Rockstar is at it again. Baiting the tabloids/moral minority with the follow-up to what was billed as one of the most violent, notorious and opinion-dividing games of recent years. Manhunt 2
launches on PS2, PSP and Wii this summer and will, no doubt, be launched amid yet another shitstorm of controversy stirred up by mainstream hacks who have never actually played a videogame, let alone had a good look at Rockstar’s latest psycho-killer.
I managed to get a good look at a preview build of the game at Rockstar’s London offices recently, so read on to find out whether or not the game justifies the hype. Oh, and if you are of a nervous disposition and/or you are an anti-videogaming lawyer/Labour MP and your name is an anagram of “Smack John Top” or “Zit Ah Kev“ (I can't bring myself to say the names right now) then you might want to go and take 10mg of valium right now. And wait ten minutes or so before you read on.
The first Manhunt
is, unfortunately, more well-known for the tabloid reactions to the extreme, over-the-top in-game violence, instead of whether or not it stood up as a decent videogame. Critical reception amid the gaming press was mixed. Some said that the game was sheer tongue-in-cheek horror schlock and should be judged as such, while others criticised the game for being all ‘gore over gameplay’. The “immoral majority’s” liberal opinion (again mainly from commentators who had rarely even seen or played the game) was generally a shrug of the shoulders and a “whatever floats your boat!”
However, the game was still banned in a number of countries and, worst of all, linked to the murder of British teenager Stefan Pakeerah. And even though the police have denied any connection in that particular tragic case (in fact, it turned out the game was owned by the victim of that crime and not the perpetrator) the follow-up is going to find it hard to shake the ‘violence for violence sake’ tag of the first game.
“Ban this evil game!” cried a Daily Mail
headline at the time. “Yes and also, while we are at it, let’s ban spoons, which can also be lethal in the wrong hands,” replied some wag on the Daily Mail’s
own forum at the time, which tickled this particular SPOnG reviewer. I still feel that comment sums up the hypocrisy and hyperbole over the whole ‘violence in videogames debate’ better than no other.
So watch out for the almost inevitable tabloid outcry when the game is released later this summer (“call Labour MP, Zit Ah Kev, get him to say something about violence and games,” we can already hear the tabloid news editor shouting…) With that in mind, of particular interest is the fact that, as well as PSP and the PS2 version we saw at Rockstar recently, the game is also coming out on Nintendo’s family-friendly Wii. No doubt this is bound to wind up the player-haters over at the Daily Mail
to a new level of “oh-my-lord-whatever-next-ness”
Whatever. Let’s have a look at the game. Let’s concern ourselves here with the main thing that should matter. Does the game work as a piece of adult interactive entertainment or not?
Rockstar’s PJ Sim – the man charged with demo’ing the game - explained to me that the game is not a straightforward sequel to the first game, instead it is more, if you like, “a spiritual sequel” with the player this time around taking on the character of Dr Daniel Lamb – a Gordon Freeman-esque nerdy scientist character who seems to have been banged up in a mental asylum for a number of years – for reasons that will no doubt be made clear later in the game as the storyline develops.