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You awake to the sound of your own panicked breath. You must run, hide and fight to survive. If you can stay alive long enough, you may find out who did this to you.
— Back cover blurb
In between Grand Theft Auto outings, Rockstar Games published Manhunt and Manhunt 2, two controversial stealth/Psychological Horror games that share gameplay mechanics, similar settings, and little else.The chief gameplay mechanic revolves around "executions" (gruesome Finishing Moves a player can perform after a stealthy sneak-up on gang members): if a player waits as long as possible to pull off the execution, it will become more drawn-out and elaborate. The game rewards players with a higher ranking after a level ends if they perform enough of these top-level executions.In Manhunt, the player controls James Earl Cash, a Death Row inmate who had his execution faked; he was spared the death chamber by Lionel Starkweather, a disgraced Hollywood director who now makes his own "independent" films — Snuff Films that he sells on the black market — and has picked out Cash as his newest star. Starkweather promises to free Cash if he can make it out of an abandoned city alive — but trained thugs that belong to various gangs will do everything they can to ensure Cash becomes another bloodstain on their boots, and Starkweather has cameras everywhere to capture all the action...Manhunt 2 casts players as an amnesiac scientist who wakes up in a mental asylum; with the aid of another inmate, the scientist hopes to escape the asylum and unravel the government conspiracy that locked him up. This game added jumping, gun-based, and environment-aided executions to the gameplay mechanics — and it also stirred up quite a bit of controversy as several countries denied the game a content rating for its excessive amount of violent content (which made the game near-impossible to sell). This forced Rockstar to release the game in a revised form that heavily censored the gory execution scenes, though the game was eventually released online in it's original uncensored form.This game series has a character sheet.
The Manhunt games contain examples of the following tropes:
Only if you put up a tough fight, though. If you have a baseball bat duel with an enemy and almost kill him but he beats you, he will continue pummeling your body until the screen fades to black. Otherwise they just laugh and taunt your corpse. Also, the crooked cops you fight later on always do this no matter what.
Corrupt Hick: The Skinz/Wardogs gangs in the first game and the Bloodhounds in the second.
Darker and Edgier: Thought the first game was absurdly grim, drenched in urban decay, and brutal? The sequel, complete with a level named "Sexual Deviants" that channels Hostel, is a giant Take That to you and everyone else who was apparently severely underestimating what Rockstar was capable of.
Death by Racism: It's possible to kill members of the Skinz midway through their white supremacist ranting.
Deconstruction Game: The first game deconstructs and satirizes the conventional relationship between player and player character in violent video games. The player character James Earl Cash is being controlled from the outset by Starkweather, a weird creepy guy sitting in a dark room in front of a computer screen, who watches him through cameras and urges him to commit unspeakably horrific acts. It's pretty obvious who Starkweather is meant to represent. And why does Starkweather urge Cash to carry out these shockingly violent murders? For no better reason than he finds them entertaining (not to mention sexually arousing).
Do Not Do This Cool Thing: In Manhunt 2, the Hidden Ending is only reached by players who go to great lengths to perform the more difficult "Violent" and "Gruesome" kills as opposed to the simpler "Hasty" kills. In it, Leo defeats Daniel in the final level's Battle in the Center of the Mind, taking over their body and starting his own string of serial murders.
Escort Mission: Not as bad as most, since you can tell the escorted individuals to hide in the shadows until you've dealt with all the hunters.
Although, if you take too long, she starts to freak out and run, grabbing the Idiot Ball on the way.
Everything's Better with Monkeys: One of the bonus missions in the first game, unlocked after you earn 3 stars each in scenes 11-15, has you revisiting the Carcer City Zoo to deal with a gang of psychos dressed up as monkeys.
Evil Versus Evil: The first game involves a death row convict singlehandedly fighting against entire gangs of Axe Crazy murderers and one sick and twisted individual with a fetish for extreme violence.
Executive Suite Fight: It's hardly a spoiler to say you're going to meet Starkweather face-to-face at the end of the first game, and it's not hard to guess where.
Eye Scream: One of the executions in the first game, a few in the second.
From Bad to Worse: In the first game, Cash's executions are extremely brutal, but they're also quick, clean kills. In the second game, the executions are often blatantly sadistic, like gouging somebody's eyes out or needlessly mutilating them before delivering a killing blow. The way this is justified for Nice Guy Danny is that he's being manipulated by the implanted personality of a sadistic serial killer.
Hyperspace Arsenal: Almost completely averted - the player characters can only carry three types of weapons and one lure, and every item he's carrying is always visible on his person. However, no explanation is given for the spare ammunition he carries.
Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: The first game has Fetish which is Normal, and Hardcore which is, you guessed it, Hard. The second has "Sane" and "Insane", which are basically the same thing.
Improvised Weapon: The weapons you use include plastic bags, pens, pliers, fire extinguishers, telephones, and hedge-clippers.
