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Manhunt (PC) Reviewed!
Game Info
Gameplay: 9 / 10
Graphics: 8 / 10
Sound: 9 / 10
Replay: 8 / 10
Final Rating:

You play as James Earl Cash, a convict who has been sentenced to death. However, thanks to the corrupt Darkwoods Penitentiary Staff, the lethal injection you received is nothing more than a strong sedative. Eventually, Cash wakes up from his sleep and finds himself in a locked room. Over the intercom, Cash hears Starkweather instruct him to put on a wireless earpiece. Next, Starkweather tells Cash, “Now only you can hear me and that’s the way you’re going to want it, because I’m your way out of this mess… Do exactly as I say and I promise this will be over before the night is out.” You will learn as you play out the game, that Starkweather is a director. You are the main leading man and it is only your skill and cunning nature to solve problems that will save you.

Cash out for blood

Game play
Game play is broken down over several missions. Each mission takes place in a part of Carcer City at night, over one very long night. Parts of rundown Carcer City have been blocked off, cornered off to provide an arena for action to take place. These arenas are made up of various buildings and city blocks and are patrolled by GANGS. These gangs as you will shortly learn, are out for your head anyway they can get it. They are after the reward placed by Starkweather on your death. These gangs increase in awareness, teamwork and power, as you progress through the game if you make it that far. The GANGS consider this activity a sport and are veteran man hunters, hence the title of the game, Manhunt. Starkweather is the director of this activity and is making a film with you as Cash playing the lead role. You will have to scrounge for weapons and ammo. You will have to kill these hunters and take their weapons in order to survive. Game play can be broken down into several categories as you progress through this game. They are 1) sneak and kill 2) lure, sneak, hide, kill and 3) open gunplay.

Time to KILL

Sneak and Kill
Sneak and kill involves scouting out the area and noticing a gang members patrol route, waiting in the shadows or perhaps sneaking up to get into a better hiding place in order to execute a sneak move. A sneak move is a execution with either wire, a glass shard, plastic bag, wooden bat, metal bat, night stick, knife, sickle, cleaver, hand axe, machete, hammer or a chainsaw. That means there are 13 different weapons that are classified as either melee or one use. They all have 3 degrees of execution; White (Hasty), Yellow (Violent) and Red (Gruesome) are the colors and they indicate the type of execution. For example you sneak up out of the shadows on a gang member and as you get close enough Cash’s arm will raise and then you click the left mouse button and hold it down. The longer you hold the left mouse button down it will turn from white to yellow and eventually red. Starkweather likes red, and the game also rewards you with more stars for performing more red attacks. Red is Gruesome and the most violent attack, graphically. When you release the mouse button the screen will change to a video recording type cut scene where your move will play out automatically and you just watch. Just be warned, the longer you hold it down, the greater the chance that you will get caught, so be careful.

For example, with the baseball bat, a red (gruesome) attack has Cash place the baseball bat around and under the gang members neck and squeeze their air out so they faint. As they faint, Cash slowly lets them down to their knees, then Cash takes one step back then swings a ferocious attack that hits the GANG member across the head. The head shatters, splattering brain and head bits over the ground and across any nearby walls. The hasty (white) bat attack has Cash hit the guy quickly in the back of the head then the front and then again on the side of the head.

They are out to get YOU

Lure, Sneak, Hide and Kill
Is basically the same thing except you use lures to change the patterns of the Gang member. A lure is either a 1) brick, 2) a severed head, 3) a bottle or you make a 4) noise by striking a wall, or door. You can use lures to break up gang members and to separate them using the divide and conquer method. You ever seen Rambo: First Blood with Sylvester Stallone where he is hiding up in the mountains near the first part of the movie? That is what I felt like most of the time. I felt like a special forces thinking man not a bloodthirsty killer.

