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Video Game / Manhunt

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There are some movies you don't want to have a part in.

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 Survival Horror games that share gameplay mechanics, similar settings, and little else. It is one of Rockstar Game's most infamous masterpieces, and the Trope Codifier for games going too controversial and too bloody for the public to accept. The first was released in 2003 for PC, PlayStation 2 and Xbox; the second in 2008, for the same platforms and also the PSP and Wii. Up until the release of Hatred, the uncut version of 2 was notable for being the only game to be released to carry the AO (Adults Only) rating for violence alone.note 

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 Vinewood 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 Carcer 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...

In spite of the controversy, the game was quite well-received for its original premise, tight stealth gameplay and frightening atmosphere, but also attracted significant criticism for its shifting emphasis on gunplay over stealth in the latter portion of the game. Despite this shift in game play, the game managed to stay frightening, as while Cash was a good shot, you were often surrounded by enemies who would either surround and flank you, or have better guns.

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- and environment-based executions to the gameplay mechanics — and it also stirred up far more controversy than the first installment, as several countries denied the game a content rating due to its 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 its original uncensored form.

Not to be confused with the 1986 film, note  the 1988/1989 video games, or the 2004-2009 comic book series all named Manhunter. Also not to be confused with the 2017 John Woo film.

The Manhunt games contain examples of the following tropes:

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  • Action-Based Mission:
    • After seven missions of tense sneaking about in the shadows, "View of Innocence" is a protracted shootout in a shopping mall. There is only one melee weapon available in the entire mission, so executions aren't an option. Annoyingly, Starkweather continues to berate the player for getting spotted (much as in stealthy missions), even though no other option is provided.
    • As the game goes on, the focus shifts from stealth and executions to gunplay and taking cover.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: 1 on 1 fights with other Hunters aren't encouraged (and 2 or more is just plain suicide), but beat down one enough, and they'll plead for mercy (although showing that mercy often has them go after you AGAIN). That said, a few keep boasting about their superiority, or just tell the player to hurry up, and kill them already.
  • A.K.A.-47: The Glock is called the Light Handgun, The Desert Eagle is called Heavy Handgun, The M16 is called the Assault Rifle and so on.
    • The game manual gives actual names to the weapons, but they still invoke this trope. For example, the SPAS-12 is called the SAP-12, the Uzi is the SPAZ Mark 1, etc.
  • An Arm and a Leg: When Piggsy charges onto the metal grate, it gives way, and he throws his chainsaw aside to grab the ledge. Cash takes the chainsaw and uses it to cut Piggsy's arms off, dropping him to his death.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: In the sequel, Danny is the main character but Leo is playable in the chapters that takes place 6 years ago, and the alternate ending, where he kills Danny.
  • Anti-Hero: Cash is clearly not a good person, but the people he's up against are infinitely more vile and depraved than him, with some of his opponents including sadistic pedophiles and neo-Nazis. He's also shown to try and save his family (and declares It's Personal when Starkweather kills them out of spite) and guides an innocent journalist to safety even after she witnessed him slaughter a bunch of police officers (albeit ones on Starkweather's payroll). In fact, the only indication we have that Cash is evil at all is the fact that he was a Death Row inmate, for unknown reasons... although, given his familiarity with guns and improvised weapons, he probably isn't the victim of a Frame-Up...
  • Asshole Victim: Deconstructed, the game deconstructs the glorification of violence by making it as realistic as possible and forcing the player to watch. Nobody in the game is a saint as it's kill or be killed, the gang members have a history of violence, have chosen to participate in the hunt, and they will kill Cash on sight with sadistic delight. However, the game's main question is "Do they really deserve to die so horribly?" as it takes the player out of their usual power fantasy and forces them to hear the pained sounds of the gang members as they are gruesomely killed with a variety of weapons. Sure, they are horrible people, and they definitely had it coming, but isn't a shot to the head quicker and more merciful than stabbing their eyes out with a knife or disembowelling them with a sickle?
