|Developer(s)||Rockstar London (PC & PS2)
Rockstar Leeds (PSP)
Rockstar Toronto (Wii) Rockstar Vienna (2004-2006)
|Release date(s)||NA October 29, 2007
UK October 31, 2008
NA November 6, 2009 (PC)
|Genre(s)||Stealth, Psychological horror|
|Mode(s)||Single-player (Third-person view)|
Manhunt 2 is a stealth-based psychological horror video game published by Rockstar Games It was developed by Rockstar London for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 2, Rockstar Leeds for the PlayStation Portable and Rockstar Toronto for the Wii. It is the sequel to 2003's Manhunt. The game was released in North America on October 29, 2007 and in the UK on October 31, 2008.
Originally scheduled for North American and European release in July, the game was suspended by Take-Two Interactive (Rockstar's parent company) when it was refused classification in the United Kingdom, Italy and Ireland, and given an Adults Only (AO) rating in the United States. As neither Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo allow AO titles on their systems, this effectively meant the game was banned in the US. In response to these ratings problems, Rockstar edited the game, blurring the screen during the game's executions and removing the scoring system, where players were awarded for particularly brutal killings. This edited version was given an M rating in the US by the ESRB and was released on October 29. However, the BBFC refused to classify the edited version for UK release. Rockstar appealed their decision, and ultimately, the Video Appeals Committee voted that the game could be released with an 18 cert.
Manhunt 2 has garnered controversy even before and after its release, being constantly re-rated and patches of hackers to remove the game's censoring. Reviews of the game has been largely mixed, but has gained positive reception, being listed at #1 in Gameranx' list of the "Top 25 Goriest Games of all Time", and being nominated for GameSpy's 2007 Game of the Year Award for the PS2.
The basic gameplay of Manhunt 2 is similar to the original Manhunt as it is a stealth-based psychological horror game played from a third-person perspective, which also incorporates gun play, and brawling. As with the original game, the primary gameplay mechanic is stealth execution, whereby the player must approach an enemy from behind, undetected, and kill them. To facilitate this, each scene is full of "dark spots" (shadows where the player can hide). A standard technique in the game is to hide in the shadows and tap a wall to attract the attention of a nearby enemy. When he has examined the area and is moving away, the player can emerge from the shadows behind him, and execute him. Also similar to the first game are the three 'levels' of execution, with each level progressively more violent and graphic than the last; Level 1 executions are quick and not very bloody, Level 2 are considerably more gory, and Level 3 are over-the-top blood-soaked murders. The player him/herself is entirely in control of which level they use; once the player has locked onto an enemy, the lock-on reticule changes color over time to indicate the level; white (level 1), yellow (level 2), and, finally, red (level 3).
Although the basic gameplay remains the same, some changes were made to the mechanics. For example, players are now given more choices in terms of executing enemies. As well as the three levels of execution per weapon, players can now use firearms for executions. Two further additions to the execution system are "environmental executions" whereby the player can use elements of the game world (such as manhole covers, telephones, fuse boxes, toilets etc) to eliminate opponents, and "jump executions" whereby players can attack enemies from above by leaping off a ledge.
The shadow system in the game has also been tweaked from the original. In Manhunt, unless a hunter saw a player enter a shadow area, he would be unable to detect the player within it. In Manhunt 2 however, enemy AI has been expanded, with some enemies more vigilant than others. When hiding in the shadows, if an enemy investigates the area, the player may have to mimic a combination of buttons or motions (similar to that of a quick time event), in order to regulate the character's breathing so as to ensure that he remains calm and undetected. In the Wii version, the player must hold the controller completely still. In the PC version, the player must keep the cursor inside an on-screen circle. Climbing and crawling have also been added to the game to increase the sense of exploration. Another new feature is the ability to smash lights so as to create extra pockets of shadow.
As with the original game, audio is a hugely important aspect of the game. Simple tasks such as running, opening doors, closing cabinets, walking in gravel, accidentally knocking objects over, and sneaking in cornstalks can alert the enemy to the player's position. However, sound can also be used as a tool; radios and machinery can create noise that covers any sound, including the noise of executions themselves.
