Written by John Yan on 5/4/2004 for Xbox  
More On: Manhunt
Rockstar, master of the controversial game, released Manhunt initially for the PlayStation 2. After a few months, the game is now coming to other systems and today we’ll be looking at the Xbox version. You can read the PlayStation 2 version review here.

Manhunt puts you in the shoes of James Earl Cash, a criminal who was suppose to be executed but is instead an unwitting pawn of the Director. From this point, you’re the star of a sadistic “Running Man” like scenario. Cameras littered throughout the city that you are moving through records all the gruesome action as you take out the people sent to go after you in very graphic ways.

A big departure from the fast paced action of Grand Theft Auto, Manhunt is all about stealth. If you want to run around and take on your opponents head on, you’ll die pretty quickly. Your objective is to quietly take out your opposition in the sickest way possible and that means sneaking up behind them and using the environment to your advantage, hiding in the dark shadows and jumping on the enemy when they aren’t looking.

Various objects become deadly weapons in your hands and the deadliest comes when you catch an enemy from behind. You’ll be presented with the opportunity to use whatever you hold in your hand and dispatch the person if they don’t notice you. The longer you hold down the action button, the more gruesome the death. Don’t wait too long as the person can turn around and spot you, causing you to miss your opportunity. If you successfully manage to pull off one of these automatic kills, you’ll be treated to a very gruesome cut scene of your execution. It’s definitely not for the squeamish with blood and sometimes body parts flying around. For those that love violence, this game is for you.

Hiding in shadows is very important and you’ll have an indicator in the bottom right to signify an action and/or visibility rating. If the icon is dark blue, you’re hiding. White means you’re out in the open. And flashing red means you’re spotted. Like Metal Gear Solid, you can put your back against a wall and knock in it to attract your enemy. If you’re hidden they’ll usually stand there searching the area near you and walk away. Sometimes they will spot you if they walk close enough to you. You’ll be using this method a lot to lure enemies to your position and take them out. Once they start walking away, you’ll have a good chance of sneaking up behind but I did find some inconsistencies in that during times when you should be able to easily kill the person, they’ll spot you out of the blue. And there are times when you absolutely think you’ve been spotted and they’ll just walk by. There aren’t too many times I experienced this but it was enough to be noticeable.
A neat feature of the game takes advantage of an attached mic. In the game, the Director talks to you through an earpiece giving you directions on what to do and where to go. With the Xbox live headset, you’ll hear the voice exclusively through the headphone. And you can even speak into the mic to create some sound to draw hunters towards you. In fact, I like doing that more than banging on an object. Be careful that you don’t shout anything into the mic when you don’t want to as you’ll alert anyone that’s in listening distance. The louder you do shout, the greater your voice carries in the game. The use of the headset does add some level of immersion into the game.

Manhunt’s environments are modeled very nicely with good textures and good architecture. It’s dark and gritty where you are hunted and Rockstar’s artists did a good job conveying that. Levels are designed well and do convey a sense of being in the slums. Most of them are pretty linear but you are being led by the Director from one scene he’s filming to another. The great textures compliment the good modeling job that the development team has done. I don’t have the PlayStation 2 version to compare but the graphics are pretty clean on the Xbox. I enjoyed the wide variety of characters, unlike Charlie. Seeing the different characters helps add some variety to the game and to the people I kill. There’s also a very camera like look to the game with video noise. If you get annoyed at it, you can turn it off. Most of the cut scenes are in this shaky interlaced video.

The motions of the characters are also done well with Cash moving pretty lifelike around the areas. Sneaking around, hiding in the shadows, swinging with the bat: all these movements are conveyed well in the game. The weapons you pick up are visible on the body and you’re only allowed to carry one of a certain type of weapon.

The game is definitely hard and can be frustrating at times. There’s no easy level and you must have very good patience to play Manhunt. Because of the high difficulty, you’ll be replaying sequences multiple times. Most of the time the save points are positioned before the difficult areas. The game does get artificially long because of the multiple times that are needed to get by certain portions of the game.

Manhunt is definitely not a game for everyone. It’s sadistic, hard, and requires a lot of patience. If you enjoy graphic violence and stealth games, Manhunt is perfect for you. It’s definitely a game with a limited crowd and I don’t think it’s got a broad audience. Even so, it’s an interesting game to check out if you can stomach it.
Big on violence and long because of the trial and error factor. Manhunt's not for everyone but can be fun for those who enjoy stealth and gore.

Rating: 8.2 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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I've been reviewing products since 1997 and started out at Gaming Nexus. After writing for a few different sites that went under, it's nice to bring back a site that's not dependent on revenue and just wants to deliver news and reviews of products.

I'm  married, and enjoy first person shooters, sports games, and real time strategy games.

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