Karma Meter: The second game, surprisingly. Performing more Violent and Gruesome level executions (both of which tend to be more sadistic and gratuitous than Hasty level ones) awards more style points. Your style point count by the penultimate level determines whether you get the normal final level where Danny enters his mind and kills the Leo personality and is given a new identity to live a peaceful life or the alternate where Leo kills the Danny personality, and prepares to go on a Serial Killermurder spree.
Kill 'em All: Fairly obvious, as the goal of the series is to kill everyone in sight in order to survive. There are very few characters that survive the events of both games.
Lampshade Hanging: In the first stage, Leo somehow manages to be on the other side of doors that you need to unlock to progress and somehow manages to be close to you in every cutscene despite being nowhere near you when you play. Turns out that Leo is a separate personality in Daniel's mind, though you have no idea this is the case when you first start.
Pigsy has been described to have the mentality of one.
Also goes hand-in-hand with some of the Smileys, as well as the more mentally unbalanced gangs in Manhunt 2.
Pun-Based Title: A great many of the names of the levels in the first game, e.g. "Trained To Kill" takes place in a train station, "White Trash" takes place in a junkyard full of white supremacists. Fridge Brilliance when you realize that the levels represent scenes from a snuff porn film, and lots of porn films have really terrible puns as titles.
Rule 34: The first game's premise hinges upon this. As if to make sure the players were as squicked-out as possible, Starkweather repeatedly makes oblique (and not-so-oblique) references to how well he's responding to Cash's performance.
Snuff Film: The entire plot of the first game. Seen in the second game with the hidden cameras in the torture rooms of the sex club. Additionally at a turning point in both games the protagonist is shown a video of his family being murdered shifting their motivation from survival to revenge.
Stealth-Based Game: Although the stealth is technically optional, trying to take on hunters directly in the first game will make you regret your decision. The game's combat system is clunky and awkward enough to make stealth seem massively preferable by design. The firearms sections of the game make little use of stealth, although it certainly helps when pursued by half of Carcer City's police force or facing off against seven of Starkweather's troopers.
Stealth Pun: Carcer City. Another word for imprisoned is incarceration. In-CARCER-ation. Don't wonder why you feel so trapped playing this game.
The Stoic: James Earl Cash. How he's internally handling the game events, and the details of what landed him in prison in the first place, are completely up to the player's imagination.
Survival Horror: While the game has no supernatural elements, it still has the same elements-an overwhelmed protagonist, oppressive atmosphere, and need for careful resource management-of a survival horror game.
Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: One reviewer said this literally happened to him. Due to being low on health, he was forced to hide in the shadows as a gang prowled for him. As they passed by, he finally breathed again... just loud enough for his headset to register it, which meant the gang heard it, too.
Take Cover: The first game actually had a rudimentary cover system that predated many games that utilized cover mechanics, composed of commands that allowed you to hide, stand up and aim, or leave cover. It isn't remembered much, given the game's emphasis on stealth. That is, until the final few chapters where you're forced into gunfights.
Leo in Manhunt 2 can be a different spin on the trope: a seemingly ordinary guy who forces otherwise "good" characters in games into committing brutal murders to satisfy his own psychotic tendencies, thus "taking over" the character themselves.
Title Drop: "Danny, listen; It's a Manhunt. And they won't stop, until we're both dead."
Unrated Edition: Manhunt 2 for PC: the original AO-rated version was finally released - in 2009
Video Game Cruelty Potential: Executions in a nutshell, as you choose how viciously you murder the hunters and can spook them with the heads of their decapitated buddies.
In the first game this trope also applies in that, while certain sections require you to kill everyone in order to progress and you're rewarded with unlockables for indulging in the gorn, it's perfectly possible to play through the game not going for maximum gore just to spite Starkweather, who applauds more brutal executions, and remains awkwardly silent (or hilariously outraged) if you're not "performing" up to his standards. The star rating system is essentially how much you're having Cash play along with Starkweather's game.
"Well Done, Son!" Guy: Several of the Skinz talk to themselves about wanting to make their dead fathers proud of them.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Danny's two kids, no mention of them aside from "they're fine" shortly before the game's final moments, after that in the good ending Daniel adopts a whole new life as David, basically implying that now two children won't have their father, Daniel, back.
The hobo in the first game that you had to escort through Innocentz Turf to the Graveyard. There is some production art that shows that he was meant to be a boss character calledThe Scarecrow, who would have been the former leader of The Smileys.
You Bastard: In the first game, Cash has to kill other people because a mysterious figure who watches him on a viewing screen and gives him suggestions via an earpiece transmitter wants a sadistic thrill. The implications of this situation grow steadily less subtle as the game goes on.
Your Head Asplode: In the first game, only close-range shotguns and sniper rifle headshots invoke this trope. In the second game, any headshot within a certain range will cause this, as will all firearm executions. In both games, certain melee weapons — including the baseball bat, the chainsaw, and the shovel — can cause this.