During a severe thunderstorm, the security systems at the Dixmor Asylum for the Criminally Insane momentarily go offline, opening the cell doors throughout the facility, resulting in the populace wandering freely through the corridors. Two such inmates are Daniel Lamb (voiced by Ptolemy Slocum) and Leo Kasper (Holter Graham). Daniel is disoriented and partly amnesiac, unable to remember how or why he came to Dixmor. Under Leo's guidance, they escape the facility and make their way to the ruins of Daniel's old home. Inside, Daniel recovers medication which Leo says he left there for himself in the event of his forgetting the past. The medication helps to clear his head somewhat, and he begins to remember fragments of his former life. He and Leo then set out to unravel the secrets of Daniel's past, all the while pursued by bounty hunters and agents of a mysterious organization called "The Project".
As the plot unfolds, Daniel learns that he was once a top scientist in the employ of the "Pickman Project", a government-sponsored weapons program involving brainwashing and mind control techniques. The Project's goal was to create the perfect assassin; to accomplish this, they developed the "Pickman Bridge", a brain implant containing the personality and skills of a trained assassin which could be activated on command. In theory, the two personalities could co-exist in the same mind, completely unaware of one another. The idea was that the assassin could be remotely triggered, carry out his mission, and then revert back to the original persona, who would have no memory of what he had just done, hence would be immune to interrogation.
As Daniel puts the clues together and begins to remember more of his past, he and Leo set out to find Dr. Whyte (Linda Orth Pallavincini), a Project researcher and one of Daniel's co-workers. However, before they can get to her, they are ambushed and sedated. Daniel wakes up in a room with Whyte, who reveals the truth to him. Six years previously, with the Project's funds under threat, Daniel volunteered himself to test the Pickman Bridge, hoping that the resulting payoff would allow him to clear his family's debts and provide a financially secure future. However, the Bridge malfunctioned soon after it was implanted, causing Daniel to suffer from dissociative identity disorder, resulting in him being able to directly communicate with the implanted personality, who he perceives as a real person - none other than Leo Kaspar. Whyte explains that Leo is dangerously unstable, and has been working against Daniel from the very beginning; after the implant malfunctioned, Leo's personality asserted itself, suppressing Daniel's own, and he went on a rampage across the city, murdering police officers and members of the Project, destroying the Project's records of Daniel and himself, and finally making his way to Daniel's household and killing his wife. His goal was to weaken Daniel's grip on reality to the point where Leo could take complete and total control of his mind. However, the Project caught Daniel/Leo after the murder, erased his memory, torched his house, and had him committed to Dixmor, where they had been working to study the effects of the implant and repair the damage, without success.
Upon learning the truth, Daniel determines that he must destroy Leo once and for all. He enters a deep hypnotic state and faces off against Leo within the confines of his own mind. He is finally able to let go of the guilt he feels over his wife's death, allowing him to "kill" Leo and assert control. Having done so, he awakens on a deserted road with his memory erased once more. However, he is holding an envelope informing him that his name is "David Joiner", providing him with a new home address at 526 Hope Street, Apartment B, and wishing him luck. Daniel briefly hesitates before walking towards the town.
The game also includes an alternate final level, where the final battle is played from Leo's perspective. He successfully destroys Daniel's personality and wakes up in control of his mind and body. Whyte, who thinks she is speaking to Daniel, asks him if he is okay, to which he replies he is keen to get back to work on the Bridge. As he looks at himself in the mirror, Daniel sees Leo's reflection looking back at him.
Development on Manhunt 2 commenced shortly after the release of the first Manhunt. It was officially announced on the Take-Two website on February 6, 2007, scheduled for a worldwide July release. Rockstar North, who had developed the first game, were working on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, so development was handed over to Rockstar Vienna. Shortly thereafter, a PSP port began development with Rockstar Leeds. However, on May 11, 2006 Rockstar Vienna was closed, and the main development of the game was handed to Rockstar London, with Rockstar Toronto tasked with developing a Wii version. Despite working on the game for two years, members of Rockstar Vienna received no credit in the final product.
