Manhunt Review

Review Format:

Playstation 2

You will be relieved to hear that Manhunt isn’t a dating game starring Mary Kate and Ashley Olson. In fact it couldn’t be more further from the truth. It’s one of the most violent, demoralising games ever to grace the Playstation 2. It will therefore come as no surprise to learn that Manhunt came from the creators of the infamous Grand Theft Auto series. This controversial new title by Rockstar Games has already been banned in New Zealand, caused quite a stir in the World’s press, and probably shocked quite a few uninformed parents at Christmas. Want to know what all the fuss is about? Read on…

Condemned to Death Row, James Earl Cash is given a chance of survival by becoming the target in a brutal blood sport. Devised by the sadistic Valiant Video Enterprises, this extreme reality show is reminiscent of the classic Schwarzenegger movie ‘The Running Man’. Making his way through the gang-infested Carcer City, Cash faces a simple choice - kill or be killed. A bloodthirsty director, who will do anything to boost ratings, manipulates every situation.

With insane, machete-wielding gang members walking the streets, it’s not wise to make your presence known. Stealth is the only way to survive, and direct confrontations should be avoided at all costs. Each gang member is at least as strong as you, probably better equipped, and very capable of pummelling your brain to pieces. Everyone should be treated with extreme caution, and only approached slowly when their back is turned.

While you can take on thugs un-armed, you will soon start to collect a vicious arsenal of weapons as you progress. In addition to performing a strong and weak attack, each weapon has a special deathblow, which can only be performed by sneaking up on the enemy. One of the first weapons, and indeed one of the most shocking, is the plastic bag. Get close enough to an unsuspecting victim, and you are encouraged to smother his mouth and nose with the bag until he suffocates – nice. Other special moves include stabbing a shard of glass through someone’s head, or ramming a crowbar through their throat. Later weapons include a nail-gun, a cleaver, hand-axe, machete, hammer, various firearms and the serial-killers weapon of choice, the chainsaw.

Of course, all this carnage won’t go unnoticed, so you had better hide the bodies out of sight – and yourself for that matter. The only way to get around safely is in the shadows. While darkness normally indicates danger, here it offers your only protection. If however an enemy sees you running into the shadows, your cover will be blown, so be careful. Equally, pay attention to what surface you are walking on. A gravel floor will make noise if you start running, so take it slowly if you don’t want to raise suspicion.

Levels are set in a variety of dark and dirty locations, and each come with a set of goals. With Rockstar North’s trademark humour, one objective requires you to cut off the power supply to a watchtower. Doing so will turn off the guard’s porn show, causing him to leave his post to investigate. Another mission involves dragging a heavy petrol tank across the level to start up a vehicle. Weighing a lot, the tank will make a lot of noise as it scrapes along the floor. Tasks are varied, often quite difficult, and normally end in violence. While the gameplay is fairly linear, it suits the premise of being controlled by an unseen power.

Graphically, there is nothing to fault with Manhunt. The highly detailed character models are truly menacing, and become increasingly bloody as you inflict more damage. Lighting and music are used to create a tense and disturbing atmosphere. The A.I is also pretty impressive, and gang members will retreat to get help if the odds go in your favour. Neat graphical touches such as humorously abusive vandalism and corpses hanging from hooks immerse you deeper into the insane world of Carcer City.

There are two difficulty levels to cater for all levels of gamers. For beginners, there’s the aptly named ‘Fetish’ mode. People with a death wish may want to attempt the ‘Hardcore’ difficulty. Manhunt rewards ratings-boosting performances, such as impressive executions, with pieces of unlockable artwork. Combine two halves of an image to unlock a cheat code that can be entered during gameplay.

This is quite possibly the most violent, and brutally sadistic game I have ever played. Manhunt is best described as a bloody mix between Grand Theft Auto and Metal Gear Solid, which is about as good of a recommendation that I can give.

I must stress however, this game really isn’t suitable for under 18’s (or under 17’s in the USA), and contains some quite disturbing scenes. I know that will make many of you want to play the game more. As long as you’re of sound mind, this is an enjoyably dark, superior, psychological stealth-em-up. Another triumph from Rockstar North, that belongs in every adult’s games collection.

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