Whenever someone talks about violence or inappropriate content in general with video games, there are a few usual suspects. Mortal Kombat brought around the ESRB rating scale, and every game after pushes the line on gore. Grand Theft Auto is also a common example of “games that damages a kid’s brain.” Among the montage reels of early 2000s video game violence documentaries, you can find Manhunt, a game that is essentially the snuff films of video games. The issue with these kinds of game for me though isn’t the violence of the game, but whether or not the game can go above being edgy and deliver a fun experience. This is Manhunt, and it’s time to, well, hunt men.
Despite being sentenced to death, James Earl Cash finds himself very much not dead. He wakes up to find a voice in an earpiece telling him that if he follows his instructions, he will be free by the end of the night. Unfortunately, those instructions involve killing in the most brutal way possible.
Before I get into the review, there is something worth noting: I didn’t get passed the sixth level, “Grounds for Assault.” Every time I reach the end of the level, the game crashes. I have tried re-installing, verifying my game files, and downloading the patch, but nothing can get me past the end of this level.
I had no clue what this game was going into it. The only thing I knew about this game was its controversy, so the story and gameplay were a complete mystery to me. Coming out of this game, I can’t say I’m surprised by any of it. So, let’s get into what this game is.
Manhunt is a third-person stealth game about trying to survive the night. The game is pretty much about getting from point a to point b in some abandoned building that’s filled with bad guys, and the more kills and the bloodier they are, the higher your score. Since life isn’t that simple, you find that there are guys in full-on tactical gear that kidnap you right when you reach the end of a level and take you to a new area.
The biggest aspect of this game, and where this game shines, are in the executions. How it works is that when you sneak up behind an enemy, a crosshair will show on their head. You hold attack, and the longer you hold attack, the more brutal the kill and the higher the score. The coolest part about this is that each weapon has different kill cutscenes, and each weapon has three different kill cutscenes. I don’t know if you want to call different kill animations with basic tools like plastic bags creative, but I did find the amount of different kill cutscenes to be fascinating. Outside of the kills, however, isn’t so great.
This game is primarily a stealth game, but I wouldn’t go around saying that this is a good stealth game. The stealth mechanics that are here are extremely basic or broken. In this game, you can hide in shadowy areas, hit walls to make noise and attract attention, throw things to distract, and carry bodies. However, carrying bodies doesn’t matter because enemies don’t care, and distracting enemies with throwing objects only works half of the time, so sticking to the shadows and not running are the only viable ways of sneaking around. Combat is available, but it is terrible and highly discouraged, so it pretty much didn’t exist for me anyways.
Trying to do combat or actually trying to stealth doesn’t matter, though, because stealth (and therefore the entire game) can be easily exploited. All you have to do is run towards an enemy and attract him, run away until his icon on the map turns orange, hide in the shadows, wait for him to stop right in front you while facing the other way (which they do every time), and get a free kill. It probably isn’t a great way to rack up points and get a three star rating on a level, but I don’t really care about high scores in non-arcade games, so it’s fine by me. The enemies in this game are braindead to the point where stuff like this is viable, so at least doing this method made the game go by quicker.
Outside of stealth and kills, there isn’t really much else to talk about. Stealth and creative killing is pretty much the entirety of this game. There are two issues I have with this game that is outside of those two aspects though. The first are the save points, which are spread out really far from each other and didn’t allow me to manually save despite giving me the option. The second issue is the look of the game, as for the game looks incredibly grainy. Other than that, this game is stealth and killing.
In conclusion, the few hours I had with Manhunt were not good. Maybe the game gets better past my point, but from the looks of the later levels on Youtube, I don’t think that will be the case for me. If anything, the crash saved me from putting another five or more hours into mediocre stealth slog, and not going through that slog does leave my thoughts on this game a little bit higher. Unsurprisingly, This game put all of its effort into being edgy, which left the actual gameplay to be mediocre and easy to cheese. I would not recommend playing this game, and I would say it is best to keep this game as ‘the controversial game you know nothing about.’