copyright © Jedo Dre 2011


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Impact: Memorable


Raw, uncut, bloody, pure and violent to the core Manhunt is a painting of a rotting pile. It’s the blood dripping from a rusty metal pipe. It’s the hatred of the blood-thirsty kids from all over the world. It’s what people really want and it’s now out for your PC, unless of course it’s illegalized in your country. Let’s pretend then that you’re not reading this review because you’re thinking of getting this game. There’s no reason to pretend what the game is about though. It’s about raw violence.

Hours ago you were putting up a few last angry and pointless struggles, as a cleansed syringe, one of the society’s many public servants, had seemingly administered a lethal dose, putting you into an eternal sleep for whatever anti-social behavior you’ve exhumed during your criminal life. Yet now you awaken in a dark room disoriented, and a voice is talking to you, a voice that seems to know who you are and what’s going on. It’s a voice that knows and controls all your ways out and forces you to follow its orders, promising a quick outcome. The world outside is cold, dark, filthy and filled with armed maniacs. It’s like a nightmare, but you’re not waking up this time. And the voice...the voice wants you to do one thing: kill!

You begin your journey unarmed, and you must improvise weapons from the things you find around you. Shattered glass and ropes will be your friends at first. They won't be reliable friends, as they shall leave you after just one usage. As you advance through the hatred and sickness of the night you will find (or pick up from your dead enemies) multi-usage weapons. Hatchets, axes, shotguns and sniper rifles...Too bad you can't carry all these friends with you. The game allows only so many weapons to be carried in your pockets and on your back.

On his journey, our escapee James Earl Cash, will encounter interesting and diverse enemies, some sane and some not at all. Most of them though, as the voice tells you, share one thing with the main character: they are all scum. Under some of their masks seem to lie overfed faces of the general public coming from normal homes and normal families. This you can extract from the self-directed comments they make about their wives. Under other masks are the faces of gang members and complete psychos. From comments all of these folks make you can also understand that they have been invited to hunt you. However, the initiator of the show, Lionel Starkweather (AKA “the director”), didn’t enlighten them on the fact that you will be doing most of the hunting.

The enemy is in their majority, and you make little chance face to face against more than one of them. The only successful method is to stab them in their backs, picking them off one by one. Stealth is the answer. Shadows will become your castle. The noise and the light will become your enemies. The shadow-meter will show how hidden you are at any time. Running is noisy and some surfaces make a lot of noise when walked over. Wait patiently till the victim closes in or throw something (like bricks or cut-off heads of your ex-enemies) or hit the wall to lure enemies in, and walk up behind them to give the public what they want from you. The longer you hold the mouse button, the more violent the slaughter will be. The real fun starts when you get your hands on weapons like hatchets and start slashing away at the enemy’s throat, decapitating the guy. A baseball bat, on the other hand, can help you decorate a wall with fragments of a brain of your choice. Children, do not do this at home…or on in a park at night. Parents, it is perhaps not the best idea to buy this game for your kids. Even their violence-demanding character can smack into the brick wall that this kinky experience represents. Experiencing it is somewhat like watching a beheading video on the internet. Well, maybe not as graphic...

The storyline is fairly interesting. Although your objectives usually consist of just getting somewhere, sometimes the “director” throws a few interesting missions, like the saving of your family members who had been taken hostage, or escorting a bum through the enemy territory. Once you complete those objectives, the director usually opens the door to the next level. At the end of each “scene”, as levels are called, you will be given a rating affected by your time and the amount of violence.

There are, however, a few strange leaps of logic in the game’s storyline. First, what is Cash doing listening to this guy who wants him to go up against armed psychos? OK, at start maybe the director guarantees freedom in exchange for some entertainment, but when that turns out to be a lie, when the Starkweather’s personal SWAT team beats the living hell out of him and brings him to a new snuff-scene site over and over again, when the director kidnaps Cash’s family, why does Cash keep placing his own head under this guy's boot? Second, a few cut-scenes are missing. The mission about escorting a female journalist to her apartment to pick up some equipment comes out of the blue. It's almost like they cut out a chunk of the game.