Open Gunplay
Several of the missions/levels will have you using guns predominately. The first third of the game is mostly melee and stealth. The last two-thirds is a mixture of melee, stealth and open gunplay. I think guns are very well done and enjoyable in this PC version of Manhunt. For one thing you can do many things with guns for example, you can 1) hide behind objects and pop up and shoot 2) you can slide along a wall and pop out and shoot 3) You can get next to a door and kick it open then shoot. Unlike the XBOX or PS2 version, the PC version does not have auto aim, meaning you will have to place the cursor on the target to hit them. The best place to aim of course is the head, because it often means one shot- one kill.
Playing this game you will also make use of your Ghost Recon, favorite FPS mouse aiming skills by barely poking the aiming cursor around a corner and aiming for the victim in order to shield your body from taking damage. The .38 revolver pistol I enjoyed very much and it holds 6 shots and has a decent punch. I also enjoyed the sawed off 12-gauge shotgun which when shot will literally blow a hole in a gang members head. It only holds 2-shots but I think it is as cool as hell. As you progress through the game you will get access to other firearms such as 1) SAP-12 shotgun 2) Avenger Force .50 AE pistol 3) IDK Type 2 Sniper rifle 4) Defender Mark 1 assault rife. You have got to use cover, be quick, make your shots count (ammo is limited) and plan out your moves to survive. Painkillers, which will restore 50% of your health, are available but cannot make up for sloppy game play. All guns have an AIM, zoom in effect with the right mouse button.

Through a mission you will come upon several save points. These save points allow you to save your game.

I enjoyed the graphics. I thought they very much portrayed a dark, bleak, scary, foreboding atmosphere. The scenery very much makes you want to move slowly, deliberately, and with thought. There is a graphic effect used which makes the game look slightly grainy and I understand this is done to make it more like a video recording. It works. What is interesting is you can turn off this grainy effect in the video settings by turning off Noise FX. However with Noise FX off the game will not look how the developers designed it and I chose to leave it as the default, which is on. Cash looks good, the gang members look good as well as offering different types of gang members with different clothes, tattoos and weapons. There is a lot of attention to detail with trash, blowing leaves, signs and billboards all having great detail. In one mission you are at a subway station and you can read the terminal for incoming subway trains and if you look close enough you can read the names of the incoming trains on the terminal screen.

The audio is done very well. This has been one of the few games where I actually allowed the intro screen to play out every time before I started a game. The missions have wind blowing, sometimes what seemed like little ambient noise; rat squeaks, eerie sound effects and things rustling in the wind. Of course everything makes a noise, when you hit it; the wall, trashcans, cars, breaking glass, garbage cans. You also make noise based on type of ground you are walking over, with sand and gravel making the most noise. Sometimes missions will have a scripted sequence that will trigger a specific music accompaniment.


Replay Value
There are two modes of difficulty. Fetish and Hardcore are the difficulty levels. The main difference between Hardcore and Fetish is with Hardcore you get no radar and supposedly the gang members are a little tougher and smarter. It is recommended that someone at first play Fetish mode to learn how the gang members act and to learn how to use the lures and hide in the shadows, develop technique and tactics. There is a certain amount of learning involved for initially you start with nothing and feel kind of naked and vulnerable. However eventually as you walk from shadow to shadow you will become a lean mean killing machine, who only needs a crowbar or perhaps a baseball bat.
Once finishing the game on Fetish mode I think it is worth to play through again on Hardcore mode without the Radar. Mainly because after you finish the game the first time you will just becoming into your prime. Meaning you will not really get a complete mastery of the game until you pretty much are finished. So it is worth it to play again to apply all the techniques you learned.

There are some bonus features to the game.

You are ranked out of 5 stars for each mission you do. One star for the time it takes you to complete the mission and 4 stars for how well you execute the gang members. If you complete the mission in the required time you get a star if not then no star. If you execute enough gang members with a yellow or red rating then you can get 4 stars. Five stars is max and 100 stars would equate to a 100% rating in the game. You can only get a maximum of 4 stars with Fetish mode. What can you unlock by getting these stars? Three stars on a mission will unlock a piece of art, a drawing of art that was used in the design process of the game. If you get 3 stars on missions 1-5 you will unlock a bonus level. There are 4 bonus levels to be unlocked. There are 20 missions, plus the 4 bonus levels for 24 total and the original 20 are also grouped into pairs of (2). If you get 5 stars, which means hardcore level on the correct 2 maps you will unlock a cheat code, which is printed on the unlocked art images, which then can be activated during the startup screen. I think after Fetish mode is definitely worth playing on hardcore again without the radar just to get to use all the moves you learned. You get one free star for just doing hardcore mode.