  • Authority Equals Asskicking:
    • Played straight with Ramirez of The Wardogs and the Cerberus team leader, both heads of their respective gangs and both playing out like standard boss battles, complete with health bar. Executions don't work on Ramirez, forcing you to beat him in gunfight. And while the Cerberus Leader can be executed, he's being guarded by many of his soldiers, so managing to get him alone and sneak up behind him is a very difficult task. That being said, a headshot from a weapon capable of shattering one's skull (the shotgun or the sniper rifle) will kill them instantly. In Ramirez case, these two are the only weapons you have available to face him, so simply managing to shoot him in the head will suffice. As for the Cerberus team leader, unless you have brought either one from the previous scene (which is very unlikely as they will prove highly ineffective against the horde of assault rifle wielding Cerberus guarding Starkweather), you have to practically empty a full clip on him to kill him.
    • Averted with Big Bad Lionel Starkweather, who you simply gut open with a chainsaw. Climax Boss Piggsy is an interesting case, because, while he doesn't play out like the previous boss battles, he can only be killed by performing multiple executions on him.
  • Awesomeness Meter: Arguably yes... and arguably no. See "Video Game Cruelty Potential" and "Do Not Do This Cool Thing" for more details.
  • Ax-Crazy: All of the characters, especially the major antagonists.
  • Batter Up!: A good old-fashioned weapon present in both games. The original has wooden and metal varieties, while the sequel has one with a chain wrapped around it for good measure.
  • Beating A Dead Player: Literally in the first game, as the hunters punch and kick your bloody corpse.
    • 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.
    • If you're lucky enough, you could just bash their bodies while they're downed splattering their brains out all over the floor.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Just about everyone in the first game is an Ax-Crazy murderer in some way, to the point that the Death Row convict is possibly the lesser evil.
  • Black Comedy:
    • Starkweather's comments can be kind of funny every now and then. If anything this makes him even more frightening than he would otherwise be.
    • The Smileys, while being one of the more disturbing gangs, provide some rather dark humor. Like painting a message on the wall – likely in blood — reading, "I will give you shit for brains", followed by the obligatory trademark smiley face.
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents: In the second game, Danny gets splattered in blood from his executions - doing enough "Violent" and "Gruesome" executions in a level can make it look like he swam through a whole river of it! This also applies to Leo in the Flashback missions, although his considerably more callous Blood Knight attitude makes him more of a Blood-Splattered Warrior.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The executions in Manhunt 2 are considerably more brutal than the ones in the first, so much so that they had to be censored to avoid an AO rating!
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: In an instance of Cutscene Incompetence, Ramirez captures Cash and has him dead-to-rights after he's been given explicit instruction to kill him, and decides that now would be a good time to have his men continue Hunting the Most Dangerous Game rather than simply shooting him dead.
  • Boom, Headshot!: A reliable One-Hit Kill if Cash is close enough in the first game. Every firearm execution in the second game.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted during the final scene - Starkweather only has six bullets for his revolver and if you get him to use all six without killing you, he'll be out of ammunition and easy pickings for your chainsaw.
  • Bowdlerised: The second game, to avoid an AO rating (which is effectively a ban, since many shops refuse to stock games with it).
  • Chainsaw Good: The chainsaw appears as a rare red class weapon ( only being used by Piggsy in Deliverance and in the Time 2 Die bonus level), it is weak, unable to be used to hit walls, and mostly importantly; noisy when on, but makes up for being automatic, can be turned off and usable when sprinting.
    • The sequel features a smaller (blue class) Circular Power Saw instead, but it lacks the powered melee and is just used as a bludgeon outside of executions.
  • Climbing Climax:
    • Played straight and then inverted in the boss fight against Ramirez. Cash chases him up through several floors of an apartment building, but when he gets to the top, Ramirez runs right back down again and Cash has to chase him downstairs again.
    • Played straight in the final fight against Starkweather, who barricades himself in his office in the top floor of his mansion.
  • Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: Repeatedly said by hunters.
  • Crapsack World: An understatement of how fucked up Carcer City is, considering the multiple gangs of killers and madmen that willingly play along with a snuff film ring for kicks, and how one disgraced film director can pull someone off of death row just to star in his latest project.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Plenty of 'em, as every possible weapon has increasingly brutal ways to end someone's life.
