4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
Buckets of atmosphere and blood, 12 May 2004
Graphically based on the Grand Theft Auto game engine, Manhunt gives you a gritty, extreme videogame equivalent of the Shwarzenegger film 'The Running Man': one man, one night and hordes of sadistic thugs and gangs out to get you.
As the criminal character Cash, saved from deathrow by snuff video director Starweather, the basic idea is for your to use stealth and cunning to evade your attackers and use weapons and household tools that you pick up around the levels to despatch your foes. The main hook (!) with the game is that it features extreme depictions of death and violence. By creeping up behind your victims you have the option to hold down the 'A' key for as long as you dare before detection. The longer you hold it down the more extreme the method of death is enacted. The deaths scenes takes the form of real time (not rendered) 'video clips' with loads of noise and timecode on them, like some underground tape. Definitely not for under 18's.
What elevates Manhunt from what seems like simple gameplay ideas is the way in it is dripping in atmosphere. The soundtrack and effects are stunning, much like the attention lavished on the Grand Theft Auto games. From your beating heartbeat to the thousands of bits of dialogue used by the gangs as they actively search for you in the rundown Carcer City, the game really sucks you in and makes for a real tense experience. Also the Live headset (not necessary, but good if you have one) is used really well as you can make noise or whistle to attract your victims and the voice of your nemesis Starkweather can be heard in your ear, just as your onscreen character would hear him. The AI of the enemies for the most part is really good too and makes you feel that you being actively hunted down.
The only real negatives are that a few of the harder sections rely on trial and error style play, but as the Xbox version loads very quickly this isn't so much of a problem and the opening levels, which act as a kind of tutorial are somewhat dull: you are kind of left feeling 'is this all there is?' but soon the gameplay style opens out and the addition of lethal firearms and characters that you must protect are thrown into the mix as Cash's fight for survival plays out.
If you can see beyond a game that was undoubtedly made to get a strong reaction from it's depiction of violence and quite shallow controls Manhunt offers a really immersive and rewarding gameplay experience. Just don't eat just before playing.