|Manhunt 2 (2007)
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Available for: Wii, PS2, PSP
Violence. It’s been the subject of much controversy in the gaming industry ever since Rockstar first released “Grand Theft Auto III” for the PlayStation 2. It’s not at all surprising, then, to find the New York-based game developers at the forefront of another media blitz with the follow-up to their ultra-violent psychological horror title “Manhunt.” After the sequel was slapped with the dreaded AO-rating only months before its release, major retail chains like Wal-Mart and GameStop refused to sell the game, ultimately resulting in Rockstar’s decision to edit its content in order to score the retail-friendly M-rating. Unfortunately, what many people failed to realize is that throughout all this controversy, one important detail was left out: “Manhunt 2” isn’t any good.
The game is a sequel only by name, as the player takes control of a brand new character – Danny Lamb, a neuroscientist-turned-lab rat for an experimental research group known as The Pickman Project. As a result of his experience under the microscope, Daniel has lost his memory, and most of his sanity, much like the many other participants, who have since been shipped to the Dixmor Asylum for the Criminally Insane. But when a freak electrical accident allows him and fellow inmate Leo Kasper to escape from their cells, the pair embarks on a mission to unravel their pasts and exact revenge on the company that stole their lives. But does Danny have what it takes to do so in cold blood?
At its core, “Manhunt 2” is a stealth-based adventure that requires you to sneak around environments and kill your enemies from behind, but due to some pretty shoddy controls, it’s much easier said than done. The camera system for the game isn’t very helpful, and though a simple push of the D-pad will make Danny perform a wall hug, there’s no fluid way of exiting out of it. Furthermore, the stealth portion of the game is as dull as they come, and though some might not mind constantly restarting levels in favor of rushing your opponents, the A.I. simply won’t allow it. Of course, there’s a reason for that. “Manhunt 2” was made with only one thing in mind: disturbingly brutal executions.
These are accomplished by sneaking behind your enemies, holding the A button for a set amount of time, and then following a series of onscreen prompts that are imitated by your character. The longer you hold the button before activating the execution, the gorier they are, but unfortunately, you don’t actually get to see what happens. In toning down the violent content for a softer rating, Rockstar has purposefully blurred out the action (not to mention adding an opaque red tint), making it damn near impossible to see what’s actually going on. Many critics have argued that you still know what happens, and that’s the point, but I have to disagree. Why bother creating a game meant to be disturbing and controversial, only to turn around and censor that specific material?
“Manhunt 2” was supposed to be a game about graphic violence. Instead, it feels more like a neutered version of that promise. Add to that the fact that the controls are clunky, the story is lacking, and the graphics leave much to be desired, and you’re looking at one of the most over-hyped games of the year. The final product plays like something that might have been released five years ago, and I can’t even begin to imagine how Rockstar allowed such an inferior title to be released under their brand name. Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure: had the developers taken just as much time polishing the game as they did thinking up those crazy executions, it could have been a solid experience.