Gaming Today Reviews: Manhunt 2 (Wii)
When I first heard that a sequel to Manhunt was on the horizon, my initial thoughts ran the gamut of “hell yeah”, to “I hope they don’t screw it up”. These sentiments ricocheted through the gaming community along with the bad press Rockstar received over the graphic nature of Manhunt 2. With such controversy and less than stellar media attention, the game was cut to forego an “AO” rating and some of the more gory scenes were blurred out in order to put the game on shelves. While I have to agree that the game does indeed warrant an “M” rating with its current content – my gut feeling upon inserting Manhunt 2 into my Wii was: At what cost to the game were these cuts made? I would soon find out that the cost to the game was very high – yes, there are jabbings, decapitations, crotch kicks, stealthy throat slittings, sex, blood, gore, and many uses of the “f-word”…. so what?
Content such as this is nothing new from Rockstar, and you cannot play any of their games without expecting some sort of violence because the developers just do not have a “pink-fluffy-bunny” sort of mind frame. Before I get to my review of Manhunt 2 for the Wii though, I would like to clarify one thing: I loved the first Manhunt. It scared the living bejesus out of me, and there was nothing that I wanted more than for those feelings of heightened suspense to surface once more with the second installment. Unfortunately, all of my hopes were utterly dashed. Having said this, I will now provide a bit of a back-story for the game before I state my full opinion on the game.
Dr. Danny Lamb is a neuroscientist who allows himself to become an asylum inmate at the cost everything he holds dear. Along with his companion, Leo, Danny escapes due to an electrical malfunction inside the asylum, and while Danny does not recall much about his past, or why he was in the nuthouse to begin with, during the course of the game he will experience flashbacks, which help him recall his memories. Eventually, he will remember his involvement and the facts surrounding a medical experiment called “The Project”. Switching back and forth between Danny and Leo, your main goal at the start of the game to get out of the asylum via stealth and unravel the past for both characters. You will hide in the shadows, which allows you to remain hidden while you sneak up on guards and other inmates while quickly, and quietly killing them before they kill you. The danger you face on your path to uncovering the truth takes you to many different places that are just as dank and dirty as the asylum – one such place is a very nasty strip club that is almost indescribable. Suffice it to say that the floor looks like a petrie dish containing every venereal disease known to man.
Even with these visually gross details in the game, the plot of the story is thin at best and lacks the urgency and thrills of the first Manhunt. Instead of writing a top notch script like we are used to, Rockstar instead relies on stomach churching visuals to psyche us out, and they fail miserably on that front. To give you an idea of what I mean by “stomach churning”, let me describe for you something you will be confronted with at the beginning of the game. Once Danny escapes from his cell, he will have to stay in the shadows so as not to be seen by the inmates still locked up on his cellblock. If, you are the brave sort, you can walk in full light past these miscreants and each one of the three will throw something different at you – either spit, urine, or human excrement. This “wonderful” walk of shame down the hall, reminded me of the scene from Silence of the Lams when Jodie Foster was walking past the prison cells after talking to Dr. Lecter and a psychopath threw his semen on her – well, I was expecting this to happen to my character at any minute. It would have seemed natural for this to happen at that point in the game, but as revolting and disturbing as this sounds, it describes perfectly the mood and ambiance of the entire game. Instead of trying to immerse us with a quality storyline with psychological overtones, Rockstar instead went for shock factor and still failed.
While Manhunt 2 is more linear than the previous installment, the graphics, movements and characters look extremely dated and the control scheme does not fare much better. When sneaking up on your next execution victim, the scene gets very blurry and you have virtually no idea what you are doing to the poor fellow. I am fully aware that this was one of the changes made to game to get it on retail shelves; the problem lies with not knowing what the hell you are doing. A better control scheme should have been implemented along with these visual changes so that you can actually see what move your character is going to execute. Although you can hear the blood gushing from his wound and the gore hitting the wall, the enjoyment is short-lived as you are instead focusing more on the control prompts to the left of your screen, which guide you through the kill process. That really irritated me.
The rest of the game’s controls are just as frustrating, and you would think that after making enough games, Rockstar would finally allow players to have some sort of camera control. The lack of said camera control leads to so many unprecedented mistakes, that you feel like setting the controller down indefinitely and busting the game to pieces. There were times, when due to bad camera angles (and controls), I was trying to stop stabbing a guy so that I could defend myself from the one standing in front of me. Instead of being able to see what the hell I was doing, I just kept stabbing the dead guy while his buddy delivered what I can only describe as “fubar” to my character. The one saving grace to the game, and it is nothing new to anything Rockstar lends it hand to, is the ability to use anything as a weapon. Toilets make a fun weapon, and beating a guy in the head with a phone never felt more enjoyable. The AI in the game is embarrassing for a company as talented as Rockstar. Sometimes, enemies will get trapped in corners or behind other objects and you have to come out of the shadows to get them to move. This results in the loss of stealth, which is the whole premise of the game. Sometimes, even more frustrating still, is the fact that your enemies will not move from one spot no matter how long you sit and wait, or will just walk past you without notice. This is annoying because some enemies have to be killed so that you can complete a certain area or obtain a certain item.
The majority of PS2 users who have played Manhunt 2 do not have as many gripes about the game as I do, some even love it. While I find “love” slightly inconceivable, I can say with 100% certainty that the Wii version is the pits. For one thing, you cannot skip cut scenes. The Wii is known for this annoying habit, but it becomes enraging when you have to see the same cut scene over and over again if you have died or have the need to reload. Secondly, the A button has too many jobs associated with it. On the Wii, the A button is pressed when you want to climb, throw a body, use a weapon, etc. This, combined with the camera angles, was the reasoning behind my becoming enraged when I wasn’t able to stop stabbing a body and defend myself against a new foe.
Graphics are five years old at best. Characters are too blocky, ill-defined, and nothing worth writing home about. The majority of the visuals in the game are hazy at best, and you are constantly thinking that your eyes are out of focus.
If not for the sound effects, you would have no idea what is going on around you. With that being said, some of the strange sentences issuing from the surrounding goons in the game are quite entertaining – pay attention to them.
Manhunt 2 lacks everything that made the original entertaining. You can blame the ESRB as you want, I do not think that any of the cuts made to the game would have made any difference. Horrible gameplay is horrible gameplay no matter how pretty or ugly it is.
Replay Value: 3
Once the game has been beaten, there is nothing else to accomplish. Sure you can play it again on a higher difficulty, but what would be the point?
While I fully comprehend the morality issues that Manhunt 2 is trying to convey in the game, this fad is being done to death. Like our Site Manager Ron said: “ If I want to play a morality based game, I will play Fable again and see how ugly I can make my character”. Many games have been able to use this sense of morality in a game in a much better fashion (BioShock), and once again Manhunt 2 fails to deliver. The stealth aspect of the game was more of an annoyance than anything and became stale after the first two hours of gameplay, and what made the original Manhunt so much fun was completely ignored in this outing. Manhunt 2 is more story-based instead of survival based, and while it offers some slightly interesting moments, overall it was just boring and frustrating. The whole time I was playing the game, my mind was begging for another “Piggsy” moment, and it never happened – suffice it to say that the Wii version of Manhunt 2 sucks – in no uncertain terms. If you decide to play this game, you are either bored or the biggest glutton for punishment ever. If I had actually purchased this game instead of receiving it in the mail, I would have begged a total stranger to slap some sense into me. It was, and is that bad – do not even rent it unless it is the PS2 version. Personally, I would not recommend either one of them.