|February 6, 2007 –||– Take-Two Interactive formally announce Manhunt 2 for PS2, PSP and Wii.|
|February 7, 2007 –||– Official Manhunt 2 teaser website launched.|
|February 8, 2007 –||– Stefan Pakeerah's parents and Labour MP Keith Vaz condemn Rockstar for making a sequel to Manhunt.|
|February 23, 2007 –||– Jack Thompson vows to have Manhunt 2 banned.|
|March 5, 2007 –||– First images of Manhunt 2 appear in PlayStation Official Magazine (UK).|
|March 10, 2007 –||– Jack Thompson vows to sue Take-Two/Rockstar so as to have Manhunt 2 banned as a "public nuisance".|
|March 16, 2007 –||– Take-Two petition Florida District Courts of Appeal to have Thompson's impending lawsuit blocked.|
|March 17, 2007 –||– Thompson vows to "destroy" Take-Two.|
|March 21, 2007 –||– Thompson files a counterclaim in which he accuses Take-Two of racketeering and attempting to violate his civil liberties.|
|April 9, 2007 –||– Official box art released.|
|April 13, 2007 –||– Official Manhunt 2 website launched.|
|April 19, 2007 –||– Thompson and Take-Two settle out of court; Thompson will not attempt to have Manhunt 2 banned.|
|May 8, 2007 –||– Thompson demands Wendy's stop a Wii promotion, as Manhunt 2 will be appearing on the Wii.|
|May 12, 2007 –||– Thompson writes a letter to Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and Florida Governor Charlie Crist warning them about the dangers of Manhunt 2.|
|May 17, 2007 –||– First live footage released.|
|June 6, 2007 –||– In a Fox News interview, Bill McCollum expresses concerns about the immersive nature of Manhunt 2 on the Wii.|
|June 7, 2007 –||– Manhunt 2 delayed a week in Europe; Take-Two deny reports it has anything to do with censorship issues.|
|June 10, 2007 –||– The Center for a Commercial-Free Childhood write to the ESRB demanding Manhunt 2 be rated AO, mainly because of the immersive nature of the Wii.|
|June 19, 2007 –||– The BBFC and IFCO refuse to classify Manhunt 2; the ESRB rate it AO.|
|June 20, 2007 –||– Nintendo and Sony reiterate that they do not allow AO titles on their systems, effectively meaning Manhunt 2 is banned in the US.|
|June 21, 2007 –||– Manhunt 2 temporarily suspended by Take-Two whilst they consider their options.|
|August 24, 2007 –||– An edited version of Manhunt 2, with filters added over the executions, is given an M rating by the ESRB.|
|August 24, 2007 –||– The Center for a Commercial-Free Childhood calls for a federal investigation into the process whereby Manhunt 2 was re-rated M.|
|August 29, 2007 –||– ESRB President Patricia Vance says the inner workings of the organization will not be made public.|
|September 6, 2007 –||– Sections of the original uncensored PAL version of Manhunt 2 leaked onto the internet.|
|October 8, 2007 –||– The BBFC refuse to rate the edited version of Manhunt 2.|
|October 17, 2007 –||– Channel 5 and Sky News show footage from the uncensored version of Manhunt 2 leaked onto the internet.|
|October 22, 2007 –||– An unnamed employee of Sony Europe is revealed to have leaked the game onto the internet.|
|October 31, 2007 –||– Manhunt 2 released in North America.|
|November 1, 2007 –||– Instructions on how to remove the execution filters on the PSP and PS2 versions of the game posted online. Calls for the game to be banned.|
|November 2, 2007 –||– California Senator Leland Yee and the Parents Television Council demand Manhunt 2 be re-rated AO.|
|November 2, 2007 –||– Later that day, the ESRB absolve Take-Two of any responsibility concerning the ability to remove the execution filters. The game will not be re-rated AO.|
|November 7, 2007 –||– Target remove Manhunt 2 from all stores.|
|November 14, 2007 –||– The Christian Film and Television Commission condemn Manhunt 2 and demand it be re-rated AO.|
|November 20, 2007 –||– US senators Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh, Sam Brownback and Hillary Rodham Clinton write to the ESRB asking for Manhunt 2 to be re-rated AO.|
|November 26, 2007 –||– Rockstar appeals the BBFC verdict.|
|December 10, 2007 –||– Rockstar win their appeal against the BBFC when the VAC vote in their favor by four votes to three.|
|December 17, 2007 –||– The BBFC reject the verdict of the VAC and take Rockstar to the Royal Courts of Justice.|
|January 24, 2008 –||– The High Court rules in favor of the BBFC and orders the VAC to review their findings.|
|March 14, 2008 –||– The VAC again rule in Rockstar's favor, again by four votes to three. The BBFC is now powerless to block the game. Manhunt 2 is classified 18.|
|March 20, 2008 –||– MP Julian Brazier calls for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to block release of the game in the UK. They refuse and stand by the VAC decision.|
|October 29, 2008 –||– Manhunt 2 released in the UK with an 18 certificate.|
