Genre : Action
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar North
Release Date: April 20, 2004
In what can only be seen as an attempt to hold the record for most lawsuits filed against a game company, Rockstar has recently released Manhunt for Xbox. Luckily for them Joe Lieberman has yet to have one of his lackeys tell him of this game or I’m sure they would already have some form of legal action taken against them. So what makes this game so bad that it could warrant this kind of attention? Well just about every aspect of the game actually. There is an obscene amount of violence and mature language during just about every second of gameplay from start to finish. If you think you can stomach it we’ll begin our decent into madness together.
In Manhunt, you will play the role of James Earl Cash, a death row inmate sentenced to die by lethal injection. Luckily for your (or not so luckily as the case may be) your injection was no more than a heavy sedative. When you wake up you are in a hospital bed quite groggy from the drugs. A voice comes over the speaker and tells you to put the ear piece from the table on. If you listen to his direction you may come out of this alive. It appears this voice belongs to the man who has just saved your life and as repayment you are about to star in one of his movies. He isn’t your typical Hollywood director though, quite the contrary in fact. He is taking reality T.V. to the next level by pitting you in a fight to the death against the city’s many roving gangs and the only prize you win is your own life.
The game bills itself as a violent stealth game which is by and large the truth. Don’t expect this to be an action oriented title. In you are spotted by more than one assailant you better start running. It is almost impossible to fend off multiple attackers in a head on fight. This game is about staying in the shadows and stalking your prey. Like most stealth game you will play in the 3rd person perspective. One critical flaw this game has though is the camera system. If you are going to have a third person view it would be nice if you could swing the camera around you to survey the terrain, but instead when you move the right thumbstick you will be put in a first person view. This is incredibly annoying. There are essentially on two ways to look around a corner because of this limitation. The first way is to press your back to the wall and lean around the corner. Form this position you are also able to lunge out and strike an enemy who come to close to the wall. The other way is to use the black and white buttons to lean in the right and left directions respectively. These both have disadvantages associated with them. If you use the wall technique it is very slow to get to the corner, so an enemy may be on you before you can look around the corner. The lean technique has the disadvantage of requiring you to move into the perfect position to get a good view around the corner. This can also be too slow and allow the enemy to get the drop on you. They really should have used the right thumbstick for a camera move instead of taking you straight to first person view.
In addition to the wall lean, Manhunt features several other standard stealth techniques for dispatching your enemies. You can knock on wall and other objects to lure enemies to your position. There are also item you can find that can be thrown to attract a foe, such as a brick or a bottle. If you feel daring these items can also be thrown at assailants. There’s nothing quite like smashing a brick into a man’s face after a hard day at work. You also have the standard hide in the shadow technique ala Splinter Cell. Manhunt does feature some incredibly impressive A.I. though so don’t think the shadows will always save you. If an enemy sees you run into a shaded area he will follow you and find you. Also when an enemy has been tipped off to your position either by sound or sight he may look hard enough and see you in the shadows, especially if you move. That is one of the more suspenseful aspects of the game, trying to stay still when a thug is only a few feet away and looking right in your direction.
So now we come to the meat of the game, how you dispatch these bloodthirsty hoodlums who want nothing more than to rip your heart out and eat it for breakfast. There are two types of kills. The first is what I would call a typical kill, where you simply punch, beat, stab, or shoot a man to death in a one on one fight. The second type and the highlight of the game is the execution kill. To perform an execution you simply walk up behind an enemy and hold either the A or X button. Depending on how long you hold the button you will perform a more gruesome kill. The director will also give you more praise and your rank at the end of the level will improve with the more violent kills. There are a ton of weapons in the game and each has three levels of execution animations, so there is a lot of variety in the carnage. One of the great things about the game is the variety of weapons. Anything from plastic bags, shards of glass, bats, and other manual modes of death to pistols, rifles, shotguns and other projectile weapons can be used to eviscerate the punk asses trying to bring you down. These killings are definitely not for the faint of heart. Just one example would be the glass shard which, at a level three execution is used to stab the enemy in the eyes and then cut his throat. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone under the age of fifteen even look at the game and if you can’t stomach a good horror movie then this game is definitely not for you.
The graphics are much improved over the PS2 counterpart, but they still aren’t anything that Xbox owners would be impressed with. The character models are well done and the high resolution textures help out a lot, but nothing about the games stands out and makes you say Wow. The execution animations are the highlight in the graphics department and there are plenty of them. Just when you get tired of seeing one you will find a new weapon to try out. It’s a good thing they put so many weapons in the game, because the different animations are about the only thing from keeping this game from getting obnoxiously repetitive. There are some nice touches they added in the executions to make them look like they are being filmed on a home video camera. This adds to the overall gritty atmosphere and dark mentality pervasive throughout the game. With some weapons you can ever have blood and brain matter splatter on the screen.
That audio department is something that really shines in all of Rockstar’s games and Manhunt is no exception. All of the sound effects are realistic and brutal. The sound of a baseball bat cracking into a man’s head has never sounded so real. The ambient music heightens the mood well and creates the tension you would expect in a game where everyone is out to kill you in the worst ways imaginable. The enemies all talk to each other when coordinating attacks as well as taunting you to come out of the shadows. A feature present in almost every stealth game and one I have never understood is the enemies letting you know they have given up looking for you. They use lines similar to “Guess it was nothing” or “if it was him he’s gone now”. Why would anyone who is looking to kill you say aloud for no reason that they have given up the search. Many stealth games use this and I want to go on the record saying “Stop using these ridiculous lines to signal they have given up search”. We should be able to tell that just from watching them walk away. The best part of the audio comes from a clever use of the headset. The director will communicate with you through the Xbox Live headset, giving you direction and praising your brutal killings. Having the head set isn’t a requirement, but you will be missing out on one of the coolest features in the game. The headset can often create the tensest moments of game play. Just as you approach an enemy from behind to deliver the fatal blow the director will yell something in your ear to scare the $%
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