Manhunt: Most Disturbing Video Game Ever?

A look into the controversial Rockstar title.
February 24, 2014
Rockstar Games has always been known to release some controversial video games in their lifespan as a company. Games like Grand Theft Auto and Billy garnered outrage from the media, politicians, parents, educators, etc. It could be argued that maybe some of the outrage was not necessary, but in my opinion, these games pale into comparison to one notorious Rockstar title, and that title is.....MANHUNT.

I remember in 2003 seeing the most eerie commercials of this game on afternoon television. The commercials gave very little info on the game and just showed the main character being chased/subdued by various adversaries and it had this very grisly look to it. The music made it even more unsettling and you had the sense of panic while watching it. The voice-over also sent chills, especially when said "Can you stop the hunt before you are taken down?" This commercial caught my attention and I was intrigued by finding out what this game was about. I finally had a chance to pick it up used on Xbox, popped it in, and delved into madness.

Manhunt is a stealth video game with a psychological-horror edge to it. Think of it as a more graphic Splinter Cell. The game is broken into twenty levels of various scenes, such as Junkyards and Insane Asylums. You play the character James Earl Cash, an inmate who was sentenced to death, but was given a second chance by a crazed director who places you in a snuff film to kill hunters.. This director aides you in your travel on dealing with the hunters you come across. You battle such disturbing gangs like the Wardogs to the Smilies. Your character hides in the shadow, distracts, etc. to gain an edge against these gangs. Dispatching them has to be one of the most craziest things I have ever saw in a video game. You take them out from behind with various weapons and there are three levels of executions, such as suffocating someone with a plastic bag or smashing their head with a baseball bat. This is violence for entertainment of this sadistic director. The violence for you as the protagonist is a primal instinct to survive.

Now violence in video games were nothing new at this time. Games like Mortal Kombat and Doom were considered taboo video games for their violence, but Manhunt seems to push the envelope a bit further. Mortal Kombat and Doom are more fictional and over the top with the violence and gore. In Doom you are killing demons and feels less disturbing even with the gore. MK had you killing humans, but the fatalities were so over the top that they really don't have the same impact of the executions in Manhunt. Manhunt had a sense of realism in the way you dispatch your enemies and the story of the game makes it even more foreboding. It is the feeling of helplessness, fear, and will to survive that I have never experience in a video game before.

Now of course when it comes to a Rockstar game there will be controversy. U.S Representative Joe Baca, who sponsored the legislation on fining those who sell adult themed video games to minors, said, "it's telling kids how to kill someone, and it uses vicious, sadistic and cruel methods to kill." This statement warranted negative attention I am sure Rockstar did not want, but in 2004 there was another bit of tragedy that got the company the recginition it probably did not want. July 28, 2004, the game was considered the reason for the murder of 14 year old Stefan Parkeerah by his friend Warren LeBlanc. The copy of the game was found in Leblanc's possession and utilized as evidence. The attention had the game removed from most store shevles in the UK, but it was later found that there was no link to the game and the murder. It is still a black eye for the company I feel due to the bad publicity it was receiving.

So is this game probably the most disturbing video game ever released? That is a matter of opinions, but it did push the envelope on violence like no other game at the time. The game may not been groundbreaking in gameplay, but was brave enough to create an engrossing horror game that had you fight for your very survival. I leave you with a quote from the Chicago Tribune on Manhun, Manhunt is the Clockwork Orange of video games, holding your eyes open so as to not miss a single splatter -- asking you, is this really what you enjoy watching? I agree with this statement, because for as shocking as it is, it is the game that dared to create a horrifying, but memorable game.
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