|November 6, 2009 –||– Original, unedited version of Manhunt 2 released in the US on PC with an AO rating through Direct2Drive|
|July 11, 2011 –||– Manhunt 2 removed from Direct2Drive when it is purchased by GameFly, who do not carry AO titles.|
The controversy surrounding Manhunt 2 began two days after its announcement, before any footage or information on the game had been released. The initial topic of discussion was the fact that the first game had been inaccurately connected to a murder in the UK. Take-Two themselves preempted this debate, issuing a statement on February 8, in which they said "We are aware that in direct contradiction to all available evidence, certain individuals continue to link the original Manhunt title to the Warren Leblanc case in 2004. The transcript of the court case makes it quite clear what really happened. At sentencing the Judge, defense, prosecution and Leicester police all emphasized that Manhunt played no part in the case." Later that day, Patrick and Giselle Pakeerah (parents of Leblanc's victim) condemned the game and insisted that Manhunt was a factor in their son's murder. Upon the announcement of the sequel, Patrick stated "I'm very disappointed. This is rubbing salt into the wounds in the month we will be marking the anniversary of Stefan's death. I'm very surprised they are doing this after all that has happened and all the publicity." Giselle added "It is an insult to my son's memory that they have announced this game in the month we will be marking this anniversary. These game moguls are making a lot of money out of games which are morally indecent. Why do they have to pump more violence into society?" Leicester East MP Keith Vaz supported the Pakeerahs, claiming he was "astonished" that Rockstar were making a sequel; "It is contempt for those who are trying very hard to ensure something is done to control the violent nature of these games."
On February 23, disbarred attorney Jack Thompson vowed to have the game banned, claiming that the police were incorrect in asserting the game belonged to Pakeerah, and that Take-Two were lying about the incident; "[I] have been asked by individuals in the United Kingdom to help stop the distribution of Take-Two/Rockstar's hyperviolent video game Manhunt 2 in that country due out this summer. The game will feature stealth murder and torture. The last version allowed suffocation of victims with plastic bags. The original Manhunt was responsible for the bludgeoning death of a British youth by his friend who obsessively played the game. The killer used a hammer just as in the game he played. Take-Two/Rockstar, anticipating the firestorm of criticism with the release of the murder simulator sequel, is lying to the public on both sides of the pond in stating this week that the game had nothing to do with the murder." On March 10, Thompson said he planned to sue Take-Two/Rockstar in an effort to have both Manhunt 2 and Grand Theft Auto IV banned as "public nuisances". His claim read, in part;
The United States Federal Trade Commission has recently found by its own stings on stores that despite the "Mature" rating on video games, they are still sold 42% of the time to kids under 17. Take-Two aggressively markets its "Mature" games to children, as it was caught this past year placing Grand Theft Auto ads on public transport in major US metropolitan areas despite promises by the industry to stop that practice after Columbine. Take-Two also runs ads for its "Mature" games in video game publications purchased by hundreds of thousands of kids under 17. The United States, unlike countries such as Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Japan, Germany, and others, labels video games harmful to minors and yet allow sales of them to minors. Such sales are illegal in these other countries. The video game industry has fraudulently persuaded various courts in the US to strike down constitutional laws prohibiting the sale of adult games to children, lying to courts by saying that there is "no evidence that these games are harmful to minors." This is from an industry that places "Mature" labels on games. The American Psychological Association in August 2005 found a clear causal link between violent games and teen aggression. Law enforcement, since the school massacre at Columbine, has increasingly linked violent video game play to violence around the country [...] Killings have been specifically linked to Take-Two's Manhunt and Grand Theft Auto games. [I have] asked Take-Two and retailers to stop selling Take-Two's "Mature" murder simulation games to kids. They all refuse. They are about to be told by a court of law that they must adhere to the logic of their own "Mature" labels.
