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School of Game Development

The Most Controversial Game To Date

nrelentingly evil and entirely disturbing, Manhunt pushes the envelope of acceptability and begs the question: "Have video games gone too far?" Inspired by the Nicolas Cage film 8MM and created by the same studio that brought us Grand Theft Auto, this shocking new title gives the world a first-rate, hands-on look at snuff film fetish and savagely violent manslaughter.

In this controversial release, players assume the identity of James Earl Cash and are forced against their will to fulfill the sadistic fantasies of a mysterious man known only as "The Director" (voiced by Brian Cox of Manhunter and X-Men 2 fame). The Director has put a bounty on your head. Gangs of murderers will do anything to collect it. If you want to live, it’s either kill or be killed.

With hidden surveillance cameras tucked around every corner and The Director in constant communication with you through an ear piece, there is nowhere to hide. He isn’t rooting for you; he just wants to see death. As you give in and perform his dirty deeds, he’ll make comments like, "You’re really getting me off, Cash" or "I want to see some blood!" The more gruesome the slaying, the greater his praise.

A glass shard to the eye…a sickle raked across the groin…the death sequences are sick, wrong, and way over-the-top. The sound of flesh being cut by a cleaver, blood spraying on the camera lens, and the sheer barbarity of someone being assassinated right before your very eyes is an unnerving experience to say the least. Hearing The Director congratulate you afterwards is even more disconcerting.

It’s a frightening premise that places gamers in a psychological impasse. The crimes that you commit are unspeakable, yet the gameplay that leads to these horrendous acts is so polished and fierce that it’s thrilling. The content may be too much for some people, but there’s no denying that Manhunt is an incredible game.

Most of your time is spent sneaking through shadows and pinpointing the perfect time to leap out and assault an unsuspecting foe. With perfect character control, a phenomenal camera system, amazing audio, and some of the best AI around, stealth really doesn’t get much better.

You would be hard-pressed to find a more intense experience in any entertainment medium. Just the sheer thought of an adversary turning around as you hover behind him will make you hold your breath and squirm with uncertainty. Edge-of-your-seat excitement is the very definition of Manhunt. Whether you find yourself in a frenzied firefight, rescuing hostages, or scouring the area for an object that could be lethal; this game shows great diversity in its level designs, and knows when to change things up.

So the question remains: "Does Manhunt go too far?" It’s definitely offensive, but you can find similar content in movies. It’s just a matter of whether or not you want to stomach it. Great game, touchy material.  


The content in this game is of a more adult variety than I have ever seen in a high-profile game. Executions are gruesome, The Director is a vile human specimen, and the methods employed by his hunters are ingeniously horrific. But, I’m not going to score the violence, I’m scoring the game, and Manhunt is one heck of a well-made stealth/action title. The enemy AI, camera, and dialogue are all head and shoulders above any of its competition. It seems to me that Rockstar realized one thing very early in development – that it needed to make the best gameplay possible to justify the gruesome visuals that the company had planned. While I’ll admit that I looked away from the screen on many occasions, I couldn’t help but be compelled to play mission upon mission, because it’s just so damn well done. It’s certainly solid, but the content is profoundly (maybe even prohibitively) violent.

Stealth, snuff, and murder
The same Renderware engine as Vice City, but the texturing and level of detail are of much higher quality
Some of the best audio in a game yet. The eerie score, richness in ambience, and amount of spoken dialogue are truly remarkable
The controls and camera are spot on. The levels are also rich in variety
An intense play with tons of bonus levels and secrets that are unlocked through end-of-level performances
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