Rockstar Games has never been one to back down from controversy, but unfortunately with Manhunt 2 they had to bend to the rules or have no systems to publish on. Back before Manhunt 2 hit the shelves the ERSB gave it an Adults Only rating, which means that no major console, Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo would carry the game on their system. Take-Two Interactive had Rockstar rework some of the scenes that offended and published the title in 2007 on the Wii, PSP and PS2. Personally, I am against censorship in any form and this offended me heavily, so I did the one thing that a consumer could do back in 2007. I bought a copy for every system just to piss off all the cry-babies, for the purpose of this review I will be playing through the PSP version. I guess parents can no longer control their children and prohibit them from buying an insanely violent game, so we must all suffer. I will slowly step off of my soap box and tell you why you must play this classic Rockstar title.
There is a huge thunderstorm over the Dixmor Asylum for the Criminally Insane which somehow releases the cell doors at the facility, which in turn allows all of the inmates to escape and take over. You play as Daniel Lamb, an amnesiac who has no recollection of why he is in the asylum or anything of his past. You escape with the help of Leo, another inmate who basically is your tutorial person; the whole first level is your escape and tutorial. As you progress through the story, outside of the asylum you realize with the help of Leo that something is amiss with your life and that you have been backstabbed. You eventually make it to your burned out home and discover a certain drug that you left there prior to your amnesia. Taking it clears your memory some, and allows you to continue down the path to a full memory, and of course glorious revenge.
The controls are pretty simple for this heavily stealth based game, which I’m insanely terrible at. The controls never hampered me as I attempted to stay in the shadows, but my impatience did because I wanted to get to the killing. Since I played my PSP version I will go over those controls. The analog stick is what moves Daniel around. Pressing X while you move the analog stick forward gets Daniel to run, which makes you extremely noisy, so it isn’t the best idea to run all the time. There is a little HUD on the lower left screen that shows you how much noise you are making and lets you see your enemies and in which direction they are facing. To skirt around you have to hit the Left and Right Triggers which allow you to sidestep silently, which you will need to do in order to get behind your enemies. The biggest drawback to this game was the execution mechanic, as basically you have to sneak up behind an unsuspecting foe and hold down the Square button. The longer you stay behind the enemy while holding down the Square button, the more brutal the execution is. In the sequel though Rockstar had to smudge these executions so that you couldn’t see what Daniel was doing to his foe. It is sad, but if you squint you can make it out, kind of like when porn was scrambled on your childhood television.
The graphics for this nine year old game are pretty well done. I’m sure at the time when I was first playing these I was amazed by the graphical advancement Rockstar was showing. Now if you put it up against Grand Theft Auto V you’ll be sorely disappointed, but that’s what happens with our hobby. Rockstar made the characters look realistic and didn’t go the slightly goofy route they went with in Bully at the time. They even upped the ante with the visuals in this game. When you’re going through the levels it looks as if you are watching all of this take place on CCTV cameras. It gets grainy at times and when you are about to execute your fellow man it cuts to static then a close up blurry shot of the murder. This visual idea really gives the game a great atmosphere; you think that you shouldn’t be watching yet you continue on, level after level of gritty goodness. The voiceover cast does a good job as well, nothing sounds canned and the crazy folk sound, well, crazy. It isn’t the VO that gets you into the game though, it’s the feeling of peril that the graphics, the mood, the music and the story all bring to the table. Will you find out who Daniel was or will you die with your face down in a strip club? I died many times, so don’t fret.
I have enjoyed the Manhunt series immensely over the years even though both games are very difficult (as well as the fact that I don’t do stealth games very well). The time when these games came out was a great time for games. Developers were all in for trying something new and different and Manhunt is one of those series that shows that. Now that I am somewhat better at stealth I’m replaying through these two masterpieces and am just in love with what Rockstar came up with. The two games vary in story but in gameplay they are roughly the same, I like a good old fashioned revenge tale better than a snuff film setting. Any fan of Rockstar or stealth games should pick this title up because you won’t regret it. Hiding in the shadows means life or death here with no room for error, even the best stealth player will have a difficult time, I know I did. This is one of the forgotten Rockstar franchises and it should not be passed over for the shinier Rockstar titles; go for the grit, you’ll thank me later.