Manhunt is a new PS2/PC/probably Xbox game by those masters of controversy - Rockstar games. You play as one James Earl Cash, a criminal (who's background is not realy explained) sentenced to death and apparently executed.

Now without spoiling things too badly, afterall you can gleam this from the blurb on the back of the DVD case, your execution by lethal injection was simply a tranquiliser and you wake up in a small rustbelt town with nothing but your wits and a prison uniform to start with. Then you realise that you are the star of a reality show / snuff movie and the "director" is egging you on and giving you hints through your radio earpiece.

This game is banned in New Zealand due to the extremely graphic nature of the violence which might "hurt the public good" according to an article in the Seattle Times and the general amoral nature of the protagonist who you play as. Not such a big break from the norm for Rockstar games then, afterall their previous hits (GTA3 and GTA:Vice City) both had the player take on the role of a less than stellar humanitarian in a quest to blow shit up and make big bucks in the process.

Gameplay is reminiscent of Tenchu, Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell, a sneak-em-up but with a delicious new twist. Instead of just taking the enemies out so as to reach a new area or finish a mission, the "director" encourages you to kill your enemies in a variety of gory and pretty well animated sequences. When sneaking up behind an enemy, your character changes his posture to indicate when he is within range. If you hold down the square or X button (on PS2) three triangles appear around the enemy's head. They change color the longer you hold down the button and the resulting stealth execution is more gruesome with each color.

You can pick up a variety of weapons and by the 5th area you should already be well-versed in the deadly potential of a nail-gun, a hunting knife, a length of wire, a baseball bat, a small club or crowbar, a piece of glass and even a plastic bag. Now don't laugh about the plastic bag. Once you see the animation that accompanies it, you will think again.

Overall, Manhunt is a pretty cool game. The gore is adequate and realistic and does not feel overdone or forced for shock value. The gameplay is slow, patient and sometimes so tense you need to switch off your console and go out for some air inbetween plays. The voice-acting is fine although I heard complaints about the language used in the game. If you can stand an average episode of OZ you wont have trouble enjoying Manhunt.