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After reading this, I hardly can remember why I even enjoyed Manhunt. You highlighted some very important flaws, many of which would cripple a game today. But you're right. The brutal violence is the only thing keeping this game tolerable.
I liked this quote, and for no other reason than its fluidity and--to me--humor: "The length to which enemy manipulation plays its hand narrows down to Cash pulling out a baseball bat and hitting a wall, which forces the curiosity of your ceaselessly stupid opponents to lead them into dark areas where a one-man ambush with a plastic bag is all but guaranteed."
Thanks for the comments. I've always wanted to review Manhunt but never really had enough playing experience with it to work up a credible review until just recently, when I got the game as part of Steam's thirty-dollar Rockstar package. Glad I finally got this out of my system.
You're right about it being tolerable, though. The reason I didn't give the game a lower score is because it wasn't broken or particularly painful to finish, and it didn't have any flaws that rendered it unplayable. It was a dumb, pointless game, but tolerably so.
I remember really liking Manhunt, but knowing I probably shouldn't. Below is a (rejected, natch!) piece I wrote for PC Gamer bloody aeons ago. Just for the fuck of it, like.
We live in a civilised society. Today's idealist views give little
opportunity for brutal expression, for malevolent bloodlust and
gore-soaked annihilation. Rockstar, it would seem, have delved deep
into the mind of today's Average Guy, and by doing so have managed to
create something that appeals to the little psycho in all of us:
"And then I started smashing his face against the ground, right? And
he was screaming for me to stop, but I carried on anyway - and there
was blood, like, /everywhere/..."
Of course, such actions are passive. While Manhunt markets itself
around the concept of nauseating brutality, it's rare that the player
is actually given a chance to control such attacks. Although ranged
weapons come into play later on, resulting in more open gunfights,
combat is generally based around a time-based system, whereby the
longer you lurk behind an unsuspecting victim before pouncing, the
more vicious the eventual assassination. The results are viewed in
short but highly graphic, CCTV-style cut-scenes.
It's a good suspense builder in an experience that is fundamentally
about tension. Manhunt, technically, is rather weak. Controlling
lead character James Earl Cash can feel stilted at times, clunky from
the transition to PC. The story is solid, but its credibility is
often ruined by terribly lazy level design and irritatingly obvious
gameplay aids. Enemy AI has a tendency to be rather abysmal, with
moronic thugs skulking around Carcer City without any knowledge of
your presence unless you're directly in front of them. Either that,
or they hear you from half a mile away, and charge at you with all
Despite the occasionally suspect mechanics, however, Manhunt's
atmosphere is generally fantastic. The background to the game is
enough to send a shiver down anybody's spine, revealed by both the
chilling opening cut-scene and the game's manual. The player controls
death row convict James Earl Cash; the game begins with his apparent
execution. However, not all goes to plan, and Cash awakes in a small,
dark room, brought back into consciousness by the sinister voice of
underground filmmaker Starkweather. It soon becomes apparent that he
wants you to be the star of his new picture, and has positioned his
band of deadly minions around Carcer City for you to dispense at his
It's a gritty concept, and one supported well by strong voice-acting
and impressive aesthetics. Although the Renderware engine doesn't
look as luscious as it once did, Manhunt nevertheless features some
nice, grungy graphical touches. Add to this some unsettling and
somewhat distressing audio, and the atmospherics are of a rather high
Perhaps where Manhunt succeeds most of all is its willingness to treat
the gamer like an adult. Sure, it's going to attract those sick
individuals who find the idea of decapitating a clown with a crowbar
somewhat enchanting. But it's important to remember that it's just a
game. If you forget the mechanics, and focus on the unforgettably
dark and warped experience, Manhunt is way ahead of the pack.