Violence is a major issue nowadays when most kids allow their minds to be influenced by major gaming phenomena and it so happens that Manhunt 2
is one of the most cited titles when it comes to handling this issue. The game's been banned, approved in a censored version, re-banned, pulled from shelves, leaked online months before the official release...all in all it's been a violent experience for Rockstar, its producers. Manhunt 2 is a special game for me and for all the people who have ever played or heard about it. It's so unique and so similar to other titles at the same time that it manages to quit any convention ever set while following a preset line of delivering the most violent content I've seen in a long time.
Picture a combination between Saw IV (if you've watched it), Max Payne and Postal
... Are you curios now? Please keep in mind that this is a title that will probably be banned from your collection once your parents find out that you're playing it, but it's nevertheless one of the best and most original PSP titles I've played lately, no matter what the censorship boards and teen psychology analysts say. Story
You're Daniel Lamb or Danny if you want, one of the best researchers involved in "The Project" a secret series of experiments that lost their funding once the government considered them too crazy to continue. The beginning of the game sees Danny escaping from an asylum, together with Leo Kasper, a psychopath imprisoned with the main character. As you proceed, you'll see Danny losing it a couple of times, while tons of flashbacks fill his mind with unknown memories and scenes from another life are poured into his brain. I won't bore you with the entire storyline so let's make this short. Danny agreed to be a guinea pig for "The Project" so now he bears the personality of Leo implanted into his brain with the aid of the Pickman bridge.
The controversial character is followed by the brutal Project members who want to kill him, because Danny knows too much about the unorthodox experiments started by the genius doctor Pickman. It is important to know that Danny suffers from amnesia, but he can recover every once in a while and remember facts from his previous life by using the Cortexa drug, invented by him. So, we've got an experiment, brutal murders, psychopats and drugs all wrapped up in a Rockstar package and ready to be delivered to our consoles. Can you stand the pressure of being a killing machine?Concept
Manhunt 2 is not your typical Rockstar game, so leave behind GTA and Bully and get ready for a totally new experience. If you've played the first Manhunt title, you'll surely know what I'm talking about. Aside from the standard combat you'll be taking part in during later missions, the special flavor of the game is given by certain executions you can trigger when an enemy is in close range and he's not aware of your presence. There are 3 levels of these kills, Hasty, Violent and Gruesome. Passing from one of these to the other more violent method of execution is done by constantly following the enemy and pressing the R and L buttons to see the color of the cursors changing from white (hasty kill) to yellow (violent kill) and finally red (gruesome kill). While some of the folks you'll deal with are extremely cautious and always look behind, others won't even bother to check their surroundings before taking a leak or just staring at a wall.
The executions can be done using a variety of tools,
from a brick to a plastic bag, your bare hands or a metallic chain that slits your foe's throat. Various kills can be performed with the aid of your surroundings, so, for example you'll smack a guy in the head with the toilet seat till he dies if he's around such an object. One of the cruelest methods of execution was the impaling of one of the foes with the aid of some sort of a harpoon, while the most memorable execution involved the use of a coffin filled with spikes. You might have guessed by now why Manhunt 2 is so hunted down by the authorities and banned in every state of the world.
Firearms are also included among the weapons you can use, but who bothers to make noise when a bullet you fire alerts three possible victims of your brutal murdering ways. Manhunt 2 features a radar similar to the one I've seen in Metal Gear Solid titles, as it shows the enemies and their sight range. As long as you don't perform actions like jumping over walls, running or hitting objects they won't hear you and as for seeing, you'd better stay out of that previously mentioned visual range. The enemies may think they've seen or heard something and they'll become more alert, being displayed in orange on your radar. Once the contact is sure, they'll be displayed in red and they'll try to kill you, while also calling out for reinforcements.
If you're not the fan of cheap killing sprees and would rather stay stealth and kill people in brutal ways, you should stay hidden in the shadows, while attracting the attention of bypassing enemies by knocking on the walls. In case you're been cornered, but you're still hiding in the shadows, there's always the option of holding your breath by pressing a couple of action buttons in order to start a good old cineractive. If there are no shadows around, you can create them by smashing all the lights on a long corridor. A useful advantage comes into play when you're on a higher ground (a rooftop for example) and you'll be able to perform a jump execution that probably ends with Danny violently slipping an entire crowbar into a man's back. Danny's not the only crazed killer you'll be playing with, as Leo's also available and he's more cunning and an expert of brutal kills, being trained by the government and knows the assassin's standard "procedures" by heart. Gameplay
Manhunt 2 is a fun game to play, unless you're not open-minded enough to realize that digital violence never harmed anyone. Executing various foes is what you'll do most of the time, as you search for more original and innovative ways of ending a certain guy's life. They're no pacifists either, since they'll brutally slay you without prejudice once you're spotted. I wouldn't encourage you to take on the AI heads-first, because it tends to call for reinforcements and you'll be defeated because of their number, rather than their skills.