  • Cutscene Incompetence: About half of the first game basically consists of "Cash makes his way through an area, gets captured by Starkweather's goons in a cutscene, gets dumped out in a new location sans his gear", rinse and repeat.
  • Damsel in Distress: The Journalist certainly acts like this. Unlike the Tramp in the previous Escort Mission, she will panic if Cash leaves her for too long, and says stereotypically girly things (perhaps ironically) like complaining about her bad hair day. Unlike the Tramp, Starkweather actively wants her dead and has sicced the Carcer Police after the both of them, which may explain why she is so frightened, and probably part of the reason the Tramp wasn't as frightened as her is because he was too drunk to much notice his surroundings.
  • 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 apparently a giant Take That! to you and everyone else who severely underestimated what Rockstar was capable of.
    • The first game itself was much bleaker and more serious in tone than Rockstar North's previous output at that point, occasional flashes of Black Comedy aside.
  • 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).
    • The first game also deconstructs the controversy of games glorifying violence and murder, like in Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto Series. In GTA, the game gives you the choice to kill innocents, but in terms of the overall story, they're just collateral damage from player decisions. Whereas in Manhunt, you are forced to kill your enemies in the most gruesome ways in order to progress and survive. Manhunt hides under no pretences of glory and esteem, as it shows its executions in a long, gory, and brutal fashion and doesn't allow you to skip them. Adding to it, while enemies and civilians in GTA die quickly with a grunt short scream, inflicting an execution on someone in Manhunt gives you an earful of desperate gags, screams, asphyxiation, blood gurgling, etc. all through the lengthy process. It's as if Rockstar is distinguishing the difference between real-life violence and video game violence, and how real-life violence is far more ugly, inexcusable, and less glorious compared to what happens in a video game.
  • Disney Villain Death: How Piggsy dies. Unlike most examples, we get to see him hitting the ground.

  • Enemy Chatter: Often as a setup for Death by Irony.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: This shows the enemy state, facing, and position. It is disabled on Hardcore difficulty.
  • 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. The Tramp will have the presence of mind to actually follow Cash's instructions, whereas if the player leaves the Journalist behind for too long, she will panic and run after him, possibly giving away both of their positions.
  • 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.
  • Evolving Music: The level themes will increase in intensity as the noose gets tighter for the player and as enemies hunt for them, with no combat giving you some creepy ambience, suspicion often giving plenty of ominous "Psycho" Strings as hunters go out searching, and the spotted and combat themes getting the blood pumping for the player to Run or Die if they've been caught in a chase, or worse, close combat.
  • 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.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The events of the first game take place over the course of one hellish, blood-soaked night.
  • Eye Scream: One of the executions in the first game, a few in the second.
  • Faceless Goons: A lot of the hunters wear masks or face paint.
  • False Camera Effects: The main game camera uses a constant film-grain filter to make it resemble an old VHS tape, and during executions it uses more exaggerated camera effects (as in the page image above). Both of these can be disabled.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Cash might as well be this - he barely speaks, and all we learn about him is that he was sentenced to death for an unspecified crime and he was never particularly close with his family.
  • Fed to Pigs: Piggsy, the sadistic psycho-killer in a mask made from a pig's head, believes that he's a pig, and feeds off corpses that the Cerberus provide for him.
  • Flare Gun: A Hand Cannon with One-Hit Kill ammunition, it can only be looted from Michael Grant in Manhunt 2.
  • Follow the White Rabbit: Self-explanatory in the mission "Kill the Rabbit".
  • Foreshadowing: In the level "Broadcast Interrupted", there is a massacre near a projector. Daniel is sickened and asks what happened. After Leo gives him a vague reply, Daniel demands him what really happened to which Leo doesn't answer. If the player clicks on it, they'll watch a short cutscene of Leo brutally killing a group of Project-members with a katana, but the screen itself shows that it's Daniel doing the deed, hinting that they are the same person.
