Manhunt 2 (Wii)
What an utterly hollow and empty enterprise Manhunt 2 is.
After months of controversy, with various bans being issued by various countries and the ESRB threatening to put an Adults Only (AO) rating on the box, in the end all that political posturing turns out to be far more exciting and interesting than the game itself.
We played the original Manhunt from soup to nuts.
It was impossible not to be shocked by the game's thrill-kill, sadistic gameplay. It was Tenchu, only instead of katanas, we dealt out death with plastic bags and glass shards. It was Metal Gear Solid reimagined as a snuff film. Manhunt had its moments, including a surreal standoff with a creature named Piggsy (Google him, or rather it, if you're curious).
Giving Rockstar the benefit of the doubt, we saw the game as more than a game; it was a political statement. It was a big f#$&-you to every politician out there who'd ranted against Grand Theft Auto III. With Manhunt, Rockstar seemed to be saying, "You want a murder simulator? Choke on this, you prim bastards.'
Manhunt also functioned as a sly piece of pop-culture social commentary on how insulated we've become to violence. Sure, the game turned our stomachs, but we admired it.
We didn't enjoy it. But we respected it.
Manhunt 2, a sequel only in spirit, stars the meek and mild Dr. Daniel Lamb. Lamb is locked up in an insane asylum, the subject of secret research project that went wrong. During a blackout, the asylum's security system goes on the fritz, and Lamb's cell door swings wide.
Within the first five minutes of the game, we had virtual poop thrown at us, we kicked a psychopath to death, and we snuck up behind a male nurse and repeatedly jabbed a hypodermic in his neck until he slumped to the floor.
Lamb and his sidekick Leo escape and head for, or rather kill their way towards, Lamb's old neighborhood. Once inside Lamb's now-abandoned house, they discover a matchbook with the address of an S & M club on it, and he and Leo decide to go there to investigate, and...oh, the hell with this.
The plot is horseshit of the highest order. It basically functions as a very poorly written, totally illogical series of excuses to put Lamb in incongruous situations where he has to skulk in the shadows and dispatch patrolling bad guys one by one.
The idea here is to remain unseen, observe the patterns of the bad guys (the game calls them Hunters), then pick your moment to take one out. After several minutes of tense tracking, your dubious reward is the kill.
Kills come in three varieties: Hasty, Violent, Gruesome. The longer you wait behind your victim, weapon at the ready, the more brutal the kill. But with each passing second, you risk having your victim suddenly decide to turn around, which means he'll find you, standing behind him, looking the fool.
If this happens, you can stand and fight the Hunter, using the Nunchuck and Wii remote to throw punches or swing your weapon. But you'll lose these confrontations more often than not, particularly if another nearby Hunter is alerted, and the two of them decide to gang up on you.
The better option is to Run, Forrest, Run, fleeing for the nearest patch of conveniently placed shadow.
Running and hiding: Yes, this is how we spent 90 percent of our time with the game. If you enjoy those two activities, you'll enjoy Manhunt 2.
And those much maligned over-the-top kills have now been blurred out to such a degree that it's pretty much impossible to figure out what's happening on screen. Did we just kick a Hunter in the groin and then bash him with a toilet seat cover? Or did we knee him in the stomach, then whack him over the head with a crowbar?
If you care, and we mean really care, then you should probably stop reading this and go back to sewing your woman suit out of human skin. (It puts the lotion in the basket!)
Of course, since this is the Wii version, we were given the privilege of actually acting out our blurry death dealings thanks to the Wii's motion-centric controls. When prompts appear on screen -- jab the Wii remote forward! Now move the Nunchuck to the side! -- we got the chance to participate, first hand, in our those blurred-out, what-the-hell-is-happening kills.
Remember this date, folks, because this is the first killing mini-game in history. Take that WarioWare!
The Wii version has some unforgiveable problems. We could not for the life of us skip the game's tedious cut scenes. And with this being a stealth game, replaying sections was a given, and that means watching -- and re-watching -- the same poorly written/poorly acted cut scenes again and again.
In the year 2007, this kind of bullshit is simply unacceptable, Rockstar.
Beyond that, the A button on the Wii remote serves far too many functions. Not only does it initiate our stealth kills, but it also lets us scale fences, pick up bodies, use weapons, etc. During one unfortunate moment, while trying to initiate a stealth kill, we picked up a body instead. The Hunter whirled around to find us with one of his dead coworkers slung over our shoulder. We tried to lope away (carrying bodies makes you move more slowly) while trying to get this goddamn dead body off of us.
The result: dead. Which meant a restart. Which meant re-watching the godforsaken cut scene again.
Political statements and social commentary? Clearly, we were giving Rockstar far too much credit the first time around. What once seemed clever, gutsy and groundbreaking now seems banal, small and depressing.
Manhunt 2: We're sneaking up behind you, kicking you in the groin, and bashing you over the head with a toilet seat cover. Or maybe we're kneeing you in the stomach and then whacking you with a crowbar.
Either way, you're done for.
Verdict: Avoid at all costs.
This review was based on a retail copy provided by the publisher.