|Submitted by Zanzibar |
(Apr 19, 2005)
Here's a game for all you closet sadists out there, a really ultraviolent, gore-packed slaughterfest that pushes society's standards of decency to their very limits and leaves you sitting alone in the dark wondering whether it's as make-believe as you think it should be. Well, maybe that's a bit melodramatic, but the concept sounds good to this reviewer. Rockstar's Manhunt for the Playstation 2 is quite possibly the most grotesquely violent game on the open market, so make sure you know what to expect before picking it up. That being said, it's also one of the most difficult games around, especially if you fancy yourself somewhat of a completionist. If you're looking for an intensely challenging third-person action/survival horror experience, and you don't mind seeing a little brain matter splattered across the walls, then Manhunt's for you.
You play as James Earl Cash, a convict executed by the state for his crimes. Unfortunately for him the execution was a ruse, and his life is about to change so drastically he'll find himself wishing he'd died on that prison table. It seems that his death was faked by a disgraced Hollywood director who wants Cash to star in his latest series of underworld snuff films. Cash is released into the streets of Carcer City, a run-down haven for crooks, where he'll have to fight for his life against hired gangs and "hunters", all for the amusement of the cameras, which are never far away. It's kill or be killed, with no quarter given and none expected. Does Cash have what it takes? That entirely depends on you.
Here's Manhunt in a nutshell: murder as many gangbangers as you can as fast as you can, spilling as much blood as possible in the attempt. Sounds like a recipe for success, right? Well, it is surprisingly refreshing playing so gory a game. You aren't killing zombies or aliens or anything like that, you're brutally murdering human beings. It sounds a little intense but Rockstar can always be counted on to take that extra step, and you hardly feel bad about wasting the crazy bozos that are hounding after your blood. This game isn't simply a beat 'em up, however. Far from it, if you play the game that way you'll find yourself dead more often than not. Instead the emphasis is on sneaking up behind people and executing them with various weapons. There are some levels, or "acts" as they're known, that are purely shoot-outs but you'll spend most of your time cutting throats and gouging out eyeballs. After every act the director will rate you on how good it looked for the cameras. Fast action, lots of kills, and the bloodiest possible executions will net you the highest ratings. Three-star ratings will unlock bonus artwork while five-star one's will unlock various cheat codes, and completing every fourth level makes a certain minigame available.
In typical Rockstar fashion, Manhunt's visuals aren't all that spectacular. The game has truckloads of style, but the characters are the same blocky, choppy one's you'll find in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which is a bad thing for Manhunt considering the game is a lot smaller than the monster GTA. You'll notice that during many of the execution scenes weapons and body parts will phase through one another, which really detracts from the experience as a whole since you're expecting utter realism during these gruesome moments. The environments are much better looking, sporting enough detail to keep them from being bland, and are slightly reminiscent of those in Max Payne, though with far fewer interactive objects. The shadows you utilize to hide from enemies aren't bad but they aren't very good either. If you're looking to pick this game up, you'd be better off getting it for the X-Box.
As for the sound, that's what this game is all about. You'll bang on walls to attract attention, throw bottles (or heads) to send hunters on wild goose chases, and use the sounds your enemies make to locate them on your radar. The unique thing about the radar is that it displays sounds. Those that you make flash as concentric red circles eminating from the center which, if there's an enemy standing in the area that flashes, will alert them to your presence and cause them to investigate. There are three levels of noises you can make, each of which is displayed by a larger circle. The loudest noises, like banging metal or smashing glass, fill the entire radar and are sure to attract attention. Running represents the medium circle, though because it remains for as long as you sprint it's quite noisy. You've got to know where the hunters are if you plan on taking off. Sneaking up behind enemies is very risky business because if you step on any broken glass or gravel you'll send out a tiny sound circle that, if you're right behind them, will immediatly alert them to your presence. You'll always have your eye on the radar. Enemy position is also displayed, including the direction they're facing, but only when they make noise (like walking or talking). For added fun you can even plug in a USB Headset and shout and swear at the hunters to attract they're attention.
Like most any third-person game, it's fun just exploring the environments and taking in the scenery. The problem here is that, unless you're very careful about it, a skinhead with a baseball bat's gonna interrupt your sight-seeing by putting a nice big hole in your skull. Manhunt's biggest fault is that, because you spend so much time skulking in the shadows, you often feel very restricted and unsure of where you can safely go. You'll quite often find yourself sitting and waiting, learning patrol routes just to dodge them. The murdering also gets tiresome. Once you've seen each execution for every weapon and the shock's worn off, they start to get repetitive. There's no satisfaction in slitting thirty throats or busting open thirty skulls. You want to just punch the hell out of these guys, both for the challenge and because the hits in this game feel real and heavy, but that''ll give you a crappy rating upon completion and will eat up much of your time, which is a bad thing. The final problem is that this game is just too hard. Three of the five stars are garnered from style, which has to do with the severity and variety of your executions, one comes from completing the act within a certain time limit, which are all rediculously short, and the fifth can only be had by playing on hard. The problem with hard is...it's HARD! On normal you've got the immensely helpful radar, which is actually more like sonar since it shows you sounds, but on hard it's gone. You've got to do it by memory, and the enemies change up their actions a little just to throw you off. It's just too much.
A definite challenge, and a breath of fresh air for those who are fed up with censorship and developers playing it safe, but many people will find this game just too damn hard. The content is there but you have to fight like a daemon to access it. Manhunt's really only for those seeking a good challenge (and a nice thrill).