It’s like the running man..but not!
There is little these days that makes me cringe in the gaming world. Having been a gamer for more years than I care to count seeing splashes of red goo upon my TV screen does very little besides adding effect. With the sudden spark in popularity for violent videogames, the world seems hell bent on displaying our darkest fears into interactive entertainment. At the top of this list is Rockstar, who seems to do anything and everything in it’s power to piss off politicians. Now for the most part I support them in their quest but sometimes you can go too far. Take their latest title Manhunt for the PS2, which just happens to be the story of the hour. This game sets a new standard for disturbing depictions of violence, and to think you control them all. Find out if Rockstar’s latest is worth the hype, or simply another cash cow in disguise.
Like I stated above not much offends me when it comes to games, I can watch a man’s arm fly off with gallons of blood spurting on the ground without a flinch. Though when you watch a man gasping for air from underneath a plastic bag it tends to take on another effect. Manhunt depicts murder sequences with frightening detail that will make any person take notice. The gritty camera style and cinematic angles for the deaths showcase just how gruesome this game truly is. What I cannot figure out though is why do I keep playing, is it because I am somehow drawn to see every possible death animation or is it because I want to see how far the envelope is being pushed. This is definitely Rockstar’s goal with this game and for that I give them kudos, but does this make it a good game?
The layout is simple, you play the role of James Earl Cash, a convicted felon who has been sentenced to death. You begin the game in an empty room only to discover that someone has other plans for you. Happily calling himself “The Director”, he instructs you to put in the ear piece so that you may play his sick and twisted game. The object is simple, make it to the end and you get out. The catch is that everyone within the confines of Carcer City is out to kill you, so naturally you fight fire with fire. The Director gives you cues and ideas for slaughtering your foes and catches them all on film for his personal snuff film collection. Yes it’s sick, twisted, and vile but you already knew that before venturing into it.
Let’s start with Carcer City, ahhh yes the beloved home of the many gangs you will run into on your journey. The characters are definitely lifted from the GTA architecture yet retain a somewhat new animation pallette. The lead character, James Earl Cash, looks like the no name thug from GTA 3 without hair. The levels are all dark, gritty, and reminiscent of a wasteland straight out of Escape From New York. Fires burning, empty cars, and grafitti plague the dank streets, and the camera has a sort of gritty overtone to it similar to Silent Hill. Overall this game has a great atmosphere for it’s setting, Carcer City will certainly give you nightmares if you let it.
The game play is simple and has some minor issues that really needed to be worked out before release. Manhunt obviously borrows the GTA engine and with it most of it’s combat problems. The hand to hand fighting is pretty much useless in most cases and has you simply mashing buttons while holding back to block. The lock on feature is much improved over GTA but it still has issues. The biggest problem is that while this is a stealth game the camera never wants to work with you. You are constantly fighting with it to get the best angle, which can become a major pain because the AI is extremely aggressive. One very nice touch though is the use of the USB headset. With it on you can hollar at the thugs to get their attention and lure them to their doom.
What really holds this game back though is it’s mundane pacing. You start off very intrigued by the murderous action, although after ten or so kills it becomes tedious. Even the addition of new weapons fails to deliver anything worthy of continuing. This is truly a shame because underneath everything lies a very solid stealth action game with just enough flaws to make it boring way too quickly. With it’s frustrating AI, troublesome camera, and slow pacing Manhunt becomes another great idea gone bad. Sure the senators are going to have a field day with it’s over the top violence, but gamers will grow tired of this one quickly. Not quite the stellar game I was hoping for and certainly a disappointing use of great ideas. Definitely rent this one before you purchase.