    • This happens as early as the first level- notice how Leo seems to always be on the other side of locked doors you have to open? Or how he's nowhere to be seen next to the player during play yet always close by in the cutscenes?
    • When characters talk to Leo, they often mistake him for Daniel at first. They're the same person.
    • When Leo is interrogating Pickman, Leo is not speaking with his own voice, he's speaking with Daniel's.
    • After the duo escape from the facility, Leo says that Daniel should change clothes to avoid suspicion. Leo never does, because he doesn't need to. He's not real.
    • When Daniel is jumped and tranquilized, Leo reacts in pain, as if he were the one who was jumped.
    • One of the words that can be spotted during the static transition between scenes and executions is "HATE". This is one of the words that was repeatedly flashed as Daniel underwent brainwashing in preparation to receive the Pickman Bridge.
  • 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.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Piggsy. All together now: EWWW!
  • Gaiden Game: Very obliquely, as this game is set in the same universe as the Grand Theft Auto series.
  • Gang of Hats: The hunters are assorted into various gangs or groupings: the Hoods are White Gangbangers, the Skinz are neo-Nazi white supremacists, the Wardogs are Crazy Survivalist Rambo-wannabes, etc.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Lampshaded, as the guards on patrol complain about not being able to see in them, and ask why they're being forced to wear them.
  • Genre Shift:
    • In terms of gameplay, the first half of the game is primarily stealth-based Survival Horror, while the second half is more heavily based around gunplay, with less of an emphasis on Survival Horror tropes. In terms of plot, the game begins as a Video Nasty-style horror story which plays its Snuff Film premise to the hilt, but after Starkweather betrays Cash it becomes more of an action-heavy revenge thriller in which the player character faces off against corrupt cops and special forces teams, with Piggsy being the only conventional "horror" character in the latter half of the game.
    • In terms of plot, the first is pretty basic- a disgraced Hollywood director went insane after losing his fame and started filming people being murdered, using his wealth and lots of bribed police officers to turn an entire city into his personal film studio. The second breaks heavily from reality and goes for a science fiction plot of someone's mind stored in a physical device and being implanted into another person's head, with the experiment going completely wrong.
  • Gorn: Both games are infamous not just for the quantity of their violence, but the realism and sheer brutality of it. There's no monsters or zombies here, just desperate and blood-thirsty men hunting each other for sport, for money, or for pleasure. The second game goes even further than the first in this regard, and its executions were so drawn-out and sadistic that the game's initial computer release and console versions were heavily censored.
  • Groin Attack: One of the executions in the first game, a few in the second.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Played with in the first game. In the early parts of the game and in true Survival Horror fashion, guns are few and far between, ammunition is even scarcer, they're so loud that they'll attract practically every enemy in the vicinity, they can't be used for executions (so the player must have at least one melee weapon on them) and Cash's aim is unreliable beyond a few metres (except with the sniper rifles). This effectively forces players to rely on stealth and executions rather than running and gunning, as guns are rarely useful for much more than taking the edge off big groups of enemies. However, later on in the game guns and ammo are much more commonplace and many levels force the player to use them almost exclusively - but Cash's aim hasn't become any more reliable, so shooting is often very frustrating. This is a major reason the latter portion of the game was so poorly received in comparison to the first half.
  • Hate Crimes Are a Special Kind of Evil: The Skinz are a white nationalist gang who target and lynch non-white people and the gang itself is composed of white power skinheads, neo-Nazis, neo-confederates, and the Klu Klux Klan. Lionel Starkweather, the director of the snuff film industry that has conscripted James Earl Cash into their films, absolutely hates this gang and praises Cash whenever he kills them.
  • "Have a Nice Day" Smile: The masks of the 'Smilies' gang. Needless to say, they're considerably more menacing than most versions.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: Uses it constantly, both to build tension and as an audio reminder of how long the player character can sprint for.
  • "Hey, You!" Haymaker: One of the executions, albeit with a hatchet rather than bare fists.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: What the hunters do.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Cash kills Piggsy with his own chainsaw.
  • 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.
  • Idiosyncratic Menu Labels: The first game refers to levels as Scenes, in accordance with the film motif. The second game refers to them as Episodes - as in, 'medical episodes'.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: "Carcer" is Latin for "prison".
