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Manhunt is a controversial Stealth Based Game series made by Rockstar Games. There are only two games in the series to date; they share gameplay mechanics and similar settings, but little else.

In Manhunt, the player controls Cash, a criminal who is believed to have been executed; in fact, he was spared the death chamber by a man named Starkweather, a disgraced Hollywood director. Starkweather's most recent "independent" films are actually Snuff Films that he sells on the black market -- and Cash is about to be his newest star. Starkweather promises Cash that he will gain his freedom if he can make it out of the abandoned city he's been dropped into alive -- but there are trained thugs belonging to various gangs that are going to do everything they can to ensure Cash becomes another bloodstain on their boots. The gameplay mechanic revolves around "executions" (gruesome One Hit Kills the player can perform when sneaking up behind enemies); the longer you wait behind the enemy, the more drawn-out and elaborate the execution is...and if you perform enough high-level executions, your ranking at the end of the level is higher than if you hadn't.

The second game casts you as an amnesiac scientist who wakes up in a mental asylum and is forced to escape with the aid of another inmate in order to unravel the government conspiracy that locked him up. It added jumping, gun, and environmental executions, but it's mostly notable for attracting far more attention than it had any right to because it was denied a rating in several countries over its graphically violent content (effectively making it impossible to sell). Manhunt 2 arguably did the most damage to the pro-videogames movement in over a decade than any of its violent contemporaries. To add insult to injury, when it was finally released -- in a revised form that heavily censored the execution scenes -- reviewers across the board reported that it really wasn't that great anyway.

This game series has a character sheet.

Contains examples of:

  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Starkweather (see Rule 34 below)
  • 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.
  • Anti-Hero: Cash. Could almost be considered a Villain Protagonist if Starkweather hadn't murdered his family.
  • 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 them, forcing you to beat them in gunfights.
  • Awesomeness Meter: Arguably
  • Ax Crazy: Pretty much everyone, except for the journalist. Lionel Starkweather, especially. He's the one responsible for producing the snuff film Cash is starring in the first place.
  • Banned in China: Actually, banned in Australia (prior to it mistakenly being released on steam for 48 hrs, before being removed), Germany, New Zealand, Korea, and (for a while) the UK.
    • The sequel was banned in Ireland, among several other countries.
  • Batter Up
  • 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.
  • Big Bad: Starkweather is this for the first game. In the sequel, Dr. Pickman and Leo Kasper share the role.
  • Boom! Headshot!: All of the firearm executions in the second game.
  • Bowdlerised: The second game, to avoid an AO rating (in the pre-Steam/digital download days, this was effectively a ban).
  • Breaking the Bonds: Piggsy breaks out of his chains late in the game. This is terrible news for the Cerberus.
  • But Not Too Black / Ambiguously Brown: Cash, if The Skinz' motivation in hunting him is anything to go by.
  • Chainsaw Good: The first game mainly, but the second game features a smaller circular power saw.
  • Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Plenty of 'em. Though it varies depending on brutally Cash decides to execute his opponent.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Elite Mook: The Cerberus. Compared to other enemies, they work together surprisingly well. And they're rather intelligent...they won't necessarily go off to search for Cash alone, since that's what he wants.
  • Enemy Chatter: Often as a setup for Death by Irony.
  • 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 with the journalist, 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 finish all the scenes with a perfect score, has you revisiting the Carcer City Zoo to deal with a gang of psychos dressed up as monkeys. This of course subverts this trope.
  • 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.
  • Faceless Goons: A lot of the hunters wear masks or face paint.
  • Fallen Creator: Deconstructed with Lionel Starkweather. He came up with a horrible way to get revenge on the people who caused his career to fall into the making them star in snuff movies.
  • A Father to His Men: Implied with the Cerberus Leader. He warns his men that they could very well be in danger with Cash and Piggsy roaming Starkweather’s mansion. It’s indicated he wishes for them to stick together so that they don’t die horribly.
  • 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.
  • Freudian Excuse: Subverted, one could understand Starkweather becoming evil after the fall of his movie career...but he continued killing people after getting revenge on the people who killed his career.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Goomba: Hoods. Given that they have a habit of going off alone instead of sticking together (as opposed to some of the later hunters you face), it's not hard to sneak up on them.
  • Gorn-So much that anyone who happens to love horror and blood would be proud of.
  • Groin Attack: One of the executions in the first game, a few in the second.
  • "Have a Nice Day" Smile: The masks of the 'Smilies' gang.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: The female reporter in the first game is White Debbie.
  • "Hey You!" Haymaker: One of the executions, albeit with a hatchet rather than bare fists.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Lionel Starkweather designs some of his movies this way.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Almost completely averted - Cash can only carry three weapons and one lure, and every weapon he's carrying is always visible on his person. However, no explanation is given for the spare ammunition he carries.
  • Improvised Weapon: The weapons you use include plastic bags, pens, pliers, fire extinquishers, telephones, and hedgeclippers.
  • Institutional Apparel: Something of a trademark outfit for the protagonists. Comes in Death Row blue for Cash and Bedlam House green for Daniel/Leo.
  • It Got 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 poking somebody's eyes out before delivering a killing blow. justified in that the player character in the second is being manipulated by the implanted personality of a sadistic serial killer.
  • Jekyll and Hyde: Danny and Leo.
  • 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 colludes with Dr. Whyte to continue the Project's research
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Oh so much.
  • 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.
  • Media Watchdog / Moral Guardians: They reacted as badly as could be expected to the first game, and more badly than was expected to the second.
  • Mercy Kill: Normally, Cash isn’t merciful, but killing Piggsy could be seen as doing him a favor. It’s obvious Starkweather has caused Piggsy to lose all of his sanity.
  • Mook Horror Show
  • Murder Simulators
  • Nail'Em: The entire Skinz gang.
  • Non-Linear Sequel: The second game.
  • Off with His Head: And you can scare other mooks with them.
  • One-Man Army
  • 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.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Some of the hunters aren't really crazy (namely the Hoods), they're just doing their job. Others though enjoy killing people.
  • 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.
  • Same Content Different Rating: Most of what was cut to take the second game from AO to M was present in the first game.
    • Although, the second game looks more realistic, and its executions are much more sadistic.
  • Score Multiplier: Via the different kinds of execution.
  • Sequel Escalation: Compare the executions from the first game with those from the second game. ((Warning: both are NSFW.))
  • Shout-Out: Manhunt and Grand Theft Auto both reference each other. Multiple GTA-III era cars appear in the game.
    • Starkweather the character is more than likely a reference in name to Charles Starkweather, American spree killer.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000: Pretty much an example of Truth in Television.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 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. In the first Manhunt, it's not explained what happened to Cash, though it's mentioned on the website that the journalist suffered from PTSD after discovering the sick activities that Starkweather was engaged in.
  • White Gang-Bangers: The Hoodz in the first game, the Red Kings in the second.
  • X Meets Y: It's The Warriors meets The Running Man meets the Slasher Movie genre.
  • You Bastard: Cash is being forced to kill by a mysterious figure who's watching the whole thing on a viewing screen for a sadistic thrill. The implications of this grow steadily less subtle.
  • Your Head Asplode: Gunwise in the first game only close range shotgun hits and the sniper rifle invoke this. In the second game any headshot within a certain range will cause this, as will the firearm executions. In both games certain melee weapons can cause this too, such as the baseball bat, chainsaw and shovel.