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PS2 Review: Manhunt 2

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Escaped convicts, leather-clad uber-baddies, and corrupt authority figures. Execution-style kills layered with hardcore fistfights. Highlight it all with a layer of sleaze that makes Vegas seem like Pleasantville, and you’ve got Rockstar Games’ latest bloodbath – Manhunt 2.

Released in October of 2007, Manhunt 2 was the subject of much controversy due to the intense violence and dark themes of the game. Rockstar Games had to reduce much of the violence in the game, cutting it from an AO rating to an M rating. Despite this change, Manhunt 2 is still an intense ride.

The story proceeds from the point of view of Daniel “Danny” Lamb, a prisoner in the Dixmor Asylum for the Criminally Insane. He is attempting to escape with the help of Leo, a fellow prisoner who joins forces with Danny and tries to help him regain his memory. The storyline has a great theme of sanity vs. insanity, and will leave players questioning what is real and what is a hallucination in this dreary and disorienting world.

Eerie background noises, dark corridors lit by flickering lights, and alarmingly deranged NPCs keep players on their toes from the moment they pick up the controller. In the first few minutes, the F-bomb is dropped, a prisoner hangs himself in his cell, and one inmate torments another by urinating on him. Players need to be pretty strong-stomached to tackle this gory game.

It’s understandable why so many people were up in arms about Manhunt 2. This game is wildly violent. Each individual kill, when performed correctly as an execution, cuts to a short video sequence where the players shred their enemies with differing levels of brutality, depending on the weapon used and how long the player holds the attack button.

The graphics show a great attention to detail in the twisted world. The video has a slightly grainy quality, giving the whole game a gloss of classic cinema horror on top of the brutal executions and disturbing images. When the game cuts between video clips and game play, a disorienting static effect is used along with a burst of white noise. It definitely keeps players on their toes.

The juxtaposition of light and dark within the game’s world is a powerful combo. Lit areas are blindingly bright, pierced with industrial floodlights and fluorescent overheads or by stabbing neon lights. The shadows, by contrast, are so chokingly thick it’s difficult to see anyone, yourself included, in darkened hallways and shadowy corners.

The game has a few small flaws. The camera generally follows the character’s moves which creates a feeling of paranoia and claustrophobia, especially when peering around corners. However, it can be difficult to monitor during fight sequences. The targeting system is not always reliable, and panic on the player’s part only exacerbates this trouble. Players definitely need to keep their cool in order to successfully navigate the game’s cadre of psychotic wardens and twisted inmates.

The game implements a radar system which helps players monitor where their enemies are and whether or not they’re aware of the character’s presence. While it is a somewhat useful feature, it does alleviate some of the fear and anticipation usually associated with entering a new room and detracts slightly from the paranoid atmosphere. Some players may be disappointed by this, but others may appreciate the slight reprieve from the game’s intensity that this feature gives them.

Manhunt 2 combines the brutality of Midway Games’ The Suffering with the evocatively eerie ambiance of the Silent Hill games. Although it has its weak points, the overall game is a potent combo which will keep players hooked until the final chilling twist. So put your gag reflex on hold, crank up the surround sound for maximum atmosphere, but best keep the lights on. You know, just in case.

Manhunt 2 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs. This game can also be found on: PSP, Wii.

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