  • Improvised Weapon: The weapons you use include plastic bags, pens, pliers, fire extinguishers, telephones, and hedge-clippers.
  • Instant Sedation: If you score a headshot with the tranquilizer rifle in the first game, it will knock out enemies practically instantly. If you shoot them anywhere else, they'll pause in place feeling dizzy and be no worse for wear once they recover. It's still enough time to perform an execution on them, though.
  • Institutional Apparel: Something of a trademark outfit for the protagonists. Comes in Death Row blue for Cash and Bedlam House green for Daniel/Leo.
  • Intercom Villainy: You are trapped in some sort of sick cinematographic experiment and the director follows you around and trolls you through the earpiece.
  • Intoxication Mechanic: Getting shot with a tranquillizer dart causes the screen to blur and temporarily prevents the player from aiming with a gun.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: Spoken verbatim by Cerberus units.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: Danny and Leo.
  • Jump Scare: Used from time to time in the first game.
  • 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 Killer murder spree.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: You can perform an execution on a hunter while they are taunting you.
  • Lampshade Hanging: One of the cops can observe that the situation is just like the start of a bad horror movie.
  • Large Ham: The gangs in the first game, especially the Skinz and the Smileys.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: James Earl Cash is a vicious killer through and through, and has to be on death row for some reason or other... but considering how much worse Starkweather, Cerberus, the gangs, and even the police are, it's not hard to root for him.
  • Limited Loadout: As noted under Hyperspace Arsenal, in the first game Cash can only carry one disposable weapon, one light weapon, one heavy weapon and one lure. What's more, any weapon he's carrying is visible on his person at all times. The only thing he's carrying that isn't visible is any additional ammo clips.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Oh so much, especially when using heavier weaponry or guns at close range.

  • Machete Mayhem: Many of the Wardogs gang members in the first game wield these. Which of course can be turned on them with vicious effect.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Carcer" is a Latin word meaning "prison", from whence the word "incarcerate" is derived.
    • "Starkweather" is an allusion to Charles Starkweather, a famous American spree killer.
  • Media Watchdog: They and the Moral Guardians reacted as badly as could be expected to the first game, and more badly than was expected to the second.
  • Mêlée à Trois: The final levels at the Starkweather estate devolve into a battle royal between Cash, Starkweather's Cerberus, and the newly escaped Piggsy.
  • Mook Horror Show: Picking off enemies one by one and watching them become increasingly frightened as their numbers grow smaller is immensely satisfying. Zero Punctuation described it as the logical opposite to a Friday the 13th film, in that he was playing as "a desperate, terrified, normal guy, stalking and dispatching droves of masked psychotics."
  • Murder Simulators: Inspired a great deal of controversy because of the first game becoming a publicly recognized example of this trope.
  • Nail 'Em: Nailguns are found in the junkyard that the Skinz call home.
  • No-Gear Level: Although some levels allow weapons to persist, Cash is frequently stripped of his weapons on some levels. It's usually justified when bad guys are shown to jump Cash and take his stuff, but there's at least one case where there's no explanation at all (e.g. when starting the Journalist escort mission). Once you find any weapon, you can proceed through the level as normal.
  • No Name Given: The Tramp, the Journalist, the White Rabbit etc.
  • Non-Linear Sequel: The second game, which features similar gameplay mechanics and is set in the same universe as the first game, but is otherwise unrelated.
  • Off with His Head!: Several executions allow you to do this. And you can scare other mooks with them.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Piggsy is not to be underestimated. Despite the multiple Cereberus soldiers stationed around the Starkweather Estate, he is able to infiltrate the place on his own with no problems. Extra points to Piggsy for being naked and armed with nothing but a chainsaw whilst taking on trained soldiers with guns. Given that Piggsy was Cash's predecessor, it makes sense that he is just as much dangerous as Cash is.
  • One Dose Fits All: The tranquillizer rifle in the first game affects all enemies the same way, regardless of size.
