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Manhunt XBOX Boxshot

Product: Manhunt
Company: Rockstar North
Website: Official Game Site

Estimated Street Price: $49.95/44.99
Review By: Jonathan Tigner

The Features

Gamers lacking patience need not apply. Manhunt is developed by Rockstar North, famous for the Grand Theft Auto series. But a fast-paced run-and-gun strategy will get you nowhere in this game (especially considering it will be quite some time before you acquire a gun). Manhunt is a single-player, third-person action game with a strong emphasis on stealth combat. Like Splinter Cell and other games in this genre, the key to success is keep yourself and the corpses you produce invisible to your enemies. The last thing you want is face-to-face confrontation, especially with a group of enemies.

  • 20 (+4 bonus) levels of gameplay
  • Dynamic, ambient Dolby Digital 5.1  soundtrack
  • Chilling storyline delivered through stylized camera views and graphic renderings
  • Excellent use of the XBOX Live! headset in a single-player game

 

They just killed Cash. Now, they want to kill him again.

America is full of run down, broken rust-belt towns where nobody cares and anything goes. In Carcer City, nothing matters anymore and all that's left are cheap thrills. The ultimate rush is the power to grant life and take it away, for sport. This time James Earl Cash, you are the sport. They gave you your life back. Now, they are going to hunt you down.

You awake to the sound of your own panicked breath. You must run, hide and fight to survive. If you can stay alive long enough, you may find out who did this to you.

This is a brutal blood sport.

Gameplay

You are placed in the role of James Earl Cash, an inmate at the Darkwods Penitentiary whose spent the last three years on death row. The game begins with a cinema showing Cash's execution. The public believes that Cash has died, as planned,  by lethal injection. However, thanks to corrupt prison staff, what was supposed to be a heart stopping concoction is instead just a strong sedative. Cash eventually awakens to find himself in a locked room. The voice of Lionel Starkweather sounds over the intercom speaker as Cash tries to smash surveillance cameras and find a way out. Cash finally yields to Starkweather's directions to put on a wireless earpiece that has been placed on a nearby table. "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," says Starkweather. "You've had an unexpected reprieve. Do exactly as I say and I promise this will be over before the night is out." From this point on, players with an XBOX Live! headset will be able to hear all of Starkweather's directives just as Cash would through his earpiece. If no headset is used, the audio from Cash's earpiece is mixed with the rest of the game audio.

Starkweather is a deranged snuff film director (excellently portrayed by actor, Brian Cox) and Cash has become the star of his latest sinister work. Gameplay starts with a tutorial scene on an empty Carcer City street in which you are free to familiarize yourself with the controls. As you approach the end of the street, Starkweather seeks to test your mettle by challenging you kill your first unsuspecting victim with the plastic bag you have just acquired. You also get your first taste of the game's explicit humor in the form of graffiti on the side of the building around the corner from your first kill. The graffiti says, "Kill This Dumb F***." and is followed by an arrow directing you to the oblivious prey. This is the first of many directive and/or humorous messages you will come across in the game. You can lock on to the enemy with the left trigger. As you approach from behind, the targeting reticle changes and Cash's arm raises to signal that he's close enough to make the kill. Whenever you successfully attack without being noticed by the person you are stalking, the game switches to a view of your kill as seen through one of Starkweather's cameras, giving you an up-close and gory view of the effects of your actions.

Manhunt provides many tools allowing you to stalk enemy hunters while remaining hidden. There are many shadowy areas in the game where you can lurk without being noticed. While in these areas, hunters will not notice you no matter how close they are to you, unless you are seen running in/into the area or the location in which you are hiding happens to be in the path that a hunter normally patrols and either you or the hunter bumps into the other.  Be sure to carry the bodies of your victims to these areas so they are not noticed by other hunters. You can lure nearby hunters in your direction by beating on walls or hitting/kicking other objects such as boxes or dumpsters to make noise. Some objects, like bricks, can be thrown to distract hunters. If you have an XBOX Live! headset, you can also make noise by yelling into the headset's microphone. An on-screen radar (not available in Hardcore mode) gives you a map of nearby hunters (dead and alive) as well as items needed for the completion of certain objectives. Your noise level is conveyed as a red circular area in the radar that grows to cover a larger radius of the radar as your noise level increases. Nearby hunters are usually represented as yellow chevrons in the radar, but the chevrons change red if intercepted by the noise radius, and the hunters go on alert looking for the source of the noise.

Weapons are usually easy to acquire in Manhunt. Even in the scenes where you start without weapons there is usually one nearby. As you kill enemy hunters, you can also pickup the weapons that they drop. In early scenes, you'll come across items like plastic bags, wire, and bats. Later, you'll encounter projectile weapons like nail guns and hand guns. You can also break the glass of windows to acquire glass shards that can be used as weapons. The shards are also found on the ground or can be taken from hunters like the other weapons. As you progress through the game, you will come across video cassettes. The cassettes enable you to save your progress and you'll generally find them just as you are getting anxious to do so. The cassettes will become more valuable in later levels as you encounter more ambushes and enemies start to hunt in groups.

Review Quotes
"... a fast-paced run-and-gun strategy will get you nowhere in this game (especially considering it will be quite some time before you acquire a gun).

Graphics & Sound

Manhunt is impressive graphically. The character and environment models do not set new graphical heights for XBOX games. They do, however,  offer a unique style and the right level of detail to qualitatively add to the game's dark subject matter and provide a credible atmosphere that draws you into the story. The dynamic Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack further enhances the game's hold onto you senses by providing an ever-present level of suspense as you wander through the spooky, run-down areas of Carcer City. In addition to setting the mood, the ambient soundtrack changes to alert you to potentially dangerous situations. You can eavesdrop on the conversations and ramblings of nearby enemies, as well as their taunts for you to come out of hiding. This proves especially valuable in Hardcore mode where there is no radar. An XBOX Live! headset is strongly recommended because it separates Starkweather's directives from the other audio elements and puts them right into your ear. Again, this is another great feature that helps you to connect more directly with Cash's situation, and can, at times, make you feel like you are actually in the game.

 

Final Comments

How It Grades
Controls: 95%
Gameplay: 80%
Graphics: 85%
Multiplayer: NA%
Sound: 95%
Manual: 86%
Interface: 97%
Price: 84%
Overall: 89%

Manhunt is a great addition to the action/stealth genre. The game's 20+ levels will provide multiple hours of gameplay. Fans of the genre will enjoy the challenge of executing Cash's enemies while trying their best to remain hidden. However, casual players may find the game a bit long and crave faster-paced action after a few hours of sneaking around.

 

Specs & Package
Overall Score 89%
Version Reviewed Manhunt NTSC
Release Date Out Now
In The Box? 1 Manhunt DVD
1 Instruction Manual/Faux Catalog
The Good Points

Good Graphics
Dynamic Sound
Excellent Use of XBOX Live! Headset
Entertaining In-Game Humor

The Bad Points No HDTV Support
PAL 60 Support (Europe) Yes


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