby hoods.
I can already see the hoards of parents and senators outside of Rockstar HQ protesting this game. They finally did it; theyve made a game thats morally worse then Vice City. Instead of a psychotic yet likeable gangster, we have a unlikable scary death row inmate whos forced to kill to survive, but since hes doing this for the sole fact he was plucked out of certain death to do so and the anger he has for his situation, you actually pull for this character to finally get to the man who threw him into this in the first place and tear him a new one. Rockstar keeps coming up with these incredible ideas for games that keep getting flack for what they may or may not induce in impressionable kids. And they dont give a damn about all of it; they dont bow down to anyone. The real scary question is, what are they going to come up with next?
BEST FEATURE - The thrill of the hunt
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