It is 2003 and you have fired up your PlayStation 2. You have inserted a new game into your console. This title has all of your friends talking. The game comes on and you press play. You are now death row inmate James Earl Cash. Cash must navigate the shadowy rundown Carcer City. Stealth is what you use to sneak up on your enemies. And when you get the advantage, you will unleash a variety of brutal executions. You must kill to survive. At the command of the Director who is filming everything. The game’s visuals are gritty and raw. This is unlike anything ever played before. It is ahead of its time. That new game was Manhunt. And you don’t know it yet. But you are playing a title that will have a lasting influence on horror games.
Breaking New Ground
Nearly twenty-years ago, Rockstar Games shocked the world with the release of Manhunt. The creative minds at Rockstar Games were no strangers to controversy. Having already released titles in the Grand Theft Auto series. Rockstar Games would create Manhunt and leave a lasting influence on horror games. Manhunt would break new ground. Featuring over-the-top violence and gore effects. This was an offering unlike anything out there at the time. Due to its intense depiction of violence, Manhunt upset several media outlets. It even drew the attention of politicians that spoke out about violent video games. Almost two decades later, Manhunt would inspire a new generation of developers to release their own extreme horror games.
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The Lasting Influence
The Outlast series is probably the closest to Manhunt’s original feel. In Outlast you are an investigative journalist who breaks into a creepy insane asylum. Following a tip from an employee at said asylum. The main character discovers that the inmates have escaped. What follows is a literal nightmare. As the main protagonist, you must use stealth to avoid the enemies lurking the halls. The violence, gore, and depraved imagery of Outlast would build its own legacy. A legacy that would lead to a sequel. This sequel would up the ante with shocking depictions of torture and murder. Developer Red Barrels is also working on a multiplayer game. What sets the two series of games apart is the core philosophy for gameplay. In Manhunt you are the hunter. In Outlast you are the hunted.
Manhunt’s gameplay was equally influential. Stealth mechanics were not as prevalent in video games until the innovative design of Manhunt. Stealth mechanics in horror games often add to the suspense. Fear is built around the uncertainty of being found. For example, Puppet Combo’s Murder House relies heavily on stealth. The player can stun the killer but then a chase will ensue. In Manhunt you must sneak around and eliminate your prey. In games such as Dead By Daylight or Friday The 13th The Video Game, this is different. Survivor players in these games are limited in actions. Asymmetrical horror games may allow players to fight back. But they may not be as powerful as the opposing player. The gameplay of Manhunt would lead to a refined design for the asymmetrical style.
A Lasting Legacy
The legacy of Manhunt is still felt in the horror genre. In 2007 it received an even more controversial sequel. Manhunt left a lasting influence on horror games. It set new standards. It pushed envelopes and upset parents. As a result, the horror genre evolved. Both in gameplay and extreme visual content. It was a game ahead of its time. And possibly developed in the wrong era. There have been rumors of remasters and remakes. Proving that fans aren’t more done with this series.