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Developer(s) Rockstar North
Publisher(s) Rockstar Games
Release date(s) November 18, 2003
Genre(s) Action
Mode(s) Single player
Rating(s) ESRB:ESRB M.png Mature
Platform(s) PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox

Manhunt is a violent and controversial video game released by Rockstar Games in November 2003.


The story revolves around a man on death row named James Earl Cash, sentenced to death by lethal injection due to a grievous crime, the nature of which never explained. An exceedingly wealthy former Hollywood director (voiced by Brian Cox), who runs a seedy community in an impoverished town named Carcer City, bribes the doctors to inject Cash with a powerful sedative instead.

The Director, as he likes to call himself, creates and distributes snuff films through a company named Valiant Video Enterprises. He sets up Cash as his latest star using the corrupt Carcer City police force, as well as his personal "Cerberus" guards, to corral Cash into butchering Carcer's local gangs on camera for the purpose of sexual gratification.

Cash escapes The Director's final trap and begins a gore-soaked quest for revenge on his "savior." After rescuing a local reporter who was investigating the Director's activities, Cash learns his tormentor's location, as well as his real name: Starkweather. After a bloody rampage, Cash finally corners Starkweather, a rumbling chainsaw in hand...

The game both makes references to and satirises various aspects of the media. At the most basic level, it is a homage to Paul Verhoeven's (or possibly David Cronenberg's) movies. It is also a sharp satire of the ever-escalating reality television craze. The central concept of the plot--murder as the basis for a massmarket entertainment--is a self-conscious reference to many people's views of the Grand Theft Auto series.

Other people have suggested that the game owes a large debt to Stephen King's The Running Man, in light of the book's portrayal of murder-as-entertainment and its implied stance on violence in the media.


The controversy surrounding the game stems from the graphic manner in which the player kills enemies. Almost all of the game's special "stealthy" kills result in large amounts of blood.

This "implied-violence" animation contrasts with the style of other games, such as Soldier of Fortune II, which boasted 36 "gore-zones." In these games, the graphical representation of the body and the depiction of wounds are accurately portrayed on-screen. For instance, in Soldier of Fortune II, it is possible to "pistol whip" and dismember a female maid, mutilating her entire torso to the point where one may choose to remove her jaw to reveal her brain. Soldier of Fortune II is not the only game with this kind of violent on-screen representation, as many war-simulators have comparable graphics. However, Soldier of Fortune II, and other simulation First Person Shooters, seem to evade as much media attention as Manhunt did.

This could be due to the intense violence depicted in games such as Soldier of Fortune II being performed out of the necessity of a greater good (to thwart a global terrorist threat), whereas in Manhunt the violence arises from a necessity (to follow the orders of a snuff film director), but not of one for a greater cause. The brutal, inefficient methods of killing would also have fuelled the flames.

The game was banned in New Zealand on December 11, 2003. Following a meeting in Toronto on December 22, 2003 between Bill Hastings, the Chief Censor of New Zealand, and officials from the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services, Manhunt became the first computer game in Ontario to be classified as a film and was restricted to adults on February 3, 2004. It was banned in Australia on September 28, 2004 by the Classification Review Board after having earlier received a classification allowing it to be purchased by under 15 year-olds accompanied by their parents. The game has been declared illegal for players of all ages in Germany. In the UK, the game received a BBFC 18 certificate, legally prohibiting its sale to anyone under that age. The game is the only video game to ever be awarded an "18" certificate in the Republic of Ireland, and as a result the only video game ever awarded any certificate, as censorship laws in Ireland allow only games with an 18+ PEGI rating to go forward for certification, where they are treated as if cinematic releases of movies. In the UK, games of any type may be submitted for BBFC rating.

In the United Kingdom the game was linked to the murder of Stefan Pakeerah, 14, by his friend Warren LeBlanc, 17. Giselle Pakeerah, the victim's mother, claimed [1] that LeBlanc had been 'obsessed' with the game after the former pleaded guilty in court.

During the subsequent media circus, the game was removed from sale by some vendors, such as the UK and international branches of GAME and Dixons, leading to "significantly increased" demand [2] both from retailers and on internet auction sites.

