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Action / Stealth









M (Mature)



May 2004



- Extremely addictive

- Excellent gameplay mechanics

- Original storyline concept

- AI is challenging



- Questionable content

- Glorified Violence

- Lame Ending

- More varied death animations needed

- More weapons would have been nice



Review: Manhunt (PS2)

Review: Splinter Cell - Pandora Tomorrow (XB)

Review: Splinter Cell (PC)

Review: Thief II - The Metal Age (PC)



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Score: 8.5 / 10


Manhunt deserves all the notoriety it receives. The game is quite simply brutal. However, something that it doesnít receive a lot of credit for is actually how much fun the game really is to play. Normally, most gamers arenít averse to a little violence. A little pixilated blood never really hurt anyone, especially if it was within the context of an end that could be considered just. Manhunt pushes the moral boundaries of what could be considered acceptable as entertainment, but backs up the controversy with solid gameplay mechanics.


manhunt pc review          manhunt pc review


Convicted to die, you play a death row inmate James Cash who has just been executed on national television. You wake up a few hours later not dead, but forced to play a deadly game of snuff television. With hidden cameras everywhere, you are put into abandoned environments where your every move is on film, and you are encouraged by an unknown voice, through an earpiece, to kill patrolling guards named Hunters. Thus the storyline is set with Cash killing to survive.


The game is essentially a stealth action game with a third person camera view. The controls are very easy and intuitive, and your objective in each level will be to reach the end of the environment.  To execute Hunters, you sneak up behind them and press and hold on the attack button. The longer the button is held, the more brutal the execution. When an execution is performed, the game cuts to an in-game cut scene that resembles a shot from an old video camera, thereby creating an even creepier feel.





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There are many different weapons that can be found and used during the game. Some of these weapons can only be used once while others can be used over and over. For instance, there is the plastic bag and the glass shard; both can only be used for one execution. Other weapons such as the baseball bat, crowbar, and machete can be used over and over. Each weapon has three different death animations that can be viewed depending on how long the attack button is held. For 


instance the most brutal execution with the baseball bat has Cash choking the Hunter until they pass out to their knees from having their wind pipe crushed from the bat. Then Cash takes a full swing at their head, causing pieces of their skull and brain to splatter on the closest wall.


While such an act can no doubt be universally reviled, I donít know how it can possibly be justified that this would be entertaining, but when it comes down to it, it is. The sheer outrageousness of it all is enough to be entertaining and with each new weapon, I couldnít wait to see how sick the new execution would be. Of course, even the most seasoned stealth gamer will be seen once in a while. As such, you can engage in melee combat as well as combat with firearms in the later levels. Although the firefights in the game fit well within the gameplay mechanics, contextually, it feels a little out of place, and in my opinion this is the weakest portion of the game. There are no executions with any firearms, and I feel this is one place where the design team could have tapped into something interesting.


During the game, the variety of the objectives varies just enough to keep things interesting. Through a couple of levels, you will need to lead a third party through an environment without having either of you discovered. In another, your family is being held captive, and you cannot be discovered lest your family is executed.


The AI is also quite good, and the variety of the styles of enemies is darkly humorous. Each set of levels has a different gang of Hunters. My particular favorite is the asylum gang. The AI voiceover for each gang is funny and varied enough to keep from getting old. The meticulous gamer will be rewarded as the AI is sensitive enough to be a challenge for most gamers. Not only will they investigate the location of the thrown brick, but they will check out where the brick was thrown from. Also, if discovered, they will call for reinforcements and more Hunters will come to attack you.


manhunt pc review          manhunt pc review


While the executions are shocking at first, disturbingly enough, the gruesomeness wears off after a while, and I was longing for more death animations and weapons. Also, some of the death animations are the same for some of the weapons. For instance, deaths with the meat cleaver are the same as deaths with the machete. It would have been nice to have a little more variety. However, this will definitely have me looking forward to any sequel. While the ending does not leave much hanging, the overall satisfaction that I felt from completing the game was somewhat lackluster. As far as replay value is concerned, after completing the game there is not much left to do. There are some screenshots that are thrown in as bonus, but apart from playing through the game on the higher difficulty setting, there is nothing there.


While this game definitely deserves its ESRB rating, even for sane adults, I feel the content should be questioned as to why this game would be entertaining.  What I found is that it comes down to the challenge that the game presents. The executions are merely an outrageous form of horror meant to shock the gamer, much like any other horror game or movie. What makes the game entertaining is the challenge of navigating your way through an environment silently and undetected. The horror of how this is accomplished is a part of the storyline, but is not an end in itself. Although it can no doubt be debated as to whether or not such a game would succeed if the context was wildly different and much tamer, the fact is that gamers as a group want something different, and challenging. This game delivers both of these, even if it does so in a manner that pushes my and is sure to push your, moral flexibility.  Manhunt is sick, but it deserves both the success, and the revulsion it receives.


- Mark Leung

(May 31, 2004)


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