  • One-Man Army: A mostly stealth-based variant, Cash cuts his way through dozens of hired goons and Starkweather's personal army all by himself.
  • Pædo Hunt: The Babyfaces faction of the Innocentz. Also, the Cerberus accuse Cash of being a pedophile while in search mode.
  • Perspective Flip: Throughout the game, James Earl Cash is the center of the story as he's guided by the director to hide from various hunters and the director demands him to kill those hunters in increasingly violent ways so the snuff films will be more memorable. In Deliverance, Cash is now the one being hunted by Piggsy as he must hide in the shadows from a stronger enemy as Piggsy believes this is all part of the game and he kills the Cerberus guards in increasingly violent ways. This chapter of the game shows the hunters' point of view throughout the entire game as Piggsy is a parallel to the player and a deliberate deconstruction of the player character.
  • Pet the Dog: We're not given a whole lot of reasons to like Cash, but him genuinely trying to save his family has to count for something.
    • Later on he does help the Journalist reach her apartment safely and urges her to leave the city, even after she witnessed him possibly murder several police officers.
  • Player and Protagonist Integration: A rare subversion, in that the Audience Surrogate in the game is actually the villain and the primary antagonist.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Completely averted in the second game- close-up headshots with even the basic revolver are liable to blow half an enemy's face off. Only partially averted in the first one- such a feat is exclusive to the shotguns and the sniper rifle, while all the other weapons leave no marks on the head.
  • Psychological Horror: Heavily informed by the genre, in keeping with the mundane setting unusual for Survival Horror games. Rather than monsters, you're facing up against enemies who embody much more human brands of evil, while in the employ of a Snuff Film director who literally masturbates to videos of people being brutally murdered. In place of frequent jump scares and other more overt kinds of horror, there's a constant atmosphere of nerve-wracking tension and paranoia.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: The Babyfaces. At least, the ones who don't think they're your "daddy".
    • Piggsy 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. It becomes invokedFridge 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.
    • And to name a few of the puns off:
      • Fueled By Hate: Cash is finding fuel cans while being chased by white supremacists.
      • Strapped For Cash: Being strapped for cash means you don't have any money. Cash must rescue his strapped and bound family from the Wardogs.
      • View Of Innocence: Cash has to find a film Starkweather made for him, where gets a view of the Innocentz murdering his family on camera.
      • Drunk Driving: Cash must escort a drunkard through the streets of Carcer City.
      • Trained To Kill: Cash is stalking and murdering police officers in a train yard.
      • Key Personnel: Cash is trying to assassinate the Cerberus Leader for his keys.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Some of the hunters aren't really crazy, they're just doing their job.
  • Puzzle Boss: Piggsy, who can only be killed by carrying out a series of executions on him and then luring him to a metal grill which collapses under his weight, dropping him several stories.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: According to the instruction manual: Darkwoods Penitentiary, which is occupied by The Smileys, is the same location that hosted Cash's "execution". Starkweather let The Smileys takeover the prison and kill all the prison staff and inmates so he can use it as a filming location. Meanwhile, the sole survivor is left in an electricshock chair to be tortured by the gang members for their own amusement.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • Starkweather's name is most likely a reference in name to American spree killer Charles Starkweather.
    • James Earl Cash's name is likely derived from James Earl Ray, the man who shot Martin Luther King Jr.
    • In the second game, Daniel's appearance after the Project institutionalized him is very clearly based on the infamous police sketch of the Zodiac Killer.
  • Rule 34: The first game's premise hinges upon this and uses it for horror. 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.
  • Same Content, Different Rating: Most of what was cut to take the second game from AO to M was present in the first game.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: A weapon available in both games.
  • Score Multiplier: Via the different kinds of execution, with lengthier and more risky executions upping your score. Getting high scores in the first game unlocks concept art and bonus levels outside the main story. In the sequel it plays a decidedly different role, where willingly indulging in sadistic violence for a high score and giving in to Leo's influence will swap the final level to Leo's perspective, where he kill Daniel's personality and take over his body in preparation for a Project rampage.
  • Sequel Escalation: Compare the executions from the first game with those from the second. (Warning: both are NSFW.)
