Carcer City is an extreme caricature of a Rust Belt city, taking inspiration from places like Camden, New Jersey; Flint and Detroit, Michigan; East St. Louis, Illinois; and Gary, Indiana. It is implied that Carcer City was once a booming industrial center in its past (as evidenced by its large factories and stockyards) before it fell into a state of deep neglect and became crippled by crime and depression.
Much of the sorry state of Carcer City can be attributed to Lionel Starkweather, who lives in a massive guarded estate far from the rotted inner city. At an unknown time in the city's past, Starkweather effectively bought off its entire police department by bribing its chief, Gary Schaffer, into giving him unlimited access to the city's abandoned districts in order to direct his snuff films there. Most, if not all, of the gangs that plague the city's streets are on the Director's payroll. Many parts of Carcer seem to be in a state of near-anarchy, as large sections of the city appear to be in complete control by gangs or are neglected by its apathetic and ineffective police force.
Carcer City is likely located in a Rust Belt state in the U.S., and is in the vicinity of Liberty City. There is a polluted river located in the city that catches on fire, a reference to the Cuyahoga River, and a bay called Rocksnorth Bay. The terrain is mostly flat aside from surrounding hills that house the wealthier neighborhoods, and no mountains are visible. Not much else is known or revealed about the environment in Carcer City.
- Lionel Starkweather, a.k.a. The Director - The purported ruler of Carcer City. He used to be a very famous and wealthy director in Vinewood, but fell out of favor for reasons unknown. Sometime after being rejected from Vinewood society, he turned to underground snuff movies and relocated to economically depressed and crime-choked Carcer City, where he was able to profit from its decline. He distributes his films through Valiant Video Enterprises, a company that is a front for an illegal snuff ring headed by the unseen Mr. Nasty
- Gary Schaffer - The corrupt chief of police of the CCPD, he is bribed by Starkweather into turning a blind eye to his activities. He is first mentioned in Grand Theft Auto III after being cleared of corruption charges due to all of the witnesses in his case disappearing; it is likely that he had them forcibly silenced. He does not appear in any of the levels in Manhunt, but can be heard taking orders from Starkweather over the phone at the beginning of Press Coverage, and is mentioned in the final cutscene of the game.
- The Journalist - The head reporter of the Carcer City News. She has been researching Starkweather's activities for some time, and it is hinted that Starkweather is onto her investigations. During the course of the game, Cash escorts her back to her apartment so she can collect evidence on the snuff ring, protecting her from police officers who have raided her home and flooded the surrounding streets. She is last seen on the news performing a special bulletin exposing Starkweather's activities. A bonus soundfile of an audio transcript from the Manhunt website reveals that the aftermath has made her paranoid, unable to cope with witnessing so much violence and the whole concept of people willingly participating in such a depraved sport for the amusement of others. She is being interviewed by a doctor in a mental institution, who says the reporter was found wandering the streets with a Knife in her hand.
- Ramirez - A cold-blooded former soldier and leader of The Wardogs, he is seen giving orders to various gangs throughout the game. Starkweather uses Ramirez to organize the hunters and pass on information to them to aid them in killing Cash. After Cash breaks out of Darkwoods Penitentiary after learning that he was meant to die there, Starkweather orders Ramirez to finish off Cash. Ramirez corners Cash in an apartment complex, along with several Wardogs, but Cash manages to kill them all.
- Mr. Nasty - The mysterious snuff ring leader and distributor of Starkweather's movies. He runs legitimate-seeming Valiant Video Enterprises as a front for his illegal activities.
- The Tramp - An alcoholic homeless man. Cash must escort him to safety during one scene. He is very drunk when Cash frees him from the Innocentz and seems to be oblivious to the danger he is in. When attacked, he will cower in place. Bonus material in the game suggests that he is Kenneth Jesperson, the former leader of the Smileys who has the secret identity of Scarecrow.
- Piggsy - A morbidly obese and demented serial killer, he wears a severed pig's head over his face and uses a chainsaw to murder his victims. He is one of Starkweather's main actors and is killed by Cash in the game's conclusion.