On March 16, Take-Two petitioned U.S. District Court, SD FL to block the impending lawsuit, on the grounds that video games purchased for private entertainment could not be considered public nuisances. The following day, Thompson wrote on his website; "I have been praying, literally, that Take-Two and its lawyers would do something so stupid, that such a misstep would enable me to destroy Take-Two. The pit Take-Two has dug for itself will be patently clear next week when I strike back." On March 21, Thompson filed a counter-suit, accusing Take-Two of multiple violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), specifically a continued effort to violate his constitutional rights, beginning in July 2005; "in addition to the RICO predicate act of extortion (intimidation) by Take-Two, Take-Two has committed other predicate RICO acts, including but not limited to fraud, distribution of obscene and/or sexual material harmful to minors [...] and other predicate racketeering acts. Additionally, upon information and belief, Take-Two, through its Blank Rome lawyers, sought in Alabama to tamper with a witness in a pending criminal case, according to that witness' lawyer." He also accused the Entertainment Software Association, Penny Arcade, IGN, GamePolitics.com, GameSpot, GameSpy, Eurogamer, Kotaku, Blank Rome and the US Justice Department of collaborating and conspiring with Take-Two to commit racketeering activities. He went on to refer to Rockstar North as "Scottish sociopaths sipping their single malt Glenlivet in between brainstorming software programming sessions," and accused Take-Two of "spewing its pop culture sewage to the world's children." However, his claim was weakened by several factual errors contained within it. He accused Take-Two of failing to disclose violent content in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion when it was submitted to the ESRB for rating. However, the ESRB had already ruled that the error was on the part of the distributor Bethesda Softworks, not the publishers.
The dispute was ultimately settled before it went to the courts; Thompson agreed not to sue, threaten to sue or attempt to block the sale or distribution of any Take-Two game, and not to communicate to Take-Two or any store selling their games any accusation that they have committed a wrongdoing by selling such products. For their part, Take-Two agreed to drop a prior suit accusing Thompson of contempt of court concerning the game Bully, which he attempted to have banned in 2005.
However, in a letter dated May 8, to Wendy's CEO Kerrii Anderson, Thompson demanded that the restaurant drop an upcoming promotion featuring children's toys designed after the Wii games Excite Truck, Wii Sports and Super Mario Galaxy because Manhunt 2 was scheduled for release on the console. An excerpt from Thompson's letter states; "[Manhunt 2] will feature, according to video game news sites, beheadings with hatchets, bludgeonings with baseball bats, the jamming of syringes into eyeballs, cutting opponents' testicles off, and 'environtmental [sic] kills' in which common objects in the field of vision, such as electrical cords to strangle victims [sic]. One pro-video game industry site is referring to Manhunt 2 as a "true murder simulator" when played on Wii. A dear friend of mine worked for Wendy's and with Dave Thomas closely for years. From that I know that Dave Thomas never would have tolerated the use of Wendy's good name to promote Nintendo's Wii, not with this game available on the Wii platform." Wendy's did not respond to Thompson, and continued with their Wii promotion.
The next bout of controversy surrounded the Wii version of the game and was also initiated by Thompson. On May 12, he sent a letter to Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and Florida Governor Charlie Crist which read, in part, "Florida retailers are scheduled to sell a very violent video game called Manhunt 2 which will be available, remarkably, for "play" on the kids-friendly Nintendo Wii gaming platform. The Wii device does not utilize traditional push button game controllers but instead utilizes hand-held motion capture devices [...] It is a training device." In a June 6 interview on Fox News, McCollum expressed concerns regarding how Manhunt 2 utilized the Wii Remote in an interactive manner; for instance, in order to stab someone, the player would have to flick the Remote forward, in much the same fashion one would do when actually stabbing with a knife; when cutting someone's throat, the player would have to move the remote from left to right.
Also concerned about the Wii version of the game was the Center for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), who wrote to the ESRB demanding that the game be rated AO; "In Manhunt 2, players can saw their enemies' skulls in half; mutilate them with an axe; castrate them with a pair of pliers; and kill them by bashing their heads into an electrical box, where it is blown apart by a power surge. On Wii, players will not merely punch buttons or wield a joy stick, but will actually act out this violence [...] If ever there was a time for the ESRB's strongest and most unambiguous rating, it is now. An Adults Only rating is the only way to limit children's exposure to this unique combination of horrific violence and interactivity [...] An "M" rating is more like a wink and a nod than an effective safeguard. The industry appears to be going through its paces, but as the FTC's most recent data show, these games are still being marketed to children."