  • Shared Universe: Takes place in the same universe as the Grand Theft Auto series, most notably the GTA III/3D Era. There's a few references to Carcer City in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and there's also the All There in the Manual backstory that the antagonist Starkweather was a failed film director in Los Santos before moving on to snuff porn. Police chief Gary Schaffer is also mentioned in Grand Theft Auto III on a news report about how he was "cleared of corruption charges". Sprunk soda machines can also be seen throughout the game.
    • Danny is also revealed to have studied in San Fierro before the events of the game.
    • Carcer City is even referenced in Grand Theft Auto V, as Michael mentions his first bank robbery was on the outskirts of Carcer in 1988. One wonders if it's as bad as it was in this game- V and Grand Theft Auto IV are set in a different continuity from the GTA III-era and Manhunt games (Bully sorts of blurs the line- released before GTA IV {and sharing props from the GTA III era games}, but referenced in that game via the TV show I'm Rich).
    • It seems Manhunt potentially is an example of a game that takes place in both universes like Bully, since Carcer City (in certain NPC dialogue in GTAIV) is referenced to be a shithole and the wiki goes with this idea. While the aesthetics and models are that of GTAIII, the tone and atmosphere is much more reminiscent of of the darker and edgier HD Universe. A cut gang from Manhunt appear as a shirt on certain GTAIV NPCs as well. More references in the HD universe appear with several TV-MK figures appearing in the in-game television and with several medications made by The Project appearing in-game with the Internet.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Piggsy's appearance in the first game is a reference to the film Motel Hell, where towards the end, one of the main antagonists shows up wearing a pig's head while wielding a chainsaw.
    • The Cerberus soldiers seem to be heavily influenced by the Kerberos Saga, especially their outfit's aesthetics and name of the unit.
    • The game's title, coupled with a major role by actor Brian Cox, serve as a stealth reference to the film Manhunter, in which Cox played the role of Hannibal Lecter several years before Anthony Hopkins.
    • The final scene is named Deliverance and it features Piggsy, an insane nude man who believes he's a pig and constantly squeals...
    • The level "Sexual Deviants" in Manhunt 2 was one giant homage to Hostel.
    • One of the mercenary enemies in the second game bears an uncanny resemblance to Colonel Shikishima. Additionally, one of the cut gangs was a group of face-painted meth junkies called "the Clowns."
    • Daniel Lamb appears to have been modeled after a police sketch of the Zodiac Killer.
    • The masks that the Skullyz gang wears resemble either the Misfits logo or Captain Howdy.
    • One of the Skinz, appropriately, resembles Derek Vinyard.
  • Shows Damage: Both Cash and Daniel, assuming they trade blows with their victims. And with the latter case, it's hard to tell how much blood is his, and how much comes from his victims.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Very much so, although Cash has such mediocre aim that hardly any gun besides the sniper rifles are useful at more than a few meters. In effect, this makes the gunplay in the game rewards stealthy play almost as much as the melee weapons, as guns are most effective when used up close against unsuspecting enemies.
  • 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.
  • Sprint Meter: A fairly standard implementation.
  • Stealth-Based Game: Although the stealth is technically optional, trying to take on hunters directly in the first game will make you swiftly regret your decision. The game's combat system is intentionally designed to be clunky and awkward enough to make stealth seem massively preferable. 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 several 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. He only loses his cool a couple of times, and the amount of times he actually speaks can be counted on one hand.
  • Stylistic Suck: The first game deliberately attempts to emulate the feel of a 1980s "video nasty" horror film or a Snuff Film, from the omnipresent film-grain filter to the grotty VHS scanlines to the John Carpenter style synth-heavy score.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Cash may be a murderer - likely even before the events of the game as you just don't end up on death row for no reason - but the situation he's been put into is harrowing and it's difficult to say that his victims didn't have it coming.
  • 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 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.
  • Thematic Series: The two games have nothing to do with one another in terms of story.
  • 13 Is Unlucky: The thirteenth mission in the first game is when Starkweather betrays Cash.
