By hsvlad 9 Comments
Manhunt came out when I was about 15 and I was itching to play it. Obviously as you can see from the big, red 18 sticker on the box art above, buying it wasn't going to be easy. To make things even more difficult I had to wait until the pc version of the game came out and just as it did there was a fairly major incident in the UK involving the game. I wont go into details as its doesn't really relate to what I'm going to talk about but the game became very difficult to get hold of. Eventually I found a copy at an HMV and managed to buy it after convincing the manager that, while I didn't have any ID with me, I did have a checkbook in my name which you can only get once you're 18. That was of course bullshit and it made getting hold of a copy of Manhunt feel dirty and like something I would get in trouble for, which felt GREAT!!!Manhunt is a game that I'm surprised we haven't seen more of. It is essentially a horror stealth game. The player is very vulnerable and taking on more then one enemy at a time is basically suicide. Instead, you lure enemies away or wait for them to become isolated and then murder then in violent ways with various, often improvised, weapons. The game, however, doesn't make the player feel like he is a badass, choosing who lives and dies like say Metal Gear Solid might. You always feel like you are in danger. Your opponents know you are there somewhere and all they want to do is kill you. It's hard to tell if the fantastic feeling of danger in Manhunt comes from the gameplay or the atmosphere. The actual sneaking isn't anything new. You walk up behind a guy and do something horrible to him. Sometimes you wait in the shadows or throw a brick or bottle to attract them, its all quite standard fare. There is also some gunplay later in the game that isn't the games strong point and sadly becomes more and more prevalent as things go on. It's not bad as such, but its does break the tension a little too much.
The visuals are presented in a quite clever way. There is always a heavy film grain and when you sneak up behind someone to perform one of the gruesome takedowns the video camera style is amplified even further. Scan lines, hand held camera shake and battery and time-stamp information show up to really make it feel like someone is videoing you stab this guy in the windpipe with a crowbar. Speaking of the violence, its really something quite special. Its worth mentioning that the game isn't actually very gory, all things considered. Ok, if you shoot someone in the face with a shotgun it gets rather messy but the most disturbing thing about the violence in Manhunt is the aggression. When you execute someone from behind there are three different animations that change depending on how long you managed to stay within attack range of your target without him noticing. The longer you're there the more aggressive your attack will be, and they get fairly gross. But like I said, it isn't the gore that makes them shocking, it is the aggression that seems to emanate from your character as he finds the most gruesome way to kill someone with a plastic bag.
Manhunt is still a half decent stealth game and it has an atmosphere like nothing else I've ever really played. Condemned comes close but you are still the good guy and the supernatural elements keep it from dragging you into its world in the same way Manhunt does. I've never played the second one, after hearing poor opinions of it and it being censored in the same awful way The Punisher was, but having recently played through Kane & Lynch 2 I really started to think a sequel in that visual style would be great. So if you're into particularly nasty horror films and stealth, and you like a challenge, I would certainly say you should give Manhunt a look. Just don't let anyone who isn't into games find you playing it. Explaining Manhunt's artistic merits and contributions is a pretty tough sell.
P.S. Some of people have asked me to format these posts without the large central images but the blog system on GB is being very uncooperative. Small images are too small and medium images are the same size as small but are cropped to that size. Maybe it is an issue to do with using the site on Chrome but I can't tell. I'll use Firefox for the next post and see if it is any easier.