The police denied any such link between the game and the murder however [3], citing drug-related robbery as the motive. The presiding judge also placed sole responsibility with LeBlanc in his summing up after awarding him a life sentence [4]. GAME have since returned Manhunt to their shelves, after it transpired that the murderer did not own or play the game. It was the victim who owned a copy of Manhunt, even though he was under 18.

Apart from Ontario, it is interesting to note that Manhunt had little or no controversy elsewhere in North America. The British Columbia classification board reviewed the game after the controversy in Ontario and believed it to be appropriately rated M by the ESRB. [5] (PDF) The most talk about it came from the gaming community itself, noting that Manhunt (aside from the fact that it should have gotten an AO rating) made them feel "dirty" after playing it (much like a horror film or book with implied terror rather than graphic detail and its effect on an audience ie. more dramatic and effective). The maximum amount of controversy Manhunt seemed to have gained were short, quick articles in the middle of newspapers noting that Manhunt "may be a bit too violent."


There are five gangs encountered during the course of the game, plus the corrupt police force (who seem to think Cash is some sort of drugged up hobo), the SWAT team and the Cerberus, the director's elite bodyguard. According to an unlockable survival bonus round, the Hoods, Skins, and Innocentz hate each other. It also is a turf war reference to the Grand Theft Auto series.

  • The Hoods: Street thugs (and from what can be gleaned from in-game conversation, off-duty police officers) that usually use baseball bats and clubs as weapons. They wear hoods, or tights (pantyhose), to cover their faces. The Hoods are the first gang Cash encounters. Some appear to be twenty something year old men who are normal average day people and are less disturbing than the gangs later on in the game.
  • The Skins: A gang comprised of white supremacists, they are out to get Cash because he is of mixed race (possibly Mexican-American), although the director may have told them that so they will attack him with more hatred. They are armed with knives, nail guns and strong metal baseball bats and are found through out the junkyard. The Skins wear hockey masks and are covered in tattoos. Their inclusion may have been a response to the controversial game Ethnic Cleansing which features a white supremacist killing minorities (as the levels in Manhunt require a non-white to kill white supremacists). Ethnic Cleansing was released a year prior to Manhunt.
  • The Wardogs: A group of military veterans (or military wannabes). They are outfitted in camouflage and carry tranquilizer rifles, machetes and knives. They are found throughout the zoo, and later in the game armed with shotguns and sniper rifles in the apartment building. They hold Cash's family hostage in the zoo. Their leader is one of the director's top lieutenants, the one eyed Ramirez.
  • The Innocentz: A gang of hoodlums (some apparently Satanists) located in the shopping mall and various other parts of the city. They are the first gang encountered who use guns (particularly revolvers and double barreled shotguns), but are also armed with knives, hatchets, and sickles. The Innocentz have two different types of gang members: the Skullz, a group of latino style goths who wear skulls masks and hooded sweaters, and the Baby Faces, who are fat and wear creepy, doll like masks. The Skulls seem to be high on drugs, and can be heard to mention peyote. They also pretend to be mad. The Baby Faces are actually insane, and they ramble on crazily and are rumored to be child molesters.
  • The Smileys: Truly insane psychotics. They wear yellow smiley face masks, usually with things such as "Kill" and "please stop me" scrawled messily across them. They are covered in tattoos and sometimes wear blouses and dresses. Many of them can be heard mimicking women. Perhaps they think that they are female, or maybe they are just repeating their victims' last words. The Smileys appropriately occupy the Darkwoods Penitentiary mental asylum. They could be a reference to an earlier Rockstar North title (when they were DMA design) GTA 2, where the first "island" had an insane asylum with the gang called the "loonies", who had yellow smiley faces as their logo. They are armed with meat cleavers, revolvers, handguns, sawed-off shotguns and SPAS-12 shotguns.
  • CCPD (Carcer City Police): The cops in Carcer City are following the orders of the corrupt police chief Gary Schaeffer, who is working for the director. The police are patrolling around the reporter's apartment, in the subway and at the trainyard. They are armed with nightsticks, revolvers, handguns, SPAS shotguns and sniper rifles. Normally they will chase after the player, but if they find one of their own dead, they will shoot on sight. The same goes for the SWAT team.
  • The SWAT Team: The SWAT Team is called in at the subway and the trainyard. Armed with Desert Eagles, MAC-10s and SPAS shotguns, they can take care of Cash fast. They also wear body armor and can take more bullets than the average cop.
  • The Cerberus: A group of ex-spooks and mercenaries on the Director's payroll, they are the most dangerous enemy in the game. The Cerberus are equipped with Desert Eagles, SPAS-12 shotguns and M16s, and will make short work of Cash. They usually work in groups, which makes it very hard to take them out. Over the course of the game, they ambush Cash and bring him to a new area, taking his weapons when they do so. They guard the director's mansion and the surrounding grounds, and also make an appearance at the end of the asylum. Unlike the other gangs, who look upon Cash either with disdain, greed, hatred, or due to mental instability do not seem to care much, the Cerberus know what he is capable of (having watched him repeatedly and gruesomely kill many people in the course of a night) and some express fear or admiration of his abilities. Thus, they are much more careful than the gangs and even the police, and will use team tactics and excessive firepower to take him down if necessary.
  • The Monkeys: A maniac group of men in monkey suits appearing in The Zoo in a bonus game, "Monkey See, Monkey Die." The story has it that they are indeed real monkeys and have an appetite for death due to banana shortage. They are extremely fearful, carry shotguns, and go berserk upon spotting the player and/or hearing noise.


