"One of the most violent video games ever released"
If you look up the word violence in the dictionary you would get a definition in words. Manhunt is the video game definition of violence. Its gritty, violent, controversial and a whole lot of mature themes all rolled into one. But is it a good game?
Manhunt is the story of a criminal on deathrow given a second chance, but with a catch. You play as James Cash, convicted and sentenced to death his execution takes place one night, or does it. Five hours after Cash is meant to be executed he wakes up in a delirious state of mind. All he can hear is a man telling him to pick up the ear piece and from then on he does what the director says or he ends up a dead man.
The gameplay of Manhunt is a mix of stealth and action. As cash you have to traverse through various environments to reach the end of the scene. In these environments are hunters, trained to beat the living daylights out of our main character and Cash has the authority to kill them. It's all in the name of reality tv, reality tv on steroids that is. The primary goal of Manhunt is to stay alive, the secondary goal is to execute hunters in the most violent manner possible with a multitude of weapons. As you move through the game, the director will offer you hints and what you need to do to progress. It is this man that will offer Cash his freedom, so he better do what he says. However, as you will discover quite quickly, the director is a very two faced character and can cause some havoc for Cash.
Each environment is patrolled by gangs such as the hoods, bounty hunters and corrupt SWAT teams. Sometimes they travel in groups, other times alone but taking them on in groups is ill advised. There are two ways to defeat a hunter, either beating them to death or using the correct stealth tactics. Beating them to death one on one is not too hard, but throw in another hunter and Cash is going to be in a world of hurt. Sneaking up behind a hunter triggers a new animation for cash, and this means that an execution move can now be performed. When an execution occurs the camera changes to a blurry picture, much like a television and shows Cash dealing out some justice to the unfortunate hunter.
Sometimes the hunters travel in packs and you will have to lure them away one by one. Manhunt requires a great deal of patience and the violence and action usually only comes in short, quick spurts whilst the rest of the time is spent sneaking around the environment trying not to be detected. Cash has numerous ways he can lure Hunters out of hiding. He can hit the wall with an object whilst hiding, make noise by running or knocking over objects (the game appears to feature real time physics). If he makes noise whilst the Hunters are already alerted they will then know his actual location and he better start running.
The fact with Manhunt is there is going to be people out there who will not be able to play this game due to the realistic violence and scary atmosphere. Whilst the gore levels aren't of a high level, the violence at times can be quite over the top and at a level which hasn't been seen in a video game before today. If you find that you can't play games such as Silent Hill and Project Zero then it is very much advised you try this game before you buy.
Cash can only carry a set amount of weapons. The weapons also have different colour categories. If he comes across another weapon in the same category as one he is carrying, he must drop the other one or choose not to pick the new one up. Choosing the right weapon can be the key to a successful mission and the most deadly or violent weapon sometimes isn't the best. Weapons include plastic bag, glass shard, two baseball bats, crow bar, wire, brick, bottle and others. The brick and bottle can't be used for an execution move but can be used to attract hunters.
The hunters themselves are incredibly smart, even during the first few stages or "scenes". As mentioned before taking them on one on one isn't a difficult task for Cash but in packs they are deadly. Most of them carry weapons (which Cash can pickup after he has disposed of them). They will hide, and try and surprise cash. They also carry much more deadly weapons then available to Cash at the time, so to upgrade your weapon you're going to have to outsmart a Hunter first.
Control wise Manhunt is quite impressive and easy to play. The left analogue moves cash with the square and X button used for either hitting enemies or performing an execution. Holding down L1 will target the hunter making it easier to either perform an execution or hit them. One quirk with the controls is the right analogue. Even brushing it will force you into first person mode which can at times become annoying. Looking down during this mode does show Cash's feet however, a nice touch which is rarely seen in games today.
Manhunt takes place in cordoned off streets. As soon as Cash leaves the prison, he is straight out onto the streets searching for hunters. As you move through the environments you will pass through smashed up buildings and areas which seem to have been custom built for this slash show the director is creating. Sometimes you will have to find implements from hunters to move further such as the crowbar which is used to break locks. Other times you will be tasked with having to defeat the hunter before a door will open. It is possible to pass through some areas without encountering hunters if you use enough stealth, but it is highly unlikely. The environments are linked from scene to scene which is a nice touch but you can't move backwards into other scenes once they are complete.
Visually Manhunt is not a masterpiece but is no slouch. Both Cash and the Hunters animate well, and the weapons being held by Cash on his body is a nice touch (bat hanging on back, brick in back pocket etc). The graphics also raise the violence level with blood splattering on both Cash and the camera during executions. Sound wise the game is very atmospheric and this is where most of the fear is created. The hunters have some very coarse language to spit out at Cash and there is also coarse language at times featured on the walls of buildings.
You can use a USB headset with Manhunt which will increase the immersion factor ten fold. Should you make an actual noise such as cough or breath heavily the hunters will be able to hear you and track you down. The director also speaks to you via this instead of the television speaker if you are using the headset.
Overall Manhunt is an interesting game that will probably satisfy the need of both stealth and gamers who like a fright. As mentioned before there will be people who won't be able to handle the gore levels, extreme level of violence or coarse language but for those who can Manhunt offers some challenging gameplay, with some stealth action.