  • This Loser Is You: If one buys the You Bastard! interpretation of the game, Starkweather is meant to represent the player - an overweight, amoral chronic masturbator who spends all his days sitting in front of a computer screen in a darkened room.
    • Leo in Manhunt 2 can be a different spin on this: 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.
  • Throwing the Distraction: Lures, which can include things like bricks, bottles, cans and your enemies' severed heads.
  • Time-Limit Boss: Cash is given 2½ minutes to chase after and kill Ramirez before he calls for backup, although failing to do him in within said time will not fail the mission, it will simply give you more enemies to kill.
  • Title Drop: From the second game: "Danny, listen; It's a Manhunt. And they won't stop, until we're both dead."
  • Torture Porn: The first game is a slight subversion, as it revolves around a Snuff Film ring, and even the worst executions are relatively quick and clean compared to usual Torture Porn. The second game, which takes inspiration from most of the Slasher Movie genre, takes this trope, and runs with it to the endzone, with the "Violent", "Gruesome", and "Environmental" kills all out to inflict as much pain on the helpless victim as possible before killing them. This is also clearly invoked in the "Sexual Deviants" level, which takes place in BDSM club "Dungeon" that is one giant homage to Hostel.
  • Ultra Super Death Gorefest Chainsawer 3000: Pretty much an example of Truth in Television.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The first game features several instances in which the player is forced to operate an electromagnetic crane in order to clear obstacles from their path. The controls for the crane are very awkward to use and the sound of the crane being activated alerts nearby enemies, who can shoot Cash even while he is inside the crane.
  • Unrated Edition: Manhunt 2 for PC: the original AO-rated version was finally released - in 2009.
  • Utility Weapon: Several doors throughout the series are locked shut with chains, ropes (First game only), and chainlink fences (Second game only), which require Crowbars, Knives/Machetes, and Pliers respectively to cut through.
  • Victory-Guided Amnesia: In the good ending to Manhunt 2 Daniel wakes up on a roadside, unable to remember his past or even his name, but he has an envelope on him that provides him with a new name and points him to an apartment set up for him. After all he's been through, forgetting everything is a blessing.
  • 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.
      • The second game takes this idea further: Leo acts much like Starkweather, who serves as Mission Control, while encouraging Danny to commit Violent and Gruesome Executions against the Hunters. Played with even more so than in the first game: at first, Leo seems justified, in a Pay Evil unto Evil sense, but then it's revealed he's really your Enemy Within, and wants to destroy your original Nice Guy personality in order to perform a Split-Personality Takeover on you: which, in the alternate ending that's unlocked from high enough "ratings" on each level, is exactly what he does.
  • Video Nasties: The first game attempts to emulate the feel of one, from the retro-futuristic John Carpenter-esque score to the grotty VHS-style visuals.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: In Manhunt 2, if you stand around long enough after making your first kill, Daniel will vomit in horror at what he just did.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Several of the Skinz talk to themselves about wanting to make their dead (and implied to be abusive) 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 invokedmeant to be a boss character called The Scarecrow, who would have been the former leader of The Smileys that was disgraced by Starkweather, separated from his Scarecrow persona until he reacquired his outfit and weapon.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Carcer City in the first game, and Cottonmouth in the second. The first invokedis stated to be close to Liberty City, so it's possibly an Expy of either Philadelphia or Newark, while the second takes a lot from cities in the Deep South, such as New Orleans, Tampa, Charleston and Atlanta.
  • White Gangbangers: The Hoodz in the first game, the Red Kings in the second.
  • Why Won't You Die?: One of The Cerberus troopers says this to Cash during his capture in the end of the seventh chapter.
    Cerberus Soldier: You just won't fucking die, will you?
  • Wretched Hive: Carcer City is filled with various gangs of criminals and madmen who are all connected with the local snuff film industry.
  • 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 A-Splode: 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, although the same escalation applies here —while head explosions were exclusive to the most gruesome baseball bat and chainsaw executions in the first game, practically every execution that involves a blow to the head results in the head exploding in the second, in some removed executions the head even explodes from being stomped on or hit by a knee strike!

Alternative Title(s): Manhunt 2