Paul Michael Glaser’s 1987 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Running Man, was about a prison inmate selected to play on the titular game show. These people were hunted down in abandoned areas. If they made it out alive… they won their freedom. Rockstar Games’ Manhunt is a modern rendition of that Sci-fi camp classic, and a bit more gruesome to boot.
It is one of the most violent games I have ever seen, bar none. The game is filled with fun times, but there are some faults. I’m just glad to see that the game isn’t trying to sell itself just on it’s disturbingly large gore factor.
James Earl Cash is about to meet his maker at the local county jail. However, some other folks up high, see things differently. Instead of being lethal, Cash’s injections are only sedatives. After being taken off the prison compound in a comatose state, Cash is taken to Carcer City, an abandoned metropolis that serves as the setting of Manhunt. As Cash wakes up, a voice instructs him to put on a headset located on a nearby table. In doing so, Cash and the player learn that this voice is the Director. This nice fellow runs a snuff film company selling nothing but real-life slasher flicks. The slasher part is provided by your fights with the Hunters roaming around the city doing their best to kill you. Your escapades are his next movie. The longer you live, the more kills he can get on camera; so it’s helpful to do as he instructs because he does want you to get pretty far. If Cash can make it through alive, you have your freedom and the Director can make some cool cash.
Now, a bit of warning, the game isn’t about running and gunning. If you enjoy games of the Doom variety, then this game is not for you. The game is spent waiting in shadows, waiting for the perfect moment to violently dispatch your foes. If you go out with guns blazing, your end will not be unlike Bonnie & Clyde’s. You can throw objects (and heads) to distract your foes, hit on walls to fool them, and wait in the shadows for a few minutes as you stalk your prey. The game is slow, but rewarding in a horrid way. I hate to say it, but the kills are satisfying – especially when you lop the head off of a Hunter that has been giving you problems.
I was glad when I realized that the game was not selling itself on gore alone, but I have to elaborate. The game is violent, excessively violent, and parents should heed the ESRB “M” rating. One can dispatch the Hunters by simple means of fighting them hand to hand and with guns, but the true gore factor is in the executions. Sneak up behind a Hunter and hold down the action button, the longer you hold it down, the more violent the execution. As you execute the Hunters the game switches to a view that emulates an old video camera catching the action. Sometimes it can be repetitive but a healthy variety of weapons are at your disposal which switches up the different executions. Like I said before, these executions are extremely violent including some shocking multi-hit decapitations with a machete.
The palette of this game can be described in one word – dark. The grainy effect present in Silent Hill 2 makes its appearance in Manhunt as well. Some people didn’t care for it, but I liked the atmosphere it helped create. This game is rife with shadows – the perfect places for our convict avatar to hide and bide his time. The textures of the environments are a mixed bag. Some give you the creeps – dirty walls with blood stains everywhere – and then there are a few textures that are low quality, but overall the graphics do create a dreadful atmosphere. The character animations are spot on, especially with the executions. Makes you wonder if they motion captured them – shudder. The lighting in the game creates halos and other realistic effects, without flooding the environments and sacrificing the aesthetic. Remember, the very darkness is a game play element.
As I stated before, the game is about stealth. Cash has to be a shadow, because the Hunters roaming the streets of Carcer City aren’t dumb. Their line of sight is just like any normal person’s would be, and unlike in some games they can actually hear you coming. As in moth stealth action games, once you alert the enemies, they start a search. At that point it is wise to find a safe zone. Usually safe zones are areas that are extremely dark and are perfect hiding spots, so good that the enemy can be inches away and not even see you. Now, that is not that realistic, but a necessary evil to avoid constant frustration. Don’t get the wrong idea, the game can be unforgiving. I was never frustrated, but my gaming prowess was indeed tested. The only big compliant I have about the game play is that at times it gets repetitive.
The audio is fitting for the game. The music mostly has been assigned the job of creating ambience. The score will heat up if you are being pursued or if the hunters are actively searching for your hide. The voice acting is great, and the Hunter’s comments and idle chatter is a lot of times funny. The game tries to create some tension with the use of Cash’s heartbeat. All the time, every hour of the game, we hear Cash’s heartbeat. It was cool at first, but I wish there was an option to turn it off.
The PC version of the game has awesome controls, but that’s usually the norm for console ports. If anything, the ports end up having better controls. The same holds true for this title. It is quite easy to sneak around and execute thy enemies with brutal ease.
The game has no multiplayer, but that’s alright. A person can easily spend 40 hours playing this game, with the challenge provided. The game also has features you can unlock depending on your speed and how many executions you have performed. One can also go back to previous levels to try and improve their ratings.
The game is dark and gritty with loads of atmosphere. Very few textures are of low quality. The character design of the Hunters deserves recognition.
The game sounds great and Hunters crack me up. I just wish we can turn off the frickin’ heartbeat… it was cool? at first…
Game Play: 90
I love the challenge this game offers. The big problem is that it can be repetitive at times, but stick with it and you come out rewarded.
The game has awesome difficulty and I like that. Games today are generally too easy. No multiplayer, but one does want to strife for perfection of your executions.