This week, The Escapist's Zero Punctuation reviews Manhunt.
Controversy and the games industry go hand in hand like Ico and Yorda, if you'll forgive the incredibly nerdy analogy, and like Yorda, the controversy tends to stay focused for an average of about 8 nanoseconds before getting bored and drifting off to do something else. But when it does get focused, it can get very exasperating, such as when youthful paragons of self-control are called nasty names and decide that murder would be the wittiest comeback and then is found to have stood next to a video game at some point in the past. Then the media generally start drooling the usual uninformed questions as to whether wholesome boyish pretend violence has any correlation with the real world. Short answer: No. Long answer: No, and go fuck yourselves, you ignorant scare-mongering cockbags. But sometimes this can be a difficult position to take.
OK, pressing buttons to shoot guns in, say, Soldier of Fortune, is about as far removed from the workings of actual guns as my arse is from the dark side of Europa, but then you have games like Manhunt, which not only have the player viciously maim human beings with a variety of household objects, but also provides detailed and up-close demonstrations on how to achieve the most horrific results, and arguing the harmlessness of it all lacks credibility somewhat. Manhunt comes courtesy of Rockstar North, best known for whirligig of irresponsibility Grand Theft Auto, and concerns the adventures of the laughably-named James Earl Cash, who is plucked from death row in order to take part in a snuff film for the pleasure of some unseen but mouthy pervert. So off he goes to shoot, garrote, bludgeon, slash, and plastic-bag his way through legions of his fellow man.
First impressions were bad. Let's get something straight, alright, third-person action game developers? Left analog stick for movement, right analog stick to rotate camera around player. How is it that when you see something that works perfectly well, you immediately decide to try and improve it and cock the whole thing up? In Manhunt, the right analog stick changes to the first-person camera, which may seem reasonable in theory, but it means that when you're hiding and trying to see a nearby guard patrolling behind you, you nudge the stick and end up staring at a brick wall, and half the time, when you finally wrestle the camera into the right angle, you'll see the guard has patrolled right up to you, and has now shivved you in the bollocks. There are other things I can complain about, like how the whole "smack a wall to lure over a guard, then do dreadful things to them with the nearest sharp object" rigamarole repeats itself verbatim for virtually every single enemy. But after I'd played for a couple of hours, a strange thing happened; I was actually having fun. I know, it was a weird and frightening realization.
You see, I've always had a fondness of Jason films, because I hate eighties fashion trends, and it's nice to see people being punished for them, and Manhunt felt kind of like being in a Jason film, I guess, except it was more like the logical opposite of a Jason film, in that I was a desperate, terrified, normal guy, stalking and dispatching droves of masked psychotics. Sadly, the fun dried up as I got further through the game, and the emphasis shifted from stealth to gunplay, like every action game and their dog. There's a tendency for stealth games to try and have their cake and eat it by including action-heavy combat segments, see also Thief: The Dark Project, and it almost always means a trip to Shittytown. Manhunt expected me to clear out a building full of bad guys, then kill a boss from long distance with a motherfucking shotgun, all in the space of a two-minute timer. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: no chance, you unreasonable dicks.
Manhunt has actually been banned in this country, because the Australian government has this habit of trying pathetically hard to jump onto bandwagon issues that roll in from real countries, but I seriously don't know whose side to be on when it comes to the debate over whether games like Manhunt mess with the heads of underage impressionable thickies. There's a very clear certification indicating that twelve-year-olds aren't supposed to be playing it, but there's no denying that they play it anyway, because no one other than twelve-year-olds are into this sort of thing. Gushing breathlessly about garrote wire decapitation and baseball bat cranial explosion is a good way to win friends in middle school, but around the office water cooler it's a good way to lose them. When you break it down, Manhunt is a game that doesn't excel, but is at least competent in most areas, and it's good for relieving tension, which is really all you can ask for. It only stands out in the area of juvenile gore, so take this as a recommendation if you're the kind of person who needs to see a gushing mangled neck stump before they can get it up.
Danger to himself and others: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
"Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" by Lesley Gore
"Filmstar" by Suede
Also Oscar Wilde never used the phrase 'unreasonable dicks', that was entirely made up for comic effect although he did once describe a friend as a 'blinkering cockslot'
Tell me I was funnier before I sold out: firstname.lastname@example.org
- The car Manhunt and Thief: The Dark Project were driving to Shittytown in is a pink British Mini and the van that had the violent video game smuggled into Australia is a Mercedes-Benz TN.