On June 19, 2007, less than a month prior to the game's worldwide release, Manhunt 2 was refused classification by both the BBFC and the IFCO. David Cooke, Director of the BBFC issued a statement, which read, in part;
Rejecting a work is a very serious action and one which we do not take lightly. Where possible we try to consider cuts or, in the case of games, modifications which remove the material which contravenes the Board's published Guidelines. In the case of Manhunt 2 this has not been possible. Manhunt 2 is distinguishable from recent high-end video games by its unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone in an overall game context which constantly encourages visceral killing with exceptionally little alleviation or distancing. There is sustained and cumulative casual sadism in the way in which these killings are committed, and encouraged, in the game. Although the difference should not be exaggerated the fact of the game's unrelenting focus on stalking and brutal slaying and the sheer lack of alternative pleasures on offer to the gamer, together with the different overall narrative context, contribute towards differentiating this submission from the original Manhunt game. That work was classified '18' in 2003, before the BBFC's recent games research had been undertaken, but was already at the very top end of what the Board judged to be acceptable at that category. Against this background, the Board's carefully considered view is that to issue a certificate to Manhunt 2, on either platform, would involve a range of unjustifiable harm risks, to both adults and minors, within the terms of the Video Recordings Act, and accordingly that its availability, even if statutorily confined to adults, would be unacceptable to the public.
The IFCO also issued a statement; "A prohibition order has been made by IFCO in relation to the video game Manhunt 2. The Order was made on 18th June 2007 under Sec 7 (1) (b) of the Video Recordings Act 1989 which refers to "acts of gross violence or cruelty (including mutilation and torture)". IFCO recognizes that in certain films, DVDs and video games, strong graphic violence may be a justifiable element within the overall context of the work. However, in the case of Manhunt 2, IFCO believes that there is no such context, and the level of gross, unrelenting and gratuitous violence is unacceptable."
In response to the ban, Rockstar themselves were quick to issue a statement; "We are disappointed with the recent decision by the British Board of Film Classification to refuse classification of Manhunt 2. While we respect the authority of the classification board and will abide by the rules, we emphatically disagree with this particular decision. Manhunt 2 is an entertainment experience for fans of psychological thrillers and horror. The subject matter of this game is in line with other mainstream entertainment choices for adult consumers." Rockstar also stated that they felt the game was well within the guidelines to be granted an 18 cert, and they implied that the BBFC treated games differently to how they treated films, arguing that Manhunt 2 was no more violent than recent films such as Saw and Hostel. Later, the BBFC's press officer, Sue Clarke, told IGN that Rockstar was wrong in this assertion; "We do reject other works - we reject videos, we reject DVDs and those are rarely given the same level of coverage because there isn't the same sort of level of interest. When we ban a work called Struggle in Bondage - which is a porn work - nobody remarks on it because there isn't anyone particularly interested in it out there. When we ban a work called Terrorists, Killers and Other Whackos, people think, 'Well yeah, that sounds reasonable'. We haven't singled out Manhunt 2 and we're not singling out games, despite what some people have said to us. We are classifying a work: we give it very careful consideration - several examiners have played Manhunt 2 and it was seen by our Director and it was seen by our presidential team and a lot of discussion was had about whether or not it could be classified."
Later that same day, in an unexpected move, the ESRB issued the game with an AO rating. The initial impact of this decision was that major retail chains, such as Walmart, GameStop and Target would not stock the title. However, the following day, June 20, Sony and Nintendo both issued statements saying they do not allow AO titles on their platforms, which effectively meant the game was banned in the US.
In light of the BBFC and ESRB decisions, Rockstar decided to censor the game. Censoring took five main forms. The primary alteration was the addition of a blurring effect over executions; during an execution the screen turns red, and flashes black and white, making it difficult to see what is happening. The second alteration was the removal of all but two decapitations. Initially, several weapons in the game could decapitate enemies, but with the exception of two plot-important decapitations, all such executions were removed. Thirdly, the pliers executions were changed. Originally, a gruesome execution with a pliers involved ripping off the enemy's testicles, whilst a level 2 execution involved tearing open his throat. In the edited version, the pliers is used to beat the enemy over the head. The fourth change was the removal of innocent characters from certain levels. Originally, the game was structured in such a way that the player had the choice as to whether or not to kill these characters. If they didn't, they got the ending where Daniel defeats Leo, if they did, the got the alternate ending. The final change involved the rating system. Originally, the game had a rating system similar to the first game, whereby the player was rated based on speed and severity of execution types. To achieve a maximum rating, one had to perform a set number of gruesome executions in each level. This rating system was completely removed from the edited version.
