Having been quietly in development for a little over a year, Manhunt is brought to you by the same people who've created the long running Grand Theft Auto franchise, and not in the same way that State of Emergency was "created" from the people who brought you GTA. No, the same people who worked on every little nook and cranny of GTA, worked on every nook and cranny of Manhunt. Where as, with State of Emergency, a completely different team was behind the project. However, since Manhunt is from the very same brains behind a series as engrossing, enjoyable and well crafted as Grand Theft Auto, why is it such a horribly boring game?
First off, we start by looking at what Manhunt has to offer. It's a stealth-action game that plays almost identically to games like The Mark of Kri and all Tenchu games. Its inspirations are blatantly obvious, but there are vast differences between games like The Mark of Kri, Tenchu and Manhunt. The Mark of Kri and Tenchu were both superbly done games, but Manhunt reeks of mediocrity. The premise of Manhunt is simple; you have to survive a 'bloodsport', where there are gangs that are looking to find you and tear you up limb by limb. Who are you, though? You're James Earl Cash. You were sent to death row to be executed and you were...or so you thought. You find yourself waking up in a room with a voice bickering at you. Let's call that voice the "director." The director tells you to pick up an earpiece, and shortly afterwards Cash will hear the director only in his head. If you have a PS2 compatible headset, you can use it with Manhunt to immerse yourself into the game - yes, instead of your TV's speakers, you will be able to hear the director through your headset. It may sound pretty cool, but it's nothing to get too excited over. So, after the game introduces itself to you, you'll be thrown into filthy Carcer City, a rundown hell hole where rules do not apply to anyone. In Carcer City you will have to survive hordes of gangs that are on the look out for you. The game will aid you with items such as plastic bags, bats, glass shards, guns, knives and other lethal objects that will help you plow your way through the opposition. Though, Manhunt is also about stealth. While you'll want to kill damn near everyone in sight, you're going to have to do it carefully and tactfully.
Here's where the dullness comes in. While Manhunt's concept is really intriguing on paper, when performed, it becomes tedious and redundant very quickly. Despite being arguably the goriest title on the PS2, Manhunt's gameplay has very little going for it. Sure, it's a pretty cool game for the first hour or so, but the novelty wears thin remarkably fast and the game pretty much falls apart. The more you progress the more you feel as if you've already 'been there and done that', and that's mainly because of Manhunt's horribly redundant gameplay. Apart from the pretty gory and well executed number of stealth kills in the game, Manhunt just doesn't offer much in terms of variety at all. It's not up to Rockstar North's standards where the player is bombarded with features and options, not one bit. I also didn't find the controls very fitting, either. More elaborate use of the analog sticks would've been very appreciated, and pulling off surprise stealth-kills from around a corner would be a nice too (even though some claim they've been able to do it, I myself have tried and tried to no avail). Lastly, the combat system in Manhunt isn't very good at all. You have your choice of two attacks: a fierce attack or a quick attack. If you just so happen to confront with somebody face to face, prepare to button mash and yawn.
Visually, Manhunt isn't anything to write home to. It's a 3rd rate effort that gets the job done. The character detail isn't very extravagant, but it's a much better effort than anything that's found in Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City, that's for sure. The texture detail is pretty standard stuff, some of it can be decent, while the rest is just pretty average and blah. The framerate is pretty stable, but then again, that's no surprise seeing as how the game isn't really pushing any boundaries here. The game's atmosphere remains pretty much the same throughout the whole game. You'll never see much of a change, as it all takes place in one disgusting city. The game's sound is probably the best thing Manhunt has to offer. There's quite a lot of speech in the game, with the director talking to you, various confrontational cut scenes, and random chit-chat that your enemies will say from time to time. The game is Pro Logic II compatible. So if you somehow, miraculously manage to enjoy the game, and have a nice sound system as well, use it to your advantage to broaden your experience. Lastly, using your PS2 headset, you can also alarm nearby enemies by speaking into the microphone loud enough so that you are heard - very well thought out idea.
It's unfortunate that Manhunt becomes such a redundant game so quickly. The game employs a few very good concepts, but they are off-set by the game's mediocrity and pointless gore. And it's also a shame that Rockstar North's efforts are being tied down to such mindless content. Had Manhunt remained further in development, Rockstar North could've added a plethora of extra options and variety that would make playing this game rewarding and fun. Alas, any fun the game offers is gone after the first hour. If you want a game that is everything that Manhunt isn't, you should definitely check out The Mark of Kri and Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven, but you'll definitely find that The Mark of Kri shares more similarities with Manhunt, than Tenchu does. Both MoK and Manhunt have guides that aid you in the game; MoK has a hawk, while Manhunt has the director. Also, both games have an assortment of stealth kills, that are even executed almost the same way - although MoK's stealth kills are easier and more fun to do. It's unfortunate, but Manhunt is a terribly tiresome and linear game, with a gimmick that'll sell only because it's pushing the envelope. Go for The Mark of Kri, instead. You'll be better off.
12/7/2003 Arnold Katayev