James Earl Cash: A vicious criminal who was sent to death row, but instead of a lethal injection, he was only tranquilized due to the work of Starkweather, who bribed the police and prison officials. After waking up, Cash is forced by Starkweather to participate in his "manhunt" snuff films, promising that "it will all be over before the night is out."

Lionel Starkweather: The Director: The twisted mastermind behind the whole scenario, the director communicates to you through an earpiece until after the asylum. According to bonus material, he was once a prominent director who fell out of favor in Hollywood due to some unknown indiscretion and went insane, turning to slash films and underground pornography to rebuild his funds and using it to turn his enemies into "extras." He tells you where to go and sometimes gives special instructions on murdering certain people. Dialog at certain points indicate that he is possibly masturbating to Cash's murder spree. He hides up in the top of his mansion, although some fans debate that the director at the end is actually a decoy, due to the slightly different sounding voice (though as his voice throughout the game is heard through a speaker, the difference may be nothing more than hearing him talk face to face), and how his appearance differs from that of the pictures in his mansion(though given Starkweather's pompous attitude, the idea that he would embellish his appearance isn't unthinkable). His voice was provided by the British actor Brian Cox who played Hannibal Lecter in the movie Manhunter (despite the similar titles, Manhunter and Manhunt are entirely unrelated in terms of storyline or characters.)

Ramirez: An enormous military-type with one eye and leader of the Wardogs, Ramirez is seen giving orders to various gangs throughout the game. Cash himself encounters Ramirez at the apartment building with the Wardogs. Ramirez has orders to make sure that Cash is killed, and by the end of the scene only one will be left alive. Ramirez is later killed by Cash as he attempts to call in reinforcements.

Piggsy: Found dwelling in the director's attic, this fat insane man believes he's a pig and wears the skin of a pig over his head and upper body. Other than that he is naked (his penis is rendered as part of the character model, though shadowed out in the game but can still be seen). Piggsy attacks with a chainsaw that will kill Cash in two hits. Piggsy is a take-off on the famous fictional character "Leatherface", the villain in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, although one might refer to Vincent Smith in "Motel Hell," in which Vincent wears a pig's head in the final scene and wields a chainsaw. It takes three executions before Cash can go in for the final kill, which takes place just outside the director's final room.

The Tramp: In one scene Cash must lead the tramp through the city to the cemetery, protecting him from gang members along the way. He is an alcoholic homeless man and is constantly swigging liquor. He seems oblivious to the danger he is in. Bonus material in the game suggests that he is Kenneth Jesperson, the former leader of the Smileys who has the secret identity of Scarecrow. The character Scarecrow was not used in the game.

The Reporter: a reporter who has been researching Starkweather's activities for some time; Cash must lead back to her apartment so she can collect evidence on the snuff ring, protecting her from the police force along the way. If she is left on her own too long she will come running to find Cash, which puts them both in danger. Her name begins with (or is) "Rob."

The Rabbit: Found at the end of the asylum. The rabbit is a parody of Alice in Wonderland. The Rabbit is supposed to be the end of the line for Cash, and after he is killed the director stops giving Cash directions.

