Oct 29, 2007
It's been dogged by months of controversy, moral outrage, an outright UK ban and speculation that it might never come out at all, but Manhunt 2 is finally here. It's been through a few changes since we first saw it, but the basic premise of this stealth-horror adventure - hiding in the shadows and doing extremely nasty things to extremely nasty people - remains intact, as does its creepy storyline about escaped mental patients pursued by a shadowy, quasi-governmental research project. What has changed, however, is sure to upset gorehounds, or at the very least leave a bad taste in their mouths the next time they think about the ESRB.
The first Manhunt was schlocky, but it wasn't squeamish about gore; its stealth "executions" were the pinnacle of PS2-era gruesomeness, with unflinching depictions of face-stabbing, eye-gouging and dismemberment. Manhunt 2 was set to be even more brutal before the censors caught a whiff of it, and the game's final cut makes a weird compromise: most of the executions (save the few that got toned down) are just as brutal as originally envisioned, but now there's a weird camera filter that prevents you from seeing all the details.
It's sort of like watching the game while invisible thumbs press into your eyeballs; you can get a good idea of what's going on, but the discoloration and static make it impossible to make out anything clearly. You can tell, for example, that you're pulling a bonesaw through a masked killer's head, and you can hear his screams and the gooey splatter noises, but you can't see the blood or any clear detail.
So what's the point of playing a game about gore when you can't see the gore? Thankfully, there's more to Manhunt 2 than just slicing off limbs with a radial saw (and besides, the game's still plenty gory - you're free to admire your gruesome handiwork after the fact, and shooting someone in the face will make it explode in a chunky, uncensored fountain of red). The game has a darkly fascinating story to tell, and it turns out there's a surprisingly fun stealth game lurking underneath all the horror. One that is definitely, absolutely, undeniably not for kids.