Danny uses a pretty intelligent item collecting system, which allows the gamer to access all of the objects that he gathered so far in an instant readying them for a violent attack. At some point, you'll use an axe to peal people's faces of their skulls and show them to a sexual perverts bar in order to gain access to that tainted place. The main character will deplete his life gauge immediately when taking on a couple of Project killers at the same time, so you'll need to search for items that look like bottles of pills in order to restore health. Keep in mind that some of the objects you use for your murders won't be available for a future kill, since they can either break or remain stuck in the corpse of the enemy.
The control system of the game is fairly intuitive and you'll master it right away, as you'll move Danny around with the analog stick and use the D-pad buttons to take weapons. Although we're playing Manhunt 2 on a PSP, the title being a port of the PS2 version, you'll sometimes be impressed by your surroundings, specially when running into objects and moving them or almost getting hit by a wheelchair rolling down the stairs. The initial setting you'll choose (sane or insane) will matter most during gameplay, as things will get rougher in insane mode, but you'll enjoy it more if you've got that virtual killer instinct that Manhunt fans usually have.
Surprisingly enough, Manhunt 2 manages to provide more than 10 hours of cruel, brutal, violent, sadistic and demented action, so it's more than the standard portable experience that lasts 20 minutes and becomes boring afterwards. And how can a game like this become boring? Castrating and decapitating people is what you'll do for fun here, so you'll be able to let your frustrations go after a hard day at work. However, be advised that you shouldn't follow Danny's example and cut people into tiny pieces of raw meat as it wouldn't be ....nice and legal.
I'll give you one piece of advice, if you ever get stuck (and killed) while playing Manhunt 2: never ever get knocked down. That makes you a sitting duck and a sure victim for your enemies. If you've faced one of them in non-execution mode combat, you'll know that after receiving a few punches, a Project killer falls to the ground unconscious. He may want to get up, but Danny's there to perform the good old "kill the zombie" stomp we've seen in Resident Evil and Silent Hill games. Back to the stealthy action part of the game, it will be a rewarding experience which will remind some of you of Metal Gear Solid, as you're forced to lean on walls and walk around stealthily just like Snake did a couple of years back. Most of the weapons you collect are available after killing a Project member or another foe, so you'll find yourself carrying tons of deadly tools at the same time every once in a while. Video
Watching some Manhunt 2 gameplay footage is like watching a Hannibal Lecter cooking TV show: gross and fascinating at the same time. You'll experience the most hidden and violent corners of the human mind, delivered with the aid of original graphics, similar to those of a very old VHS tape. There's a constant blur and static effect on the screen and lines surface every now and then, creating an atmosphere that remains unparalleled even if Silent Hill Origins has just been launched. Manhunt 2 is filled with Danny's flashbacks which tend to fragment the action and increase your anticipation for the next execution. You'll play in a third person view, but you'll be able to switch to a first person view at any time, but only a static one, which allows you to examine your surroundings.
Since the comparison with Silent Hill Origins is inevitable I'll go ahead and compare the two titles, noticing that Manhunt 2 has a slight advantage in the graphics department. For example, Danny carries an axe on his back and a couple of other weapons on his belt, which is a realistic approach, while in Origins, Travis, the main character can carry small TV sets, crow bars, dozens of herbal drinks and alcohol bottles without even filling his pockets. Rockstar's title delivers a perfect visual content, plagued however by nasty camera angles that can't be changed and a couple of pretty serious glitches. Among these the most serious are those that involve unnatural behavior of foes, specially when they're dead. I've seen corpses floating in mid air, passing through the floor, enemies hitting me through a door or Project killers getting stuck in a set of stairs. Audio
The characters' dialogs are surprisingly good and they finally make sense, which is a good thing for a Rockstar game. Also, the background music and all sorts of noises you'll hear fit the sinister profile of the title, given by the static and blur effects of the graphics. Screams, growls, howls, giggles, cries, you'll hear them all in Manhunt 2, either caused by the pleasure of killing or by the pain of being eviscerated, unless you're dealing with masochists who will scream with pleasure while being killed. Hitting someone in the head with a bat or cutting someone in two sure sounds realistic, we assume, as we've never attended butchery classes. Even the game's audio department has "violent" stamped all over it, complementing the visual experience perfectly.Conclusion
Manhunt 2 will take you to a world of sick and perverted individuals, who never hesitate to kill, for pleasure or simply in order to survive. You'll run through the corridors of an asylum, experience gruesome sequences in a sexual perverts' club or search a seemingly haunted house, as you try to survive and end the lives of the people "who did this to you". Rockstar's game is not flawless, but it uses a couple of well implemented ideas in order to offer us a gaming experience that may last longer than we think, hidden in our brains and haunting our nightmares. "How about the fact that it makes you more violent?" some of you may ask.... I don't agree with those people who claim that any media product can make a person violent, as there are many Manhunt 2 players out there who simply enjoyed the game and never even thought about hurting a fly, let alone a person. It all comes down to how sick and twisted you are. Instead of banning the game, it should only be made available to people who take an on-the-spot psychiatric exam. That, of course, if you don't choose to borrow the game from a sane friend of yours.