Cash's Family: In the zoo Cash must save at least one of his family members, who include his parents, brother, and sister. If he is spotted a Wardog will run to execute the nearest captive. However, no matter who Cash saves, they all meet a bloody end. Cash was never close to his family, and they did not even attend his "execution." However, he is still angered by their fate.

Cerberus Leader: Head of Starkweather's security force, Cash must kill this elite Cerberus in the second to last scene, so that he can take his key and activate the elevator up to the director. He can take a clip or more from the M16 in the torso, and can even take several bullets to his head before he dies. However, if the player distracts him it is possible to execute him - this takes a lot of preparation and the right distraction angle.

The Chef: This strange blue alien creature in a chef's hat appears after the game's credits, asking the player "Wasn't that fun?" Some speculate that his inclusion in the game indicates that Starkweather filmed Cash's exploits over another program.

Unused Characters

Scarecrow: The secret identity of former Smiley leader Kenneth Jesperson. Although it is speculated that Kenneth was shown in the game as the tramp, his secret identity wasn't in the game.

Binbag: The leader of The Lost, the gang who apparently ruled the junkyard before The Skinz. Not much is known about him, except that he wears trash bags as clothing and is very aggressive.

The Lost: Former rulers of the junkyard. Wear steel armors made of junk. They all mysteriously disappeared.

The Clowns: The Clowns were originally meant to be the final gang Cash encountered in the game, but weren't put in the final version. The game's bonus features state that The Clowns are one of the most ruthless gangs in the city and are rivals with the Smileys.

The Camheds: A gang of cyborg-like men with video or still cameras for heads shown in the game's bonus features. The leader's real name is Paul Hucture


  • In Grand Theft Auto III, another Rockstar North game, a news segment on the in-game radio station, Lips 106, reports, "in nearby Carcer City, police chief Gary Schaeffer was cleared of corruption charges. Let's hope those missing witnesses turn up safe and sound." This is an obvious allusion to a prominent character in this game, even though Grand Theft Auto III precedes Manhunt's release date by two years.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas contains numerous references to Manhunt:
    • Manhunt action figures of Cash and Piggsy can be found in Zero's RC shop, and also various Manhunt artwork on the walls of bar interiors, most notably a Cerberus.
    • During the missions in which the Carl "CJ" Johnson must find and photograph the blueprints to Caligula's Casino, one of the other blueprints found in another room happens to be of Starkweather's mansion.
    • The Skins carjunk arena can be seen when the player drives past the rural district of Flint County towards San Fierro.
    • The playable character can use a knife to perform "execution kills" similar to Manhunt. In fact, this is because Manhunt was used as a drawing-table of sorts for the stealth mechanics in San Andreas. San Andreas also uses the same character health indicator as Manhunt - a colored triangle over the head that goes from green to black.
    • Sprunk, featured in San Andreas as a drink players can buy for regaining health, is also featured in many levels of Manhunt. Unfortunately, they can't be used to vend health pick-ups, as San Andreas did.
    • A bulletin board in the Las Venturas police station has photos of Cash and a Hoods member tacked to it.
    • Certain radio station(s) in San Andreas mention Carcer City by name.
    • After stealth stabbed a person, the pose of lying on the floor is same as Manhunt.
  • An abandoned shop named Ryton Aide appears on the first mission of Manhunt before Cash begins to kill in game, and also appears on the opening trailer before gameplay. In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, there is a similarly named store known as Ryton Aide, where players may acquire a health pickup and an adrenaline drug. Also in Vice City, Phil Cassidy lives in a trailer in a junkyard, much like one of the Skinz members, who you kill in order to obtain the nail gun. The Interiors of both trailers have a near identical layout, except that the one in Manhunt is longer, has the bed in a different place, and the place that Phil's bedroom is located is a bathroom. Yet another thing to note, Phil Cassidy has a Confederate flag in his bedroom. which has the phrase "Heritage, not hate" printed on it in big white letters. This implies that Phil may also be a skinhead, although he lives in the area Little Haiti.


The following are weapons Cash uses to execute his enemies.

One-use-only weapons

  • Plastic bag
  • Glass shard (the glass shard can be found when Cash breaks a window or glass sheet)
  • Fiber wire

Small weapons

  • Knife
  • Blackjack
  • Nightstick
  • Sickle
  • Hatchet
  • Machete
  • Hammer
  • Cleaver
  • Crowbar
  • Wooden Stake (Only found on the last level)

Large weapons

  • Wooden baseball bat
  • Metal baseball bat (The metal version of the bat is stronger than the wooden one.)
  • Chainsaw (only found in the very last level, taken off Piggsy, and in a bonus level.)