- The Cerberus Leader - The highest-ranking member of Cerberus, he is utilized by Starkweather to capture Cash and extract him to other filming locations. He is ultimately killed by Cash at Starkweather's estate.
- The White Rabbit - Found at the conclusion of the asylum section, he is a man in a white rabbit suit who leads Cash on a chase through the Darkwoods Penitentiary by tempting him with the key to the exit gate. He is a homage to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as well as the Bunnyman of Clifton, Virginia. Towards the end of the scene, the Rabbit informs Cash of Starkweather's betrayal and sends multiple Smileys to murder him. Cash manages to kill them off, chases the Rabbit down and ends his life as well.
- Brian Van Ginsberg - a follower of the Epsilon Program (from GTA V)
- Carcer City Zoo: A large, abandoned zoo that featured many exotic animals in its past. It was taken over by the sadistic Wardogs who use it as their hideout and hunting grounds. The Zoo is the setting of the scenes Grounds for Assault, Strapped for Cash and Monkey See, Monkey Die.
- Darkwoods Penitentiary: A large prison complex that features a mental asylum for patients deemed too insane for the general population. The inmates have all escaped and formed their own psychopathic gang called The Smileys, the asylum being their only turf. The Darkwoods Penitentiary is the setting for the levels Mouth of Madness, Doing Time and Kill The Rabbit.
- Carcer Church: A deserted gothic-style church located in the East Los Albos district. It is connected to a graveyard and houses the Innocentz, who use it as a hangout and base of operations.
- Dentons City Junkyard : A scrapyard that is home to the Skinz, a gang of white supremacists. It features a magnetic crane, warehouses and towering stacks of scrap metal. The junkyard appears in the scenes White Trash and Fuelled by Hate.
- Carcer City Mall : A multiple-story shopping mall that appears to be either abandoned or under construction. It is considered to be Innocentz turf. The Carcer City Mall is seen in the scenes View of Innocence and part of Born Again.
- Carcer City Library : A library owned by The Hoods. There are several corpses in the basement. The Carcer City Library is the setting for the levels Road to Ruin and Hard as Nails.
- Checks Cashed : A bank located in the abandoned part of the city.
Much of the city is occupied by various gangs who violently rule over their turf. They appear to be on Starkweather's payroll, as they are seen taking explicit orders from him and Ramirez and had starring roles in the Director's past productions. It is not revealed in the game if the gangs are aware of the presence of the other gangs or if any rivalries exist between them (except for the Clowns, who were to have an intense rivalry with the Smileys before they were cut from the game, and the Innocentz who appear to have a small rivalry with the Hoods based off of visual hints). Some of the gangs seem as if they were lifted right off their home streets (Innocentz, Skinz) while others were probably recruited by Starkweather and Ramirez (Hoods, Wardogs). They are as follows:
References from Grand Theft Auto Edit
- In Grand Theft Auto III A news segment on the in-game radio station Lips 106 reports that "police chief Gary Schaeffer was cleared of corruption charges in a controversial decision by the courts." This is an obvious allusion to a prominent character in this game. This shows that the police chief has been corrupt for two years (or more) before the events of Manhunt (most likely due to him dealing with Starkweather). The same news segment mentions Carcer City as being "nearby" to Liberty City.
- There is also a "ghost town" in Liberty City, which is sometimes erroneously dubbed Carcer City.
- In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, A mattress store has a poster that reads, "The Best Mattresses in Carcer".
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, In the beginning of the game, a radio advertisement for Carcer City makes references to steel mills being closed and "dining in the glow of the Flaming River," which may be the best indication of the city's inspiration. Many steel mills in the Midwest closed during the era when the game was set, including those in Pittsburgh, PA, Philadelphia, PA, Cleveland, Ohio, and Detroit, MI. The "Flaming River" is a clear reference to the "Burning River", a period in the 1970s where the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio was polluted enough that it caught fire.
