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Manhunt Reviewed by Adam Wallace on . Rating: 50%
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  • Review Score:

  • C
No video game company has courted more controversy than Rockstar. Thanks to the Grand Theft Auto franchise, the company became the scapegoat for just about all the evils of the world. However, Rockstar had proven to be stellar developers who manage to create intriguing games that tackle dark and risky subject matter in an intelligent way. After the mega-success of the first 3D entries in the Grand Theft Auto franchise, attention turned toward Manhunt, and my opinion is very split between its very interesting concept and its very flawed execution.

Manhunt revolves around a subject designed to give people the creeps: snuff films. The game centers on a death row inmate named James Earl Cash who is spared execution by an underground director. The payment for this apparent act of benevolence is for Cash to mercilessly slaughter others to provide footage for the director's newest snuff film. The plot proceeds to twist into a gritty revenge tale dark enough to disturb Tarentino but always kept my attention.

Manhunt (Xbox)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Atmosphere is the best thing that Manhunt has going for it. The visuals and sound work in concert to keep you on edge all the way. The grainy look during gameplay can be a bit distracting, but the untracked VHS views for the executions just add to the shock of the violence. Speaking of the executions, they may seem tame compared to the very grisly fatalities in Mortal Kombat X, but the smart use of camera angles and editing tricks make them more unsettling. Using the Xbox Live headset also adds to the atmosphere big-time. Using your voice to distract your targets and getting the Director's instructions through the headset brings new levels of immersion to the game.

Unfortunately, Rockstar at that point had no experience in making stealth games, and it showed. The controls needed a lot of fixing. There is no real camera control in the game. Using the right thumbstick switches to a completely stationary first-person view which is functionally worthless. Meanwhile, there are THREE buttons mapped for strafing. The thumbsticks should've been mapped like a first-person shooter with one of those buttons toggling the first-person view. Also, crouching is automatic when in dark areas; there's no manual stance control. Being able to crouch at will would've opened up more avenues for reaching targets. The flawed controls made too many moments annoying rather than tense. While the game is still playable, these control fixes could've elevated the game from passable to excellent.

My disappointment in Manhunt hurts as much as a shiv in the face. The concept was great, the violence was as disturbing as the Hostel films, and the atmosphere was fantastic. However, the controls singularly ruined the experience. Maybe it was just growing pains; after all, Manhunt 2 did play much better. It wasn't a bad first take for a then-new IP, but it definitely needed more time in the editing room.
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