Gory? Yes. Enjoyable? Yes. But Manhunt 2 contains its share of problems beneath its censored cutscenes.
oneshotskye wrote this review on .
You see, the Manhunt series is well known for one reason: the copious amounts of gore that bombards the player as he sneaks James or Danny through the back alleys of a dilapidated city. Sure, there is an interesting story backing both installments - the first dealing with the filming of a snuff movie and the second about a mental patient hell-bent on seizing the past that has alluded him for so many years - but what the fans, the parents, and the media have all focused on for both these games has not been the mechanics but the execution deaths that your character performs to dispatch the Hunters.
And the deaths are brutal. Even with the censors turned on, you know very well where Danny is sticking that drill, which can come as a minor relief to those who were afraid the red blurred effects would ruin everything. And because that aspect is all anyone else seems to concentrate on, there are times when it appears as though Rockstar was spending a great deal of their time making sure their headshots were bloody enough. Unfortunately, the gameplay suffers as a result. The most noticeable shortcoming is the rather oblivious AI featured wandering through each of the levels. Their job in the grand scheme of things, obviously, is to die by your hands, and they seem to know it as well, meaning that they basically spend their hours standing around and staring at walls. The AI is lacking peripheral vision, and they don’t employ many of the tactics used in some the modern, aforementioned games; the hunters rarely work together (a problem which lessens significantly once the enemies get guns in the fifth chapter), and their reaction upon seeing a dead comrade is a bit underwhelming. They’ll spout some angered line and walk away, their arrow flashing to reflect their alarmed state. This doesn’t mean that their actions will change much; you might see them jog for a few steps, but you can still be breathing down their neck while they’re doing so, practically walking beside them, and manage to pull off a vicious attack before they have the time to turn around and pull out another one-liner.
However, even with the silly AI, the stealth aspect of the game is still fun, and if you enjoyed it in the first game, you’ll enjoy it this time around. Stick to the shadows, or you will get caught. Sometimes you will have to create audio diversions, or think of a different path to obtain your goal, leading to some tricky tip-toeing sequences. One wrong move, and you might find yourself at the receiving end of a billy club. The stakes are high, the reward (more story or gruesome slaying) is satisfying, and the entire battle to get to that point is intense.
The voice acting is well done overall, though no one ever manages to reach the same level of creepiness that Starkweather so wonderfully exuded in the first Manhunt. You won’t hear many Hunters repeat lines when they patrol an area, though Leo’s “Kill him” growl can come up one too many times by the end of the game. A few forced early whimpers aside, Danny generally sounds like an unhinged individual, whose mental condition becomes more and more apparent through each cutscene. Leo’s ruthlessness is beautifully captured in the snarling commands he gives your character as you stealthily progress through each rundown locale. Other, minor characters get the job done and little beyond; the sound effect, on the other hand, exceed all expectations. Footsteps echo down the hall, machines hum in the background, and every punch, stab, and gunshot sounds realistic as it penetrates the virtual flesh of gang members. It’s the silence though, that really serves to unnerve players, because they know it’s only a matter of footsteps before a Hunter comes barreling through a wall. Round the corner and bang! - there’s a masked freak ready to take you out.
So the sound effects are great and the voice acting is good. The graphics, unfortunately, can only be classified as passable at best. The character models are okay, though enemies begin to look alike after a few of them come at you. This statement holds especially true for the Watchdogs, a black-suited gang who are usually lacking the sado-masochistic masks of the Honey Pot patrons or the mental patients plodding through the first level. The areas you explore are all grimy, dilapidated, disgusting hovels that don’t try to push the color palette outside a gray and brown mixture that’s slapped upon each box, shed, and grinder. Yet the graphics still enhance the mood of the title, since each area is designed to maximize people’s unease. And when you combine that with the sound effects, it succeeds in providing one or two jumps as Danny progresses through the safe house or abandoned home or adult movie theater.
No, Manhunt 2 will not appeal to everyone. A good deal of initial interest may come from the media frenzy that surrounds the title, though the violence itself probably won’t be enough to sustain that fascination. Instead, you’ll find a solid, albeit standard stealth game buried beneath all the executions that works like so many other titles in the genre: Stay to the shadows, progress slowly through the levels, and if you are caught by your enemies, be prepared to run if you don’t want to reload from your last save. And once you get a gun (about a third of the way into the game), the genre shifts away from stealth and towards a hectic action title, with plenty of headshots and shootouts awaiting you in each level. After the gameplay becomes repetitive, the story will keep you playing until the end, as you try to figure out Danny’s past along with the protagonist himself. After six or so hours of game time, you’ll be finished with another solid title from Rockstar, and chances are you, like all those other fans, parents, and media personnel, will remember the gruesome kills the best.
- Game contains a gripping story that has a twist or two that will surprise gamers when they come across them.
- Wonderful sound effects and quality voice work help set the sinister tone for things to come.
- Decently lengthed game that keeps players moving forward (i.e. no backtracking) and doesn’t throw too many frustrating obstacles in its path to make people reload time and again.
- Wide arsenal of weapons at your disposal to maximize carnage.
- Game is unnerving and intense at times, especially once helicopters become involved, and the stealth levels provide a moody, creepy atmosphere to slink around in.
- Budget price at thirty dollars.
- AI is on the stupid side, wandering aimlessly and staring blankly ahead of them, ultimately allowing for some easy dispatches.
- Levels are gray and sometimes unimaginative, as many areas look like industrial wastelands of storage crates and pipes.
- Graphics look dated, and character models begin to all look the same after a dozen encounters. Faces are vacant and lips oftentimes don’t move or don’t sync up properly.
- Hand to hand combat is clunky and requires little skill.
- Gameplay will not appeal to everyone - people looking for a gory action game will be disappointed at the titles emphasis on patience and sticking to the shadows in the early levels; people looking for another Splinter Cell will be annoyed once the gun is introduced.