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Manhunt 2 - Lazlow's Review

Before I go into the review I think I should at least in part describe why this review is so late after the release of Manhunt 2 and try and describe my frustrations at the lack of Manhunt 2 news during it’s time of uncertainty of an actual UK release ever taking place.

After waiting for almost 4 years for a sequel to the original Manhunt, the game was finally announced in early 2007 but that came after months and months of speculation and rumours about a sequel being in the works at the now closed Rockstar Vienna at the time it was very frustrating trying to get official word of the games release.

It came down to finding out from magazine rumours and from voice actors who had worked on the game prior to Rockstar Vienna closing. The game was first scheduled for a Summer 2007 release but it ultimately missed that time window after the BBFC and ESRB deemed the version submitted too violent to be released to the general public after some ‘edits’ it was finally released in October 2007 in America only.

After it’s release many parental groups called for an instant ban on the game even though the BBFC had yet to clear it for release in the UK. Rockstar bounced the game back and forth between the BBFC and VAC and then even the High courts got involved in order to get the game a rating in the UK. Finally in March 2008 they succeeded but the game wasn’t released until the end of October 2008 during that time not a single word from Rockstar as to the reasons for the 7 month delay despite many emails to them and the people who worked on Manhunt 2.

If I had been told at the time of Manhunt 2’s release in the US that I wouldn’t be able to buy the game in the UK until after a full year had passed I wouldn’t have believed it as it turned out that was the case. Now I am finally able to own the game and am able to write a review. It should be noted that this is for the Ps2 version of the game as I haven’t been able to play the Nintendo Wii version.

Story

Manhunt 2 has an entirely new story, it has nothing to do with the original at all, I would have like to have seen at least some references to original story but that isn't the case here. You play as two characters who are named Daniel Lamb and Leo Kasper for the most part the story revolves around Daniel Lamb who attempts to figure out his past. The events in the game take place within a 6 year time window, you play as Leo via flashback episodes which take place 6 years prior to the start of the game.

You play as Daniel in the present these events pick up from where the flashbacks leave off, the good thing about the way the story is presented is the fact you start of the game like Daniel does with no clue of his past you only learn though these flashbacks what happened in Daniel’s past meaning you know as much as he does as the story progresses.

You can expect some nice twists and turns later in the story, but you may need to complete the story several times to realise everything that took place during the events of the game. The game also features an alternative ending for those looking for a little more which is well worth checking out as it is actually the exact opposite to what happens at the end of the game.

Through the official Manhunt 2 website some extra story elements were also added through the use of patient files from Dixmor Asylum although the gangs and characters shown or reference to in these patient files never made it into the final game.

If you take a look at these patient files you will notice a character named Dr. Deborah who appears by name while Dr. Whyte is interviewing Leo Kasper, before the events of the game, Leo states that he killed her. I find it interesting that Rockstar have added these details in an attempt to clear up the confusion of what happened during those 6 years Daniel and Leo spent in the Asylum.

Missing Story

I know for a fact that this story has a lot missing from it, in fact it’s also proven through the official Manhunt 2 website which prior to the games North American release actually showed areas in the game that are missing from the final released version. In certain flashback scenes you can hear characters refer to stuff that has happened that has not been shown in the game also at times the story doesn’t quite add up for instance how Leo manages to get from area to area.

Another thing that should be pointed out in regards to missing or changed story elements is the fact that in the Nintendo Wii version contains certain scenes that take place a different way for example in some scenes stuff has been removed and in others reversed also it is strange how in some Leo is with Daniel and on the PS2 version he has been removed.

This ultimately comes down to the different studios that worked on Manhunt 2 but it does beg the question which version of events is correct? Unfortunately going into detail here would bring up game spoilers but you will get the idea If you check out both the PS2 and Nintendo Wii versions of the game.

I think overall the story could have been better with the inclusion of the stuff that was removed it would certainly help explains things a little bit better, it’s easy to get confused when some of the later twists arrive but for the most part you will probably see them coming in advance as some are pretty obvious.

I think the game is missing some of what made the original great I mean when you first encountered Piggsy in the original game you didn’t know what to do or how to kill him you were left to stand in the shadows and hope that he didn’t sniff you out and kill you or when you encountered Lionel Starkweather in his attic to gain some revenge for what he had put you though.

Manhunt 2 doesn’t have that kind of fear element it just seems that Daniel isn’t locked into the story he could leave at any time where as James Earl Cash the original games main character was basically forced to kill his way out of the areas in order to survive, Daniel is merely fighting for his sanity.

This can be seen another way though, you could argue that this sort of story telling makes you so curious that you need to find out what happens next, in a way it does at certain times such as a character death in the game, you can easily find yourself compelled to continue the story forward.

Graphics/Visual

Graphically Manhunt 2 looks as good as the original did down to the character/weapon models to the environments that are shown in the game. Rockstar really did a good job of conveying the different areas , one that stands out above the rest here is the episode titled ‘Sexual Deviants’ it looks to be inspired by such films as Saw and Hostel.

Another good example that I can think of is the old house in ‘Ghosts’ and the streets surrounding the house, Rockstar have made the house look decrepit, dirty and old whilst during a flashback the house in this particular episode appears new, and clean as If it was brand new. This sort of comparison shows just how much of a great job was done graphically in conveying how much time had passed.

It is this kind of detail that really stands out when looking at Manhunt 2 one thing that I noticed with Manhunt 2 is a few of the models have been reused from the original game be it weapons or things in the environment which is no big deal overall as those models were also well done although I think they should have at least remodelled them.

The animations are also well done, you can expect the same level of excellence that you saw from the original, the executions really give you the feeling that the hunter was just hit on the head with a weapon. The Nintendo Wii version has a few added animations which actually help, one of which that is more noticeable is when Daniel or Leo fall to the ground and get back up whilst on the ps2 they simply land on their feet and walk away some of the executions also have added animations.

As for the actual characters appearances it’s a slightly different case, many of the gangs/hunters look similar, some were altered by Rockstar very late into the making of the game because they were just too similar in appearance. I personally don’t think they are enough of gangs either many are reused over and over in most of the games episodes some episodes have up to 3 different gangs roaming the area which is when you really see how similar they are.

Although you can find some differences between the gangs you simply won’t see anything like the diverse differences we saw in the original Manhunt such as the gang the smiles or such characters as the skinz and the hoods. In Manhunt 2 many of the hunters are wearing dark almost colourless attires and many in the same gang have the same cloths on. In the Nintendo Wii version this was changed most noticeably on the pervs gang as each hunter has an entirely different mask covering their heads.

Blur/Filter

I think one of the main things that you will want to know