Review by Karl Krueger



Graphics: 9

Sound: 10

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

Remember when Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was considered the most violent video game you could buy? Rockstar does. In response to the public outcry (more of an "outwhimper," really) Rockstar flips the bird and steps even further over the line in the sand. It was time for gamers to take the role of James Earl Cash and get brutal. We're talking BRUTAL.

James Earl Cash (is that a great name or what?) is sentenced to death for murder, what else? We see him strapped in the chair, then blackness. When the picture comes back on, he's alone, with a voice on the PA system saying "wake up, you're not dead." After being instructed to put an earpiece on, Cash is informed that he has been given a second life. But first, he has a job to do. He has been hired by a snuff film "director" (the man babbling on in the earpiece) to be the new star in his movies. He gets to make his way from location to location, tearing through random thugs as he goes. If you're thinking "What a great plot" buy the game now. If you're thinking "What a great plot" but you're being sarcastic, read on.

GTA's violence is almost cartoony in its excess. Pulling people out of their cars and beating them with a baseball bat is pretty unsettling, but doing it in broad daylight as cars honk at you is humorous. When it escalates to the point of running over police cars with a tank, it's detached from reality. Manhunt is much, much more real.

The very first thing you do in the tutorial level is learning how to suffocate a person with a plastic bag. Here's how it works: When you have a weapon, you can either duke it out, which is incredibly stupid unless the game forces you to (which it sometimes does) or sneak up behind your assailant/victim and execute them. When you get close enough, Cash raises his hands as if ready to pounce. This is your cue to hold down the attack button for an execution. There are 3 execution levels: Hasty, Violent, and Gruesome. Hasty executions are quick and dirty (as the name implies). Hold the button for a couple of seconds and you get a Violent execution, which is always painful and always realistic. Hold it for a few more seconds for a Gruesome execution and suddenly you're watching a slasher movie. Let's use the Baseball Bat as an example.

Hasty: 2 quick strikes to the head.

Violent: A stab in the gut followed by a hard downward swing to the head.

Gruesome: Choke the guy, let go and as he's on his knees, wind up and splatter his head on the wall.

Depending on what kind of person you are, you will either yell "AWESOME!" or get a little disgusted when you see most of the executions for the first time. But, and this may be the creepiest thing about the game, after an hour of playing you will be completely desensitized to the violence.

Speaking of, after getting used to the stealth gameplay and playing through the first few levels, some people get bored. Admittedly, the first 4 levels get repetitive and you start to think the entire game will be sneaking up on thugs with a baseball bat. The hardcore people that really get into the game play further, and after you get through "White Trash" it gets pretty varied and pretty difficult. The weapons get deadlier and the gangs get tougher. Speaking of gangs... oh, the gangs.

The enemies in this game are far above GTA's pedestrians, and even MGS soldiers and Tenchu samurai in that they take longer to forget you were ever around. If you run through gravel, they run to investigate the noise. If they see you run into a shadow, you can't hide, and they usually say something hilarious like "Come on, man! I saw you run in there!" The further you go in the game, the longer the enemies stick around to investigate the area. Also, if there is more than one enemy chasing you, there is almost no way to fight them directly and win. This is a sometimes frustrating but appreciated touch of realism.

If turning up the sound and constantly looking for somewhere to hide isn't immersive enough for you, you can plug in a USB headset to complete the experience. Now, the Director is in your ear, and only in your ear. And the microphone picks up every sound you make. When you would normally knock on a wall to attract the enemy, you can simply yell, "I'M OVER HERE ASSHOLE!" which is fun in and of itself.

At first, this game will seem like a condensed version of Grand Theft Auto, but eventually you come to appreciate the game, its realism, its nice twisty plot, and its horror movie atmosphere all by itself. Unless you despise brutal, realistic violence and/or excessive language, Manhunt is worth a try.


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Last updated: Sunday, April 22, 2007 08:51 PM