Rockstar’s absolutely brutal take on the survival horror genre still lives on in infamy.
Possession of the game in New Zealand is still against the law. Australia officially banned the title. On July 19th 2004 German officials confiscated every copy of the game due to German courts recognizing the game as a “representation of violence”. Germany deemed it too harmful. Even in the UK and Canada it is treated with a strict Adult-Only rating making it more akin to pornography than a video game.
Most notably for their work on the over-the-top violent and ferociously satirical, Grand Theft Auto series, Rockstar seemed to be the usual suspects of extreme video games and controversy in the early 2000s. A role that not only was necessary but one the company seemed to relish in and boy did they push it this time. Manhunt makes Grand Theft Auto seem like a majestic pony ride through a cotton candy factory.
The plot is as simple as it is bizarre. You are James Earl Cash, an emotionless psychopath that is freed from death row to take part in a city wide snuff film. Your actions and path throughout the night are dictated by an anonymous source named, “The Director” via ear piece.
“The Director” eggs you on to be as graphic, gory and violent as possible. Even suggesting at times that he is becoming sexually aroused by the carnage you leave in your wake.
You travel through, city streets, a factory, a mental institution and other unsavory locations fighting off other disturbed gang members and maniac.
One faction is, “The Hoods”. Hoods are generally made up of typical thugs and off-duty cops. Cash eventually moves on to face more and more deplorable sacks of shit like, “The Skinz” who are white supremacists. A gang of psychotic war veterans named, “The War Dogs” and insane asylum inmates that named themselves, “The Smileys” (which I believe is a reference to a gang from Grand Theft Auto 2)
The game has you exploring each level and generally having to sneak up and ambush all of the gang members within each area.
The action is not for the faint of the heart.
Throughout the game you get to use weapons ranging from crowbars and chainsaws to pistols and shotguns. Killing hundreds of enemies execution style in very, very graphic detail. game. Even playing through the game, twenty years later I am somewhat amazed what they “got away with”.
The controls are relatively simple, even if the controller map feels outdated by today’s standards (Press X to shoot). The graphics are typical for a Rockstar game of that time, gritty and on the cartoonish side. The gameplay begins to expose itself after several hours after the shock and awe wear off, sometimes reminding you how repetitive the action itself, is.
But the story maintains your interest long enough to have you cringe yourself through the psychological bloodbath it dips you in. A cult classic, it’s sequel would go on to be even better but the original is worthy of a purchase, nonetheless. As long as you don’t have a weak stomach.