by Rockstar Games
Developed by Rockstar North
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99
Age Rating: BBFC 18+
Late last year we looked at Manhunt on the PlayStation 2 and now the game has arrived on Xbox. Rockstar Games have been at the forefront of providing games for an adult audience, most noticeably with the Grand Theft Auto series, but Manhunt is something entirely different. The game is a sinister one as the character you control chalks up victims (who are undesirable thugs) like there's no tomorrow. Indeed to some it may seem too much to stomach but you have to remember that the game is 18 rated and that it is intentionally pitched at adult gamers.
Manhunt placed you in the role of a psychotic killer, James Earl Cash, who supposedly was executed for his crimes at the beginning of the game. However there is corruption at the Darkwoods Penitentiary and Cash's lethal injection was no more than a strong sedative. The person who wanted Cash kept alive is Lionel Starkweather the disgraced Hollywood director. Starkweather wants Cash to be the star of his latest 'video nasty'. As Cash awakens from the effects of his sedative he's greeted by the voice of Starkweather who instructs him to pick up the earpiece and follow his orders and with that the game begins.
Of course Manhunt isn't the first game that puts you in the role of a murderer. Another game that readily springs to mind is Hitman (and it's various sequels). The big difference between Hitman and Manhunt though is that Agent 47 uses refined weapons of destruction such as guns and piano wire etc. that get the job done as quickly and as effectively as possible whereas Cash has no such luck and has to make use of crude weapons such as a plastic bag, a glass shard, a baseball bat, a cleaver and even a chainsaw. Of course the methods that Cash has to employ do not provide instantaneous death and the victims will suffer distress in the process.
The real twist with the game play in Manhunt is that you can't simply run and attack your victims as more often than not this will get you killed in no time. Stealth is your friend in Manhunt and the element of surprise will allow you to take out enemies, that are much stronger than yourself, far more efficiently. In fact if you time it right you'll trigger a small cutscene of Cash committing the murder and you won't have to engage in combat. Get your timing wrong though and you'll have to engage in face to face combat, which means that you're going to get hurt and more often than not killed. There are times where stealth isn't an option though and you'll have to take your enemies on. Thankfully you can strafe from side to side (using the black and white buttons) so even if you are faced with a stronger enemy it's still possible to survive the battle. After being involved in such savage encounters your health is going to be depleted and you'll have to search for painkillers in order to restore your health.
Graphically the Xbox version is slightly superior to the PlayStation 2 version. By default the noise filter is switched on but you can disable it if you want a cleaner look to the game. Looking around will switch you to a first person perspective in the same way as on the PlayStation 2 version. Loading times seem quicker though but they weren't exactly bad on the PlayStation 2 version of the game. Visually, in keeping with the games content, we have a game that has a dark and dangerous look to it and suits the mood of the game perfectly. Most locations are dimly lit and designed to create a tense and horrific environment. The quality of the character models and animations is good but isn't outstanding in any particular way. There are some nice rag doll physics in use though and it gives the murders an even more realistic look. The cutscenes are particularly impressive and are actually quite realistic in their style and presentation whilst also managing to add to the macabre nature of the game.
Subtitles can be enabled, which makes the game perfectly playable for deaf gamers. Not all comments during the game are subtitled (like the odd sentence that your intended victims may utter for instance) but all the essential information is. A radar on the bottom left of the screen shows enemies that are within your immediate vicinity. You are also represented on this radar too and any noise that you make will cause a red circle to radiate from your dot on the radar. This is great as it allows you to see what noise you are making. Of course at times you'll want to make a noise in order to lure enemies towards your position and you'll be able to do this with no fuss at all thanks to your noise being visibly depicted. When attempting to take your victims by surprise, small markers will appear around them to indicate that you can make that 'surprise kill', which again is very helpful. On the lower right of the screen is a character icon that will turn blue once you are well hidden or red when you can be seen. This character icon will also show you when an item can be used, which is rather useful. Hearing gamers will get an extra chilling experience with the Xbox version if they have a headset such as the one you get with the Xbox Live starter kit. After Cash has picked up the earpiece at the beginning of the game the voice of Lionel Starkweather will be heard through the earpiece instead of the TV. Of course deaf gamers won't be able to take advantage of this little extra but that doesn't really matter.
The Xbox version of Manhunt is the best console version of the game. Having had the good fortune to be able to look at all three versions I would have to say that the PC version is the best overall version of the game that you can buy, but the Xbox version comes a close second. Essentially though the game is the same experience on all three platforms and it's great that gamers who don't own a PlayStation 2 but do have a Xbox can now enjoy one of the most sinister games ever created for any console.
Game Rating: 8.0/10
Perhaps one of the most macabre games ever arrives on Xbox and it's every bit as engrossing as last years' PlayStation 2 version.
Some speech is not subtitled but all the important information is. Rockstar have made good use of icons within the game.