AI is quite remarkable. It doesn’t fully follow the pattern of the other stealth-based games. In an average-Joe stealth game an enemy usually walks in predictable patterns and doesn’t spot you if you’re more than 10 meters away. Manhunt takes a more realistic approach. If you’re out of the shadow, the enemy is able to detect you from quite far away, and even more disturbing, his patrolling behavior is often very random (not always though) and therefore unpredictable. Stealth becomes very difficult because of this. It grows to be all the more annoying because of the fact that you can only save your game at saving-points.

AI has different states of alertness indicated by different colors of his icon on your HUD’s radar. Enemies become alert when spotting their dead mates (wouldn't you guess?), hearing suspicious sounds or spotting you from far. When suspicious, the enemy can be pretty stressed out and might start shooting in the direction where the noise came from. Some enemies run away when they understand that you’re more of a match for them than they had originally anticipated. Some don’t even come to investigate a sound you made, commenting that they aren’t that stupid to be lured in. Quite intelligent are these chaps, one might say. During shootouts, however, the IQ of these thugs drops, as they all line up to emerge from the same corner to be shot by you. So, in the end, whether the AI is a leap forward or a leap backwards is up to the player to decide.


Manhunt has a few bugs that are important to point out. The first one relates to the collision system. There are things placed to be knocked over (either purposely or accidentally) by the player like barrels. When these barrels are knocked over they do not rest, and instead keep bumping around continuing to make noise. In that noise lays another problem. Those of you who played GTA San Andreas might’ve experienced a hardware related bug when certain sounds caused the game to stutter badly. The problem would disappear when the generic sound was turned off. This problem is back to haunt some of us in Manhunt and is extremely annoying in combination with the dancing-barrel bug. Another small bug involves dead enemies who stood up after being hit again. Also there was a collision bug when the character would walk along the wall to its edge and suddenly pop out of the edge for no reason (enemies would be oblivious to the character's sudden appearance). You can usually pop him back in.

On the brighter side, Manhunt runs quite fast on low-end machines like mine and the loading times are virtually non-existent.


Visually Manhunt does not stand out on the market of its time, even though the PC version looks somewhat better than its console counterparts. The character animations aren’t top notch and remind the clumsy movements in the Rockstar’s GTA-game series. However, just like in GTA series, the graphic beauty doesn’t reside in the game’s pretty textures. It’s the environment that Manhunt manages to produce that catches the eye. Killing scenes are shown from different perspectives with the sort of static you get on a home-made video. That works really well. In fact, the whole game is seen in a similar matter. Enemies are varied in size and dressed appropriate to their messed up environment. Everything looks dark, dirty and abandoned, just like it should look.

Music is extremely sinister, mixed with the main character’s own heartbeat and creepy sounds, it creates and unforgettable atmosphere. Chopping flesh sounds realistic and so does the gargling/screaming. It makes one wonder whether the people from Rockstar actually saw a few snuff movies. The voice acting is the best I’ve heard in years and the “director” deserves an Oscar for, not only for his video work. The guy actually pulls off a few jokes that are funny, and we know games aren't very good at trying to be funny.


I’ll quote the game and say that “To best experience Manhunt you should: turn off the lights, close the drapes, lock the door and get ready to kill”. That Lionel Starkweather character did his job well. Manhunt makes for a good snuff movie. It might be controversial when it comes to violence, but many people make the mistake of thinking that Manhunt is just a game that went too far in violence to capture the consumer’s attention, and otherwise posses little value. That’s not true. The game is interesting, original in almost every way and simply is a good game, as long as you can overlook or escape some of its bugs. Just don’t let the young kids play it… but who are we kidding; we all know they will play it anyway.