Manhunt’s Soundtrack Would Make John Carpenter Proud

Image: Rockstar Games / Kotaku

Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-ass sounds they make. Today we straight-up murder some people for the amusement of a sicko filming it all. But at least the soundtrack is good.

Rockstar Games, the developer behind Bully and Grand Theft Auto V, is no stranger to controversy. When it released Manhunt (playlist / longplay / VGMdb) on the PS2 in 2003, it stirred up a mess that would follow it and the game around for years to come. But beyond the controversy and angry church officials on the local news, Manhunt is a solid stealth game with a creepy atmosphere and a damn good soundtrack.

Let’s listen:

Rockstar Games / Chris Walsh (YouTube)

Manhunt’s soundtrack reminds me of some of John Carpenter’s best stuff. That mix of dark synths, industrial sounds, and the way so many of Manhunt’s songs build slowly. I could see, say, Michael Myers chasing down his next victim while a song like “Doorway Into Hell” plays. It would work perfectly.

Rockstar Games / Chris Walsh (YouTube)

The songs in Manhunt were composed by Craig Conner (interview / article / website), who did a lot of work for Rockstar Games. He helped create or produce music for games like L.A. Noire, GTA Vice City, and Max Payne 3. His soundtrack for Manhunt is different from most other Rockstar games. This isn’t loud and exciting or filled with licensed songs. These are good darkwave/industrial tracks that seem more concerned with blending into the background and adding to the tension than standing out. But when they do get loud, they get interesting too.

White Trash” is one of my favorite songs on the soundtrack and also a good opportunity to explain how these songs worked in-game. They didn’t play from start to end. Instead, different snippets of the song would play depending on what was happening, often the quiet part playing as you snuck around and the louder parts playing while you were being chased or fighting. As a dumb kid who sucked at stealth games, I heard the loud parts a lot. And take it from me, they make an already-tense moment considerably more scary and nerve-wracking.

Rockstar Games / Chris Walsh (YouTube)

I would be doing a disservice to the game if I didn’t mention the first track you hear when the game starts. It’s a perfect introduction to Manhunt’s dark world that really helps set the tone. Even to this day, that intro song is lodged deep in my brain, and when I hear it I remember late nights on the weekend, sitting on the floor next to my PS2 and tightly gripping my controller as I run away from the latest maniac trying to kill me. Fun memories.

That’s it for today’s Morning Music! I got more spooky and creepy soundtracks to showcase as we get closer and closer to Halloween. Anyway, chat down below about this soundtrack or anything else. See you tomorrow!

Kotaku Weekend Editor | Zack Zwiezen is a writer living in Kansas. He has written for GameCritics, USgamer, Kill Screen & Entertainment Fuse.


Faux Bravo

Ooh, you almost talked about a game I played today! I own Manhunt. I have it on PC, and I believe I tried to play it briefly, but there was something weird about the controls and I bailed. They’re wonky and you can’t remap them, maybe? Perhaps I’ll go back and check it out, if for no other reason than everyone deserves a second chance.

What I’m hearing here sounds like what I would expect for a game like this, though. And it sounds solid.

Got Dragonrend and fought Alduin last night. Feels like I must not have too far to go? I’m supposed to go to Whiterun and capture another dragon or something. Next time I play, I’m going to go do the final dungeon for the Thieves Guild quest line first, though. Not sure I’ll have time to play tonight, but soon. Maybe I can “finish” the game by the end of the weekend.

There are so many options on deck, it’s anyone’s guess what’s next, if I put down Skyrim completely. Could be Manhunt!