It’s been awhile since Manhunt came onto the scene and threw politicians and the media into a ‘violent game’ frenzy for letting kids stab people with shards of glass and screwdrivers. Big deal… With the storm having subsided, our dear friends at Rockstar have decided that it’s time to stir the pot up again.
The sequel to the game that garnered criticism from the conservatives and praise from gamers everywhere for the fresh approach to the stealth genre will not continue the tale from the first game, but will move forward with a brand new story and characters. While the story is different, the controls and overall feeling of the game are sure to bring back memories because Manhunt 2 is not without the same style of dark gruesomeness and the constant feel of paranoia. A quick word to anyone not having played the original: if you are squeamish of blood and gore you will surely want to stay away from this game.
Manhunt 2 starts in the ‘Dixmor Asylum for the Criminally Insane’, a virtual dump of a hospital, and players take the roll of former scientist Daniel Lamb. Danny, as he’s know in the game, was a scientist working on the Pickman Project, an experiment that due to its highly controversial methods was chosen to be terminated. Rather than let all his work be thrown away, Danny volunteers himself for the project in hopes of the recognition that could follow. When a defect in the treatment is discovered, which apparently includes some ‘unforeseen effects’, Danny is discarded to the Dixmor Asylum and essentially forgotten.
Six years pass and Danny is realizing the effects of the treatment as he starts to question his own sanity. One fateful night an electrical storm knocks out the asylum’s security systems and as all sorts of inmates spill into the corridors, Danny finds his opportunity to escape. With guards stopping at almost nothing to try and keep order the inmates ravage everything in their paths destroying anything not nailed down. As Danny steps out into the darkened corridors of smashed lights and screams echoing through the halls, the game begins.
The mechanics in Manhunt 2 are relatively the same; early in the game, sticking to shadows is essential as you must sneak past the cell of an inmate brutally assaulting a guard. In this sequel though, the shadows don’t provide 100% stealth as guards may stumble upon you or Danny may need a button minigame to help control his breathing and not be seen. The radar, as in the first Manhunt, provides which way enemies are looking to help Danny avoid confrontation. The fighting in Manhunt 2 reminds me of Rockstar’s The Warriors as a quick button tap lets go a jab while holding it down will let loose a stiff uppercut. Combining the two of these can knock down an enemy so you’re free to boot him until they’re motionless in their own blood.
The main action, and possibly the coolest (or most offending, depends which side of the fence you’re on) component of Manhunt is the execution attacks. As in the original, when sneaking up on an unaware enemy with a weapon, Danny will raise his arm to show he’s read to take out his target. Depending on how long you hold down the button the more gruesome the kill sequence. There are still three levels of executions as before, as well as the addition of environmental executions marked in white on the radar (face in a fuse box? Yes please!), and the addition of firearms later in the game. Firearms will also provide execution kills as Danny will tap an enemy on the shoulder only to blow their head clean off with a shotgun when they turn around.
Also new to the series is the inclusion of climbing and crawling, which will help provide a little change in the linearity of the level design, and the use of a dynamic lighting system that allows Danny to break lights in order to create darkness to strike from. Before I wrap up, I find it my duty to give you a taste of the new weapons involved including: the syringe and fountain pens, which can only be used once as they break easily, wire cutters (I won’t say how these are used…), baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire, sledgehammers, and axes just to name a few.
Manhunt 2 looks to top the original in terms of story, gruesomeness, and the absolute feeling of sheer terror, which is no easy feat. The fact that it is being developed for the Nintendo Wii will be intriguing as the Wii-mote is sure to give a one of a kind experience in itself. Just looking at the game starts to make me feel uneasy right off the bat (ha, pun intended) and I highly recommend playing this one late at night with the lights off and stereo turned up.
Rockstar is set to rile up parents, teens, and conservatives early in July, on the Nintendo Wii, Playstation 2, and the PSP.
“You stay classy, My Gamers”
Dave Mackiewicz (Davemack6@Gmail.com)