Picking up immediately where Manhunter: New York left off, Manhunter 2: San Francisco has the player crash-landing their stolen ship in the City by the Bay after trying unsuccessfully to keep up with enigmatic serial killer Phil. Left with no alternatives, the player assumes the identity of a local Manhunter and solves more crimes for the alien Orbs while searching for Phil and working for the local human resistance.
Manhunter 2 presents the same urban decay and oppressive alien invader regime as visualized in the original, this time using streets and landmarks from the Bay Area. The Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Alcatraz prison, and the TransAmerica Pyramid all receive alien makeovers. New puzzles, new characters, and new investigations await as the player tracks Phil by his string of strangled corpses.
All concepts and gameplay elements from Manhunter: New York return. The player again uses the MAD tracking device to follow suspects provided by the alien Orbs and uses clues found through first-person location investigation to discover the suspects' name. Occasional arcade sequences bring mixed challenges, and though they cannot be skipped, a new difficulty option has been implemented. The same point-and-click gameplay (no typing required) is used to navigate the game world.
Manhunter 2: San Francisco is the sequel to Manhunter New York. As the first game ended you had rid New York of the filthy man-eating Orbs from space and you were chasing the evil murderer Phil in your spaceship so that you could dole out the justice he deserved. You have now chased him clear across the United States and have crash landed in San Francisco which has also been taken over by Orbs and is meeting the same fate as New York was. As the story begins you take over the identity of a local manhunter that was accidentally killed when your spaceship crashed.
This story, like New York, takes place over three days. As a manhunter the Orbs are using you to keep the populace in line. Each day you are presented with a case that you must solve using your MAD (Manhunter Assignment Device) and your detective skills. There is a list of things that must be accomplished each day and you will not be allowed to sleep until they are completed. Your true motivation as you are solving the cases is to kill Phil and rid San Francisco of the Orbs as you did in New York. Using your MAD to track the travels of your suspects you will visit San Francisco landmarks to investigate the murders and gather clues. The object of the game is to learn the identity of the suspects (both dead and alive) and learn their motives. As you proceed, your plan to eliminate Phil and the Orbs will begin to take shape.
I would like to think that when a sequel comes out that the developers could have at least made some improvements over the original. I don't think that is the case with Manhunter 2: San Francisco. I played Manhunter New York (on site) about two years ago and I don't remember feeling so frustrated playing that game as I did playing Manhunter 2. The sequel has exactly the same look and feel as New York did but the game design has some flaws.
The game mechanics are a bit clunky. You must use the keyboard to move a pointer around the screen in order to navigate. Why, in 1989, mouse support was not integrated into the game is beyond me. Your method of travel is a map that allows you to click (press enter) on points of interest. As you discover more crime scenes and clues more points of interest will appear on the map. Inventory management is no different than any of the other early Sierra games. How to use an item on an object in your environment is not very intuitive, however. Make sure you read the manual (Field Guide). It is also very important that you learn how to use the MAD in order to track the movements of not only the prime suspect but all other parties as well.
As an adventure game purist I HATE arcade sequences that are thrown into adventure games. That is a personal feeling that I don't expect all others to agree with so I am not going to downgrade the game because of it. But if I mention the arcade portion of the game in less than glowing terms you will know why. Manhunter 2 has plenty of arcade type interactions that must be successfully completed to advance in the game. Thankfully the developers put in a difficulty level adjustment that allows the player to select Hard, Normal or Easy. For some reason the Hard setting is the default. Be warned. Also be warned that when you select the easy setting that it stays in effect only for that one arcade sequence. You must adjust the setting again when you encounter the next arcade sequence. On the Easy setting they become tolerable and don't make you want to throw a shoe at the computer monitor. (Ask me how I know.)
My next gripe is the Sierra trademark that you, by design, must die A LOT to complete their games. When I use the words "by design" I am not kidding. In day one of the adventure I died another of the many gruesome deaths in this game and decided that instead of letting the game restart me just before I died (as it does by default) that I would restore a previous save game. When I had advanced enough in day one that the game had run out of things for me to do I spent quite a while traveling from place to place not being able to accomplish anything and wondering why the game was not advancing. Finally out of frustration I got my hands on a hint book and discovered that, since restoring the save game, I had not gone back and died in the particular scene and manner that I referred to above. Naturally I was miffed because I thought the object of the game was to avoid death. Why in the world would that particular death scene be a mandatory requirement to finishing day one? It made no sense then and still does not as there were no clues given in the death scene that were helpful later on. Bizarre design and a sign that the developers got a little too caught up in themselves. In general this game forces you to die often as an opportunity for the screen of the development crew to appear, chide you and give you a clue as to why you died and how to prevent it. Couldn't there have been a better way to learn what was necessary before you died? Bizarre.
My final gripe is that there should NEVER be dead ends in an adventure game. This game has them. If you travel to a place and get in a predicament where you die because you did not have the inventory item that you needed to save yourself (because you neglected to pick it up), well, that is understandable. It isn't the developer's fault that you did not pick it up when you should have. However, to be allowed to travel to a place and get stuck there with no way out because you traveled to point B before point A when it should have been the other way around, well, that is not ok. Not in my book. You can spend hours looking for some item to get you out of a location only to learn that there isn't one. I got stuck twice in this game in exactly that manner. Hello hint book, hello save game and hello more frustration. If a game development team chooses to make a game as linear as this one is then they should not allow you to travel to locations that are going to get you stuck like this. No excuses for that.
OK, I am going to take a deep breath now, and proceed with what I liked about this game. This game is gory. Do I like gory? Not particularly but I don't have a problem with it either. It did, in this case keep the game from getting boring. That is for sure. If you have a problem with human body parts lying around and serving as lunch for the aliens and monsters then stay away. If you have a problem with viewing large piles of dead human carcasses then stay away. If you don't like human bodies being ground in ... you get the picture. The graphics although dated are still, well, graphic.
Another thing I like about Manhunter San Francisco is the puzzles. When I say puzzles in this context what I am referring to is the detective work that must be accomplished to solve the crimes and further your cause. It requires both thought and observation. The game uses visual clues to puzzle solving a lot and that was done well, I thought. If they could have replaced the arcade sequences with more puzzles I would have been a happier camper.
I also like the fact that the Manhunter series uses real locations and landmarks in their games. That adds a dimension of realism and allows the player to identify more with what is happening. At least I think so. This game allows you to travel to many actual San Francisco landmarks as you try to solve the murders by searching for clues.
My overall impression of Manhunter San Francisco only allows me to give it an average recommendation. That is not because it is an average game. It is because when you look at the things that you would score an adventure game on this one either does very well or very poorly, nothing in between (except maybe the graphics). When you balance all that out you get an average overall rating. Truth is if you liked Manhunter New York you will probably like San Francisco as well. If not stay away.
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