Controversy reached the world of video games with a Rockstar game that scandalized and dazzled half the world.
Released in the early years of the first Xbox, the grim title of rock star games, Manhunt, forever changed the way we think about use of language and violence in video games. Rockstar has always had a reputation for going beyond the limits of violence. Modern games the open world wouldn’t be the same without Grand Theft Auto 3, and similarly, violence in video games it wouldn’t be the same without Manhunt.
When you are riding on the same engine RenderWare Unlike the Grand Theft Auto games of the time, this one had an unmatched look and feel of a Rockstar game. But instead of offering players an exciting open world to explore, Manhunt focused only on hunting humans. And, to date, very few games dare to replicate its somber tone and extreme violence.
The game is set in Carcer City, a ruthless and ungoverned city that exists in the same universe as the cities of the Grand Theft Auto games. Manhunt put us in the role of a contradictory character, James earl cash
Our protagonist has a second chance to live after being saved by the mysterious director. But his intentions are far from selfless or noble: he wants James to participate in a reality tv movie. As the main star, James has to walk through Carcer City, killing local gang members in the most brutal way possible. To assist you, the manager controls surveillance cameras throughout the city and guides your actions to create an unforgettable spectacle.
Characters from previous GTA games, such as Vice City’s Tommy Vercetti, were far from exemplary citizens, but they reached a point where they were betrayed and that meant that at least we felt a certain empathy towards their cause. However here from the start, James is already shown as a murderer locked on death row and saved from him so he can only do more of the same: kill and kill.
It is true that one could argue that getting rid of the local scum should not weigh down your conscience, for among them were perverts, white supremacists, cannibals and corrupt members of the military. However, it wasn’t so much about who James should kill, but how he was going to do it.
Unlike Grand Theft Auto 3 and Vice City, Manhunt encouraged stealth instead of face-to-face encounters. Instead of being armed, James hid in the shadows and mainly used everyday tools: plastic bags, shards of glass, nail guns, etc. There were no driving or flight phases, or side missions to diversify the gameplay. All there was to do was kill, so the mechanics had to be good and attractive. And it was.
Approaching an enemy undetected, James could execute it with any tool he currently had equipped. Could suffocate them with a simple plastic bag, slit their throats with a piece of glass or break your head with a blunt weapon like a bat. Depending on how long the player held down the attack button, James would perform an even more cruel execution.
For example, after putting a plastic bag on their head, I hit them while they died of suffocation. These kills were riskier because they gave enemies more time to spot James, but they also awarded more “points” and often they elicited a much more elated reaction from the director. To further improve immersion, you can connect a USB microphone to the console. Players could harness their own voices to gain attention and attract unsuspecting enemies. An innovation for the time.
Each level evaluated your score based on the runtime and brutality dead. This system encouraged players not only to kill their victims, but to do it in a particularly graphic way
In some countries, due to its controversial topics and graphic violence, Manhunt was banned. Among them were Australia and New Zealand, the two countries historically not very lenient towards violent and sexual media. New Zealand banned Manhunt a few weeks after its launch, while Australia took almost a year to do the same.
Personally, I didn’t like Manhunt during his first half, since he couldn’t understand the call behind killing people, beyond the morbidity that caused a teenager to be in front of “something forbidden”. And I’m not against video game violence at all, but it seemed like a stupid idea. However, its simple but difficult progression, and a surprisingly good plot, they changed my opinion of him.
Under this appearance of violence, Rockstar Games made a surprisingly good game, with solid mechanics and a story. And it went well enough commercially to warrant a sequel: Manhunt 2. Sadly, the two games wouldn’t even stand a chance in today’s market due to the overly sensitive nature of the partnership. Today, everything must be censored and updated to meet certain standards of certain people. And when censorship wins, we all lose.
Unfortunately, Manhunt is currently not available on Xbox One. If you want to play it, you’ll need to dust off your original Xbox. Since Microsoft is constantly expanding the backward compatibility library, it could arrive on Xbox One in the next few years. Until then, consider trying it out on PC.