In August, Rockstar submitted the re-edited version to the ESRB and BBFC. The ESRB were satisfied and granted the game an M rating on August 24. Later that day, the Campaign For a Commercial-Free Childhood called for a federal investigation into how the game had had its rated downgraded;
The [CCFC] is extremely concerned that the ESRB has downgraded its rating for Manhunt 2 [...] Despite industry claims to the contrary, M-rated games continue to be marketed and sold to children under seventeen. The ESRB's reversal of its earlier decision dramatically increases the likelihood that Manhunt 2 – the most violent game to date produced for the interactive Nintendo Wii platform – will be marketed and sold to children. Just three months ago, the ESRB felt that Manhunt 2 was so violent that it took the extraordinary step of giving a game an AO rating for violent content for only the second time in its history. We urge the ESRB to make public their rationale for changing Manhunt 2's rating, including detailing any content that was removed from the game. We call upon Rockstar Games to allow the content of Manhunt 2 to be reviewed by an independent review board with no ties to the video game industry. We ask the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the process by which Manhunt 2's rating was downgraded from AO to M.
US Senator Leland Yee expressed similar sentiments; "Parents can't trust a rating system that doesn't even disclose how they come to a particular rating. The ESRB and Rockstar should end this game of secrecy by immediately unveiling what content has been changed to grant the new rating and what correspondence occurred between the ESRB and Rockstar to come to this conclusion. Unfortunately, history shows that we must be quite skeptical of these two entities. [...] Clearly the ESRB has a conflict of interest in rating these games. It is time to bring transparency to this rating system and for the industry to be held accountable. I join the CCFC in urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the process by which Manhunt 2's rating was downgraded from AO to M." On August 29, ESRB President Patricia Vance stated that the ESRB had no intention of revealing how it came to the decision to downgrade the rating.
On September 7, sections of the original uncensored PAL PS2 copy of the game was leaked onto the internet. It was ultimately discovered that the game had been leaked by an unnamed employee of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, who was subsequently fired as a result.
Manhunt 2 was released for PSP, PS2 and Wii in the US on October 31, with an M rating. The very next day, November 1, a method that removed the blurring effect on the PSP and PS2 versions was released by a group of PSP crackers. Leland Yee and the Parents Television Council demanded that Manhunt 2 be re-rated AO, but after examining the situation, the ESRB concluded it was not Rockstar's fault that these hacks could be used and decided to stick with the M rating;
Earlier this week we learned about a hack into the code of the PSP and PS2 versions of the game that removes special effects filters that were put in place to obscure certain violent depictions. We have investigated the matter and concluded that unauthorized versions of the game have been released on the Internet along with instructions on how to modify the code to remove the special effects. Once numerous changes to the game's code have been made and other unauthorized software programs have been downloaded to the hardware device which circumvent security controls that prevent unauthorized games from being played on that hardware, a player can view unobscured versions of certain violent acts in the game. Contrary to some reports, however, we do not believe these modifications fully restore the product to the version that originally received an AO rating, nor is this a matter of unlocking content. Our investigation indicates that the game's publisher disclosed to the ESRB all pertinent content in the authorized Mature-rated version of Manhunt 2 now available in stores, and complied with our guidelines on full disclosure of content.
Despite the ESRB statement, however, on November 6, Target removed Manhunt 2 from its shelves. On November 22, US Senators Joe Lieberman, Sam Brownback, Evan Bayh and Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote an open letter to the ESRB asking for the game to be re-rated AO; "we ask your consideration of whether it is time to review the robustness, reliability and repeatability of your ratings process, particularly for this genre of 'ultraviolent' video games and the advances in game controllers. We have consistently urged parents to pay attention to the ESRB rating system. We must ensure that parents can rely on the consistency and accuracy of those ratings." The ESRB again refused to re-rate the game, and stuck with the M rating.
Despite the ESRB decision to rate the game M in the US, on October 8, the BBFC once again refused to classify the game. David Cooke, Director of the BBFC stated "We recognize that the distributor has made changes to the game, but we do not consider that these go far enough to address our concerns about the original version. The impact of the revisions on the bleakness and callousness of tone, or the essential nature of the gameplay, is clearly insufficient. There has been a reduction in the visual detail in some of the 'execution kills', but in others they retain their original visceral and casually sadistic nature. We did make suggestions for further changes to the game, but the distributor has chosen not to make them, and as a result we have rejected the game on both platforms."
On November 26, Rockstar appealed the BBFC's second decision not to rate the game, with their lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, arguing "We say Manhunt 2 has been banned not because of any likelihood it will harm gamers, but because of the likelihood it will harm the reputation of the BBFC." TIGA president Fred Hasson testified that he was "surprised at how tame [Manhunt 2] is compared to some very graphical scenes I've seen in other games which have received certification. I expected it to be a lot worse. I can't believe that this has been singled out as something that is worth banning." He went on to accuse the BBFC of making their decision based on media pressure, particularly from the Daily Mail, which had run a campaign to have the first game banned.
