Manhunt PlayStation 2
by Rockstar Games
Developed by Rockstar North
Released: Out Now
So here we have the latest game from the incredibly talented developers who are responsible for the excellent GTA 3 and Vice City. Although those previous titles were considered suitable for only a mature audience, they are fairy stories compared to the dark, sinister and just plain twisted Manhunt. In fact the game has such a dark and brutal atmosphere that the last game I remember with this kind of atmosphere was the highly controversial Kingpin on the PC.
You play as James Earl Cash a violent murderer sentenced to death. The game begins with the death sentence being carried out. It's announced that he has indeed been killed but the execution was just a fake one, as Cash was simply given a sedative and not a lethal injection, and Cash still lives. The reason for saving the life of Cash wasn't a decent one however and this murderer that suddenly finds himself with a reprieve from his death sentence (and who generally seems like a psycho of the worst order) will soon find himself racking his victim count much, much higher. A voice now commands/directs Cash and we are led to believe that Cash is now killing to satisfy an audience.
Essentially the game is a psycho version of Hitman (with some shootouts thrown in for good measure and to ramp up the difficulty). You'll need to sneak up on the local thugs and take them out as quietly as possible. If you make a mess of it you'll attract all the thugs in the vicinity and you'll have no chance of surviving. Thankfully the game begins with a useful tutorial, which reminded me of the tutorial in the first Max Payne and oddly enough you have to use painkillers to heal yourself, that explains how to read the interface and taking notice of this very useful interface will help you to remain stealthy and avoid any unnecessary, one-sided, battles. Cash has some rather gruesome weapons at his disposal such as the plastic bag or the glass shard, various bats, sickles and an assortment of firearms. It's a gruesome collection to be sure but they fit perfectly with the nature of the game. You'll need to be careful in your usage of these weapons though because as the game progresses it becomes more difficult to take out your enemies (even on the easier of difficulty setting).
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.
Controversial as the game maybe you can't argue about it's support for deaf gamers. Subtitles are available and enabled by default and the interface provides excellent feedback to allow you to be stealthy. On the easier difficulty setting an onscreen radar shows you the location of enemies and the character icon on the bottom right of the screen will turn blue when you are hidden from view or red when you are in danger of being seen, which is excellent. Whilst the subtitling is good there are some comments from nearby enemies, for example, which are not subtitled. These aren't important to the gameplay but just be sure that no hearing person is close by as the language is strong and offensive.
I think the brutality and dark nature of Manhunt is going to surprise a few people, especially those who thought GTA 3 was adult in nature. Don't attempt to play the game if you are offended in any way by the brutality of senseless murder. To be fair the game is appropriately rated as an 18 title. If you do have the stomach for it though it is actually a good and unusual game that manages to exert a grip on you, much like other stealth titles, such as Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell. You don't have the open-ended gameplay that GTA 3/Vice City offers and you are not going to get months of play out of Manhunt unless you want to replay the levels to get the best ratings for each of them but it still has that Rockstar feel of quality. It's an acquired taste to be sure but nevertheless if you want to control a psycho, it's probably the best game to do it with.
Game Rating: 8.0/10
Manhunt takes mature gaming to the next level and is only for those with a stomach for it. Don't expect a GTA like classic though.
Some omissions with the subtitles but the interface provides excellent feedback for deaf gamers.