Review by: Jonathan Hynes
Published: December 22, 2003
Chocked full of blood, gore and brutality, Rockstar’s latest stealth action release can best be described as the Metal Gear Solid 2 or Splinter Cell for jaded gamers. Accompanying the lengthy tactical adventure and intriguing plot is the much-touted in-your-face violence and alarmingly detailed executions, all of which is uncensored. There’s little doubt that Manhunt has elevated the genre to an entirely new level, one that will offend many people, but one has to wonder if this title can compete with the aforementioned offerings. After all, the gruesome gameplay features are meaningless without a solid foundation upon which to rest.
You assume the role of convicted criminal and death row inmate James Earl Cash. Though the details of his past remain something of a mystery, one can assume he committed some truly horrible acts of cruelty to deserve such a fate. However, as the day of his execution comes and goes, all according to schedule, Cash finds himself alive even after the procedure. Over the loudspeaker in an isolated room, an ominous overseer introduces himself as Lionel Starkweather, popular underground director of atrocious snuff films. He reveals that the “lethal” injection was nothing more than a sedative, releases you from the chamber and helps smuggle you out of the prison.
The rescue wasn’t simply an act of generosity, however, as Cash was saved so that he could participate in Starkweather’s ghastly films. Virtually enslaved, James is put into various situations where he must overcome numerous factions, from petty thugs to white supremacists, all in the name of entertainment. The torment and abuse that Cash is forced to endure is agonizing, so much so that our hero probably wishes the prison execution had been successful.
Nonetheless, it’s kill or be killed in Starkweather’s movies, so Cash has no choice but to play along. Stealth is vital, as a head-on encounter with just one enemy can prove fatal, especially as they grow powerful toward the end of the game. The shadows offer you complete protection from the ever-watchful eyes of your opponents, also providing an invaluable springboard from which to strike. These areas are usually easy to spot, but a helpful character icon indicates when the darkness has shrouded you. While concealed, you can lure enemies to your position by striking a nearby surface or, thanks to an innovative new system, speaking into a USB headset.