On December 10, 2007, the Video Appeals Committee overruled the BBFC by four votes to three. However, On December 17, the BBFC challenged the VAC decision in the Royal Courts of Justice, claiming that the VAC had overruled them based on a "misinterpretation of the law" as laid out in the Video Recordings Act of 1984. This challenge superseded the VAC decision that the game could be classified, and halted any possibility of it going on sale. On January 24, 2008, the BBFC won their case in the High Court. Presiding Justice Mitting agreed with the BBFC's argument that the VAC had erred when considering whether the game could be considered harmful to minors. Whereas the VAC interpreted this as "actual harm," the BBFC and Mitting believed it referred to "potential harm and risk of harm." The BBFC also argued that the VAC based its decision on whether or not the game would have a "devastating effect on society," and argued that this "harm threshold" was too high. Mitting ordered that the same seven member panel review their findings, and whatever decision they reach the second time would stand. The VAC did so, but they returned with the exact same result as the first time - four votes to three in favor of classifying the game. BBFC Director David Cooke stated "As I have said previously, we never take rejection decisions lightly, and they always involve a complex balance of considerations. We twice rejected Manhunt 2, and then pursued a judicial review challenge, because we considered, after exceptionally thorough examination, that it posed a real potential harm risk. However, the Video Appeals Committee has again exercised its independent scrutiny. It is now clear, in the light of this decision, and our legal advice, that we have no alternative but to issue an '18' certificate to the game." The game was ultimately released on PS2, PSP and Wii on October 31, 2008 with an 18 cert, a year after the US release.
PC release 
On October 31, 2009, Rockstar started taking pre-orders for a PC version of the original unedited version of the game through Direct2Drive. It was released in the US on November 6, 2009 with an AO rating. However, the game was later removed from the service after Direct2Drive was purchased by GameFly, due to GameFly's policy of not carrying AO-rated games. The AO PC version of the game remains banned in the UK and Ireland.
|Official PlayStation Magazine (US)||80% (PS2)|
Manhunt 2 was met with mixed to good reviews. Positive reception came from the game's presentation of graphic violence and its psychological horror-based storyline. GameSpot said the game's "not as shocking as you'd expect, but Manhunt 2 still satisfies your primal instincts." GamesRadar stated that "if you're in the mood for something creepy and horrific that'll leave you feeling a little dirty, Manhunt 2's still-shocking murders and eerie, is-it-real-or-am-I-just-insane storyline won't disappoint." Game Informer gave the Wii version of the game 7.75/10, saying "Manhunt 2 is every bit as grim and brutal as the first [...] the writing, as is typical of Rockstar's games, is top-notch, and Daniel and the rest of the characters do come off the screen as very real and human [...] It's a testament to this quality that I was really driven to see the tale out to its end." Similarly, Nintendo Power gave the Wii version 7.5/10, stating that while the game does deliver for the most part, they were disappointed by the way external influences led Rockstar to change the game, and that the story, while interesting, is "highly predictable." Yahoo! reviewed the PSP version, stating "there's simply never been a game quite as squeamishly immersive as this [...] it's even more terrifying for seeming like the most real thing in a game this year."
Other reviewers were more negative however. IGN compared the game to the original, finding it fell short of the standard that game set; "Manhunt 2 isn't the tour de force title that will grab your attention and keep you there like the first one did." The review went on to state that "the AI doesn't feel as good as the first game, the setting and environments don't feel as menacing, and the story is definitely weaker. That isn't to say that Manhunt 2 isn't a good game, because it is." 1UP.com stated that "really, the game warrants a 4 [out of 10] because it's technically playable and, despite its best efforts, probably won't plunge the industry into a period of navel-gazing and political sanction. Everything else about it is largely forgettable." X-Play suggested that without the controversy concerning the rating, the game would be "nothing more than an obscure footnote in Rockstar's history." Giant Bomb listed the game #5 in their "Shocking Moments in Video Games" list, saying that the plot's twist where "Leo Kasper is [found out as] the split personality of Daniel Lamb" was one of the most shocking moments in a video game. Because of its controversy the game is listed at #8 in IGN's "Top 10 Gaming Controversies" and is also listed in UGO's "The Most Controversial Video Games".
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