Note: The wooden and metal baseball bats can be used to destroy the skull of a downed enemy, thereby spilling the content of the head (blood, brain pieces and skull fragments). Cash needs to be positioned in a small radius around the head for this action to be performed. (It is automatically performed with the attack button.)

These small ranged weapons cannot be used for executions, but one shot to the head (three with the nail gun) will kill an enemy.

Small weapons

  • Revolver six-shooter
  • Nail gun
  • Handgun
  • Desert Eagle (known as 'Heavy Handgun' in-game)
  • Uzi

Large weapons

  • Tranquilizer rifle (non-fatal)
  • sawed-off shotgun
  • Spas shotgun
  • M16
  • Sniper rifle

The following weapons can do a small amount of damage, but are mainly used to lure enemies so that Cash can sneak up on them. Alternatively, they can daze an enemy if it hits their face. If a gang member finds the severed head of a fellow gang member, he will become more alert and call for help.

  • Can (reuseable)
  • Brick (reuseable)
  • Bottle (single use because it smashes)
  • Severed Head (reuseable)



  • The Director: You've had an unexpected reprieve. Do exactly as I say, and I promise this will be over before the night is out.
  • The Director: You're stacking those corpses up like it was Judgement Day!
  • The Director: You're gonna turn the slash world on its head!
  • The Director: Careful, there's a bigot guarding the gate, if he sees you he will call his cheery buddies.
  • The Director: This shit seems content to watch porn and avoid all the action, if he won't switch it off himself...We'll have to do it for him.
  • The Director: (After an orgasm sound) Aaaaah! That was great Cash!
  • The Director: I'm all the family you need now, Cash.
  • The Director: (last words) Cash! I MADE you!
  • The Director: You're really getting me off, Cash.
  • The Director: Cut 'em up! Break 'em down! And choke the fucking life outta them!
  • Ramirez: Okay you limp dicked faggots, let's give Mr. Starkweather a show to remember. Move it!
  • Ramirez: First man to bring me his severed dick gets ten thousand dollars!
  • Hoods gang member: I am gonna start swinging and ask questions later. So if that's you... Mike!
  • Hoods gang member: When I get through with this thing, momma's gonna make me a pasta so high!
  • Skinz gang member: I could track your stench with a peg on my nose!
  • Skinz gang member: Mongrels have a yellow streak in them a mile wide!
  • Skinz gang member: (while attacking) There's no screaming liberals to help you now!
  • Skinz gang member: If I don't get my hands on this freak soon, I'm gonna take it out on someone else!
  • Wardogs gang member: It's gonna be like dropping a buck at fifty paces!
  • Wardogs gang member: He's pulling an alpha bravo!
  • Innocentz gang member: Offer your soul from that tired hunk of flesh!
  • Innocentz gang member: (chanting) Paranoia, paranoia; I see you, I see you!
  • Innocentz gang member: (to Cash) You needn't run, my friend! La Cabra Negra will open her heart to you!
  • Innocentz gang member: He may have escaped us, but we have la fuerza del demonio on our side!
  • Smiley gang member: Fug said, go away flies! Your buzz make Fug head all fuzz!
  • Smiley gang member: I hope you don't mind me stealing him from you for a while; I'll bring him straight back.
  • Smiley gang member: I recognize these footprints; they're from MY SHOES!
  • Smiley gang member: I know you've been drinking Barry!
  • Smiley gang member: Baaary! Barry Barry Barry Barry BARRY!!!
  • Smiley gang member: Scrubbly grubbly scribbly wiggly witchety man!
  • Carcer City Police Officer: Hey, homeless guy, you there? If you are stick your head out so I know it's you.
  • Carcer City Police Officer: Thank god... I mean shit: he's not here.
  • Cerberus guard: Little fox, little fox: the hounds have come to play!
  • Cerberus guard: He's probably a pedophile! Only a pedo would hide in the bushes!
  • Cerberus guard: Why do I always gotta check? Starkweather's the one who chose that psycho.
  • Cerberus guard: The sooner you stick your demented head out, the sooner we can help!

External Links