I remember being assigned a review of Manhunt with the warning that it would be the next great hyper-controversial lawsuit-engendering game, a la Grand Theft Auto. And it is pretty brutal, what with, you know, the slitting of throats with stray shards of glass and such. But as with Bully, it never actually generated much legal paperwork (though I think they ended up banning it in New Zealand or something. Bloody kiwis.)
The idea is that you’re cast — against your will — in a snuff film, and a hidden director gets his sick jollies watching you slaughter murderous gang members. It’s all involuntary, and you’re supposed to be horrified by your own actions, but you’re also supposed to — and I did — be quietly conscious of how fun it was to off these dudes (you’re egged on to execute the kills in as stylish a manner as possible). Internal conflict! There’s some authentic tension in Manhunt, and it’s one of those rare games that actually builds to a scary climax, rather than pootering out with some mechanical boss-battle and a tacked-on cut-scene that looks like it was executed in 20 minutes by Jolt-addled coders desperate to ship product. (Best final level of all time? The Warthog race in Halo?)
And my point was what? Oh, they’re making a sequel. The only really surprising part is that Manhunt 2 is shipping on the oddball lineup of Wii, PSP, and PS2. Bizarre. They go with one next-gen console, and it’s the cute one? I’m so paying this guy to make me a Piggsy Mii.
(Afterthought: interesting that a game with a sophisticated take on violence like Manhunt really alters my feelings about virtual killing not a whit. Whereas the recently leaked footage of a friendly-fire incident that cost the life of a British soldier, seen from the cockpit of the U.S. warplane that did the shooting, has really changed my experience of gaming lately, to the point where I just haven’t had the heart to get my Gears on. It’s on YouTube, Part I and Part II. Warning: strong language, hidden horrors. I couldn’t bring myself to watch Part II.)