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Playstation 2



Action / Stealth






Rockstar North



M (Mature)



Q4 2003



- If you can stand the disturbing nature of the game, a few good stealth elements

- Use of the headset to create extremely creepy atmosphere

- Makes Grand Theft Auto III seem like a Smurf Reunion Show



- Material too hard to stomach

- Could induce nightmares

- Linear to a fault



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Score: 6.8 /10


manhunt ps2 review          manhunt ps2 review


Has anyone started a pool as to when the mainstream media and federal governments will “find” Manhunt and attempt to ban it?  If not, I think I’ll start one.


If there was ever a game that deserved an “M” rating from the ESRB, Manhunt is it.  What other game can you graphically decapitate someone with razor wire then use the head as a projectile?  Or suffocate somebody with a plastic bag?  Manhunt also raises several other questions: What the hell do you have to do to get an “AO” (Adults Only) rating?  Is the grotesqueness of Manhunt’s content really offset the gameplay elements?  Will parents buy it for their precocious offspring?  Will there be crimes blamed on the game?





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Questions aside, Manhunt is a truly disturbing game.  In fact, I lost sleep and had one or two nightmares over the last couple of months as I slowly reviewed it.  I’d like to think I’m not squeamish – at least when it comes to videogame violence.  After all, it’s not real; it’s all make-believe, right?  Accident scenes, the Kennedy assassination, slaughterhouse documentaries and the like, those all kick me in the stomach and drain the blood from my face.  Manhunt kicked me in the stomach, too.



You play as James Earl Cash, a death row inmate, a protagonist in a sicko’s snuff film.  Across 24 levels (4 are bonus levels), Cash is tasked with brutally killing roving thugs to the delight of director Starkweather, who periodically encourages Cash to be as vicious as possible.  Though the stealth elements are really top notch – the audio detection by the opponent AI in particular – if you don’t have a stomach of steel and are disturbed by in-your-face violence, you should stay well away.


The setting is the ultra-gritty Carcer City and Rockstar North did a great job getting the grit level just right.  Everything is dirty and run down, making for plenty of places to hide (“Safe Zones”) and the perfect breeding ground for the violent gangs that have one purpose: To kill James Earl Cash.  (Not many tourists around.)


Until you acquire guns far into the game, the pace could be described as “plodding” by anyone expecting a little more action.  Cash is limited to melee weapons for much of the game and he’ll spend a ton of time drifting through the shadows and just watching “targets” before making his move.  Careful movement is really your only chance for survival.  Careful not only to remain unseen, but also unheard.  The USB headset is put to good use in what be Manhunt’s best feature.  Playing with the headset isn’t required but when you have it plugged in any direction from Starkweather comes directly through the earpiece and any noise you make into the mic can be picked up by the enemy AI.  Coughing can net you a quick death!


manhunt ps2 review          manhunt ps2 review


However, not even the innovation with the headset or the cruel dismemberments can blot out a maddening linearity.  Rockstar might best be known for its Grand Theft Auto series – a wide-open, go anywhere, do what you want to, experience.  With Manhunt you have one way to go and that’s about it.


For every 30 minutes or so of Manhunt I needed to play an hour of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA), Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg (GC), DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball (XB) – anything that lightened my soul a little from Manhunt’s violent depictions.  And you’ll probably do the same thing if you can’t take the violence – but then you probably won’t be playing it if you’re one of those people.  If you can stomach the gruesome action and really, really like stealth games with super-aware enemy AI, you might find a little challenge with Manhunt.


- Omni

(February 1, 2004)

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