Cash taking care of business

Little about Cash
First off Cash is a tough little guy. He is a scraper and quick as a cheetah. Cash walks as silently and stealthily as a ninja. He can handle any one Gang member easily but it often goes against better logic and can cost Cash health in the process. If the situation permits Cash can with a little skill melee two gang members and hardly lose any life. He can quickly hide in shadows if no one sees him enter them. Like I said before he can hide behind overturned tables and ledges. These places also often provide a place to shoot from with protection. He can slide along walls and peer around them and shoot and pop back behind the cover of the wall, or even swing a weapon around the corner of a wall while pressed up against the wall. He can kick open doors. For example imagine having a shotgun and being right up against a door. First Cash does right mouse button to raise the shotgun then you click the left mouse button to kick the door open while the whole time holding the right mouse button down which is the AIM button and zoomed in. So you kick the door open, and then Cash will already have AIM zoomed in (right mouse button) and then you are able to look around the room and shoot someone quickly and accurately. He can throw objects easily and accurately such as bricks, heads, and bottles. He can kick objects for noise effects such as trashcans, garbage bags, and cardboard boxes. He can in a few instances climb ladders and even jump. He can carry a glass shard and at the same time carry a pistol and rifle and other combinations of weapons are possible. He carries his extra ammo in his pockets and is quick to reload when needed. Typically Cash will at one time carry 3-4 weapons. Combinations vary depending on mission and depth into the game and sometimes you have to switch out what Cash is carrying if you want to pick up a different weapon, and it must be noted that the weapons and lures provide many opportunities for strategy.

Melee Combat
Melee is possible but is only used in defense or in a pinch. It really is the last resort. Cash knows he is going up against 5-10-15 Gang members who are seasoned man hunters. Like Rambo in First Blood or a Special Forces military soldier he is going to use tactics and subterfuge to survive. However Cash does have some Melee skills. He can attack with the left mouse button for a quick attack or use the right mouse button for a longer/harder attack. He can also not attack but just back up and he will block attacks and take less damage, which is often I find best used with a bat. He can also press both buttons at the same time and he will grapple with the gang member.

The grappling move I have not perfected but it simulates Cash getting the Gang member in a headlock. Melee seems to work best if you do a quick, quick, hard attack or just look for doing 2-3 quick attacks, then try to crank out a hard attack. One thing I noticed but have not fully explored is melee with weapons like a baseball bat. I noticed that with the baseball bat if you click the left mouse button 3 times in a row he will perform 3 different attacks, it is kind of like a 1) quick jab, 2) quick swing to the left then a 3) quick swing to the right. However if you do 3 hard attacks (right mouse button) he will do 3 different attacks ending I believe with a long looking but harsh over the head 2-arm smash down swing. There has to be some method to the madness, but I have not spent enough time to figure it out. I rarely have ever used melee, it is kind of a last resort but something I will more fully explore as I play the game.

Come out and play

Overall I really like the game. It is a stealth game. It is a thinking man’s game. It is an action game. You will often find yourself hiding in the shadows looking at your radar thinking how the hell am I going to get past this impossible situation. Other times the only solution is to run down the hall shooting your shotgun at anything that moves. But you will figure it out. There were only 2-3 instances in the whole game where I had to do something more than twice. Most of the game I was able to do what I needed to on the second try. Of course I took it slow, thought about what I needed to do and used strategy. The last couple of missions were ramped up in difficulty but that is pretty standard for computer games. They are not impossible they just require you to master Cash’s skills and take it up a notch. You will be surprised how easy the first third of the game is once you have complete the entire game. You will become a very efficient man hunter as you master all the tricks of Manhunt. The game reminded me of the movies Rambo and Predator with Arnold Schwarzenegger and of course Running Man with Arnold. It reminded visually and in game play of the original Max Payne. Around half way through the game you will be using a mix of guns and stealth. Some of the missions are 3rd person over the shoulder shooter type missions with 80% gun action. At some point I guarantee you will wish you had a crowbar and that you could hide in the shadows. You will think damn I never thought I could want a crowbar over a firearm and will say to yourself, “Where is my freaking crowbar when I need it!” At another point in the game you will feel naked and vulnerable when you lose your firearms and have to go back to relying on your trusty baseball bat and plastic bag. You definitely will go from one extreme to the other and become a ruthless hunter with whatever you can get your hands on.

Stealth and Lures BABY

I whole-heartedly recommend Manhunt to someone who wants a good game. It will provide 20-40 hours of game play easily. There are good graphics and great controls for the PC version with no crashes, no bugs and no issues what so ever. Manhunt is a tight, sweet package with a lot of personality. Rockstar is a big target and game reviewers either like this game or do not, or judge it too harshly because of who made it. If anyone else had made this game I am sure it would be considered a big success and lead to many sequels. I believe I read 250,000 copies of the PS2 version were sold between November 2003 and January 2004. With the XBOX and PC version having come out April 20th, 2004 it is expected to reach close to a 1 million by the end of the year.