Thanks, but No Thanks
After the fairly successful original Manhunt title, many fans understandably were awaiting a sequel. While it has been a long and fairly strange wait for these fans, at least it hasn’t been entirely boring. Over the last few months, Manhunt 2 has been making a lot of headlines. Attention was first drawn to the game because of the announcement of its planned release on the Wii. It was a fairly unexpected announcement given Nintendo’s historic tendency to take a more child-friendly approach to video games. Even so, the idea of playing Manhunt 2 using the Wii’s motion-sensing controls understandably piqued many gamers’ interests.
Once that initial buzz began to subside, the news that the ESRB decided to give this multiplatform title an Adults Only (AO) rating quickly stirred the hornets’ nest once again. This announcement was met with much anger since it basically meant that the game couldn’t be released in our market. Both Nintendo and Sony made public statements that they would never allow a game that was rated AO to be released on their respective platforms. Given that Manhunt 2 was also essentially banned from releasing in the UK, the game suddenly seemed more mysterious and interesting. Almost every gamer wanted a chance to experience the game that was so ultra-violent that it wasn’t deemed suitable to be played by anyone under the age of 18.
Since games are now fairly expensive to make and game companies do work for profit, Rockstar swiftly supplied the ESRB with an edited version of the game in an attempt to get a Mature (M) rating. The ESRB accepted the new version of Manhunt 2 and gave it the M rating necessary to get it into gamers’ hands. Leading up to the game’s actual release, Rockstar and the ESRB refused to disclose what had been changed to attain the new classification, adding even more mystery. Now after many months of ups and downs, the roller coaster that is Manhunt 2 has finally come to a stop on our home consoles. Unfortunately, even factoring out the massive amount of hype that it has received, Manhunt 2 is just a plain disappointing game.
The first thing you will notice is just how dated the visuals in this game look. Graphically, every version of this game honestly looks like a rather ugly PS1 game. Characters’ heads all appear pasted onto reused bodies with noticeable seams where they connect. The backdrops are typically visually bland as well. Most of the buildings, hallways, and alleys in the game are very drab, mostly dirty browns and grays, and are basically indistinguishable from one another. I know this is hard to imagine, but this game seriously looks bad even when compared to the original Manhunt, which came out four years ago. With that much time to work on the sequel, it is completely inexcusable for this game to look this poor. Fortunately, it isn’t all bad though; there have been some minor improvements included as well. The best of these is how your character will sporadically get covered in blood as you play, a la The Suffering.
As with the original game, this title was supposed to be more about graphic violence than lifelike graphics. This is where you will definitely begin to feel the sting of the editing that was done to secure the ESRB’s M rating. The original Manhunt allowed players to execute enemies in an amazingly cinematic and completely brutal way while maintaining an M rating. While Manhunt 2 shares the same rating and the same basic premise, instead of being rewarded for your stealth and cunning, you are essentially punished. Rather than being able to bask in your accomplishment of offing an adversary, the screen becomes so dark and shaky that you will have no idea what is actually transpiring.
When these execution scenes occur, they essentially look like the scenes from the original Manhunt, viewed through four feet of foggy red glass, in the dark, and during an earthquake. This will definitely disappoint gamers looking for an adult experience because it is basically like watching an R rated film with your parents as a child. Any time something interesting seems like it is about to transpire, out come the hands to cover your eyes. While this may be appropriate for underage movie viewers, gamers over the age of 17, including the many who have already played the gruesome Manhunt, are certainly not in need of such censorship. This apparent morality policing seems even more nonsensical when you consider the game still includes an extremely healthy amount of strong sexual content and also allows you to vividly blow off enemies’ heads using firearms.
Unfortunately, not all of this game’s problems can be blamed on this overdone censoring. The inability to control the camera using a second analog stick, which the Wii lacks, makes this game obnoxiously difficult to play. One of the most important aspects of any stealth-based game is the ability to quickly survey your surroundings. However in this title, if you wish to see anything other than what is in front of you, you will need to press a button to switch to first-person mode. Unfortunately, this amazingly clunky option is your only choice other than just relying completely on your radar and luck.
Using the Wii-mote to aim while carrying one of the game’s many firearms is also a painstaking chore. Players will be able to aim at any point on the screen for pinpoint accuracy. The real problem arises when you try to aim your Wii-mote to shoot an off-screen character. As you try to turn your character while aiming, it will often pan at inappropriate speeds leaving you a little nauseous and disoriented.
These ridiculous control flaws are difficult to handle, especially when there are other instances in the game that use the controls so well. You will need to move the Wii-mote, the Nunchuk, or a combination of the two, to simulate the brutal execution that you are unfortunately unable to actually see. This time around you will also be given the chance to perform some environmental executions. If you can successfully sneak up behind your enemy when they are close to a skull that appears on your radar, you will be able to kill them using anything from toilets to fire extinguishers. Since you can’t actually tell what is going on though, this remains a somewhat hollow addition. Had you actually been able to witness what your character was doing, this could have really been a more engrossing experience.
The other fairly inventive use of the Wii controls occurs when a hunter begins to search the shadows for you. Instead of just awkwardly heckling you, this time they will actually peer deeper into the darkness while searching for you. You will then need to hold the Wii-mote and Nunchuk completely still to avoid detection. Although I initially thought this was an incredibly atmospheric addition, it actually only succeeded in slowing down the gameplay. Now instead of just waiting for the hunters to quickly lose interest and return to their routines for an easy execution, you have to wait even longer and complete this minigame to even remain hidden.
Manhunt 2’s storyline will succeed in leaving just as many gamers disappointed as its gameplay inevitably will. It revolves around a man named Danny who has been experimented on. He escapes the asylum where he is imprisoned with the help of his friend Leo. They now must work together to survive a seemingly never-ending supply of hunters while trying to figure out what the “Project” has done to them, and to ultimately bring them down. There is a major plot twist that is revealed at virtually the end of the game that almost everyone will see coming very early on. Actually, upon firing up this game for the first time and watching its opening cinema, I even verbally predicted this painfully obvious and inevitable revelation.
In the end, it all comes down to the basic fact that a work of art, created specifically for a mature audience, should not have been forced to compromise the way that this game has been. Gamers who have been waiting a long time for this game to come out, or even just gamers in general, should definitely stay far away from Manhunt 2. While it is definitely not the worst game I have ever played, it is definitely one of the biggest letdowns. With as good as the original Manhunt was, and with as much hype as was behind this title, it ultimately succeeds only in being a major disappointment. Even though it has many faults, I can’t help but think the game would have at least been entertaining if it had rightfully been released in its original, unedited form. Unfortunately, we will most likely never know. As it stands, perhaps it would be best to not play Manhunt 2 until the unedited version gets released. If the unedited version never gets released, you are better off just playing the original Manhunt again and thinking about what could have been.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.4 Graphics
This game is host to some of the most dated and underwhelming visuals currently available to gamers. 2.1 Control
While there are some good uses for the Wii-mote present, not having a second analog stick to control the camera makes playing this game frustrating. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The Wii-mote sound effects, as always, are completely cheesy sounding but the in-game voice acting and atmospheric music are well done. 1.5
With a completely transparent storyline and the inability to actually see what you are doing during the executions, there is virtually no reason to play this game.
2.2 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.