Review: Manhunt 2
Posted 27 Nov 2007 at 01:29 by Iun Hockley
The more you hear about a banned game, the more you want to play it. The more hoo-ha over ultra-violent content you read only increases the desire to play. In attempting to derail this game the media have only drawn further attention to existence, which is either stupidity on their part or a very clever marketing device by the publishers. Personally, the debate about violent games is irrelevant, and anyone thinking otherwise will be violently bludgeoned with a stick – after I have finished playing Manhunt 2, of course.
Having never played the original Manhunt, or indeed paid much attention to it, this game looks to provide a fresh take on the stealth/action genre so controlled by Solid Snake and Sam Fisher. Ignoring the furore surrounding the game is not easy, and it must be declared that there is little justification: this is a horrible game, with a twist of insanity that really gets under your skin after a while. Still, it is only a game.
Starting off, the game world is introduced through a very bad cut-scene and we come across the principal personage of Danny. Danny is apparently an inmate at some sort of asylum where there has been a mass uprising of the other patients there. Guided by the unseen and sinister voice of your sneering friend, it is your job to discover the nature of these experiments and the reason for your incarceration.
The forced camera angles and cinematic perspectives remind you of the original Resident Evil, and this is both a compliment and a major criticism. A compliment insofar as the occasionally cinematic viewpoint adds menace to the already oppressive atmosphere, and a criticism in that there are many times when the camera will impede progress frustratingly. This really is a cheap trick at times, with the limited control you have being accountable for a number of pointless deaths that could have been avoided.
From a visual point of view, the graphics are terrible: bland, poor animations and ugly textures mean that this never escapes the PS2 comparison that will inevitably made. The Wii may be less powerful than its biggest rivals, but developing the games in tandem has been done so to the detriment of the Wii package. Broken TVs and identical cupboards line the rooms - lazily placed in the background to give the area weight, which all look too contrived. Objects you can interact directly with are unrealistically highlighted to draw your attention to them. Shadows are either black or non-existent, there are very few subtle shades.
Stylistically however, the game does its job very well, but it is a shame that the graphics aren't better to reinforce things. The cinematic style, with grainy CCTV footage works excellently in conveying this twisted world, and there are a few moments when you nod your head in understanding at what the developers were trying to achieve.
Something has to be said for the blurring effect on the executions that garnered the most negative press for this game. In all honestly, the blurred images help the game to maintain the sense of disorientation and insanity that it is trying to achieve. There is a mist of bloodlust that descends over the player as you execute these special kills, and the awful graphics would really add nothing to the package. In fact seeing these executions rendered "realistically" by the graphics engine would take away some of the feeling. Inadvertently the software ratings people have done this game a great favour by saving it from itself.
Punching the walls, throwing bricks and smacking people from behind with hammers all have realistic gritty effects. The sound as a baseball bad cracks into the head of a hunter is sickeningly real – from time to time your on-screen character vomits at the sights and sounds, and you may too the first time you hear this. Music is largely unremarkable, but is suitably oppressive when necessary and appropriately unobtrusive when not needed. Combined with the artistic design, the effects produce a chillingly disturbing world.
The actual controls of the game are typical of Rockstar's other major franchise, GTA. And people who have played GTA will understand that is no compliment whatsoever. Danny moves uncomfortably and controls like a tractor. Wii controls have obviously been shoved into this game without much thought, though using your ability to keep the Wii remote still (or put it on a nearby table) will aid you in avoiding the numerous Hunters. Fighting these enemies with your fists is not advised; not only are they stronger than you, but the Wiimote and targeting system is not consistent in recognising your hits. Sneaking is successful with the nunchuk stick, but to run you have to press an additional button instead of tilting the controls further.
Despite these many criticisms, the game manages to be a whole lot of fun. Shivers run up and down your spine as you approach the Hunters with crowbar, hoping for that perfectly fatal execution move. The fear of discovery is enhanced by using the Wii remote to dictate your movements in the shadows: and there will be several times when you hold your breath as the Hunters desperately search the darkness for you.
How long the game lasts really depends on your own individual enjoyment of the title. The story is some guff about a secret project abducting innocents and conducting mind-altering experiments for nefarious purposes, the cads! While it's not necessarily easy to invest in the story, you will find yourself almost silent during the game itself, as the oppressive atmosphere pours out of the screen and into your surroundings. You can expect the experience to last around the 15 hour mark, which is good really as it would likely get old after too long. Luckily, the game keeps itself reasonably fresh, but it will still be a bad egg for some – not because of the violence, simply because it's really not that great.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Not worth the furore, but probably worth a play.
Graphics don't do design justice