Manhunt was Rockstar Games first forte into the horror survival genre while serving as a reminder that human nature will always be the most horrifying creature.
It attempted to change concept of the horror survival genre while causing controversy for pushing the boundaries of what was considered acceptable violence. This horror icon has returned with a PlayStation 4 version that will introduce this forgotten classic to a new generation of horror gamers.
This is an unorthodox horror game that broke from the tradition to have players go up against the most fearsome demon, human nature. Manhunt could easily be summed up as a modern retelling of The Most Dangerous Game while set in an urban jungle plagued with corruption.
The story follows James Earl Cash, a convict on death row, who awakes in an abandon room and is greeted by Lionel Starkweather (aka The Director). Cash is informed the he has been given a second chance and will earn his freedom if he participates in several snuff film.
These films will involve Cash murdering people at different locations for Starkweathers amusement or risk getting killed. Players must navigate each level while trying to find a way to escape.
At its core; Manhunt is a horror game in the traditional sense but the horror the player must over come is that of human savagery. Players must use stealth and the darkness to avoid the hunters while prearranging to make the final kill. At the same time, one must try to conserve ammo (if found) while using what ever resources that are available.
The levels will include an abandon mall, a junkyard, zoo, an asylum and it all ends at Starkweather mansion. If theme was not dark enough, the eerie atmosphere along with viciousness of each faction contributed to the games overall grittiness.
The original had a few minor issues with the control functions but most of them have been resolved in the PS4 version.
Looking back; Manhunt was truly a unique horror game as it presented a character study of two evil men. One is a death row convict (Cash) while the other is an artist with a sinister ambition (Starkweather).
It’s the wickedness of Starkweather that has made Manhunt the ultimate study in human evil as he is the perfect villain by being antithesis to Cash, a hero who is suppose to be a villain as defined by his background. Adding to the grotesque nature of the villain is the performance of Brian Cox, well known to horror fans as the first actor to portray Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter.
Despite all it did for the horror genre, Manhunt success has always been overshadowed by the storm of controversy that followed after its release. The game has been banned in multiple countries for its violent content while some had to rewrite their rating the codes to accommodate it.
One of the sliver linings of this has been that Manhunt pushed the concept of violence in video games out of its infancy by demonstrating the maturity of the medium. While games like Doom and Grand Theft Auto III demonstrated that video games are not just for kids, this was the game that announced to the world that this is a medium that could explore adult complexions.
Another factor that is too often overlooked is that Manhunt was released during the height of the popularity of torture porn. Horror films like Saw and Hostel dominated the theaters as the alternative to watered down ghost stories. It was only a matter of time when video games decided follow.
Manhunt was a unique horror game that explored a concept very few are whiling to explore while demonstrating the maturity of video games. Yet its a concept that will never be recreated again with such magnitude.
Hence, it only makes sense to re-release this classic on the 20th anniversary of Resident Evil.
Final Score: 9/10