- Also in the beginning, a woman on the WCTR show "The Wild Traveller" calls from Carcer City asking why would anyone want to vacation there, probably referencing as to how crime-ridden the city is.
- When bumped into, sometimes a pedestrian says "Hey! This isn't Carcer City, OKAY!"
- On the Shores of Palamino Creek north of Los Santos there are several large objects with the words "Carcer City" on them.
- In Zero's RC store, there is an action figure of James Earl Cash, along with Piggsy, Tommy Vercetti and Lance Vance.
- One pedestrian is noted to say (after CJ murders somebody) "I'm moving to Carcer City" in GTA: San Andreas.
- A radio ad in San Andreas that advertises Carcer City for a travel destination bills Carcer City as the "Shining Crown Jewel of the Rust Belt", and states other things like "watch real men who make things fight to win our favors" (a reference to Manhunt), and finally states "This is real America: Drunk, Proud, Unemployed and Angry."
- In the first cutscene at the airport in GTA: San Andreas, it is seen on the arrivals board that one flight is from Carcer City.
- In Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, a man named Ken calls "The Electron Zone" on LCFR (asking about the Internet) and states that he is "calling from Carcer City."
- In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, Various pedestrians claim to have previous occupations in Carcer City; some say, "I was the best plumber in Carcer City!"
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, a combat knife execution can be performed from behind the victim, this is very similar to a white stage knife/glass execution in Manhunt. When the victim is killed, they lie in the same position as a victim of a knife execution in Manhunt.
- In GTA: San Andreas, there are blue propane gas tanks with "Carcer Gas!' written on them.
- In Grand Theft Auto IV, On the police database some criminals are listed as being born in Carcer City.
- In Grand Theft Auto IV, "Liberty City to Carcer City" is a distance the game shown in your stats as an indication of how many miles you have traveled.
- In Grand Theft Auto IV, certain pedestrians can be seen wearing buttons which resemble the masks worn by Smileys.
- In Grand Theft Auto IV, an achievement (Xbox 360 and PC version) or a trophy (PS3 Version) that can be unlocked is called "Manhunt." This is unlocked after completing the "Most Wanted" side missions, activated by the computer inside and LCPD vehicles.
- In Grand Theft Auto IV, on the Blogsnobs website, one of the bloggers is located in Carcer City.
- In Grand Theft Auto V, protagonist Michael De Santa, formerly Michael Townley, claims that his first bank job was at a small franchise in the outskirts of Carcer City in 1988.
- (From the GTA Wikia) Multiple vehicles that have appeared prior in Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City have appeared in some form in both Manhunt games. Including but not limited to the Stallion, Pony, Yankee, Forklift, Blista Compact, Boxville, Securicar, and the Carcer City police cruisers share the exact model as what's seen in Vice City. Only difference is it has a white and black color scheme instead of white and green. It should be noted that driving is not something the player can do in Manhunt, these vehicles are placed strictly for scenic and aesthetic purposes.
The Latin word carcere, which means prison, is also apparent in the word carceral state, which means: a state modeled on a prison. It's also apparent in "incarcerate", meaning to imprison.
In geomancy, Carcer is one of the Seven figures of Western Geomancy. It's the figurative outline of an enclosure or prison cell (similar to the word carcere).
- Carcer City is referenced numerous times in the Grand Theft Auto series. In Grand Theft Auto IV, it's stated that Carcer City is located between fifty and one hundred miles from Liberty City. Liberty City represents New York City and the only other major city, if the distance is accurate, that far from New York City is Philadelphia (which is nearly eighty miles away for New York City). In the 'Etymology" section it revealed that Carcer means "prison" in Latin while Philadelphia means "brotherly love" in Greek. It is possible, judging by the distance, that Carcer City is based on Philadelphia and is located to the south or southwest of Liberty City. Philadelphia, like Carcer City, is known to have a serious crime problem though not to the extent seen in Manhunt.
- In Grand Theft Auto V, one of the game's main protagonists Michael De Santa claims that he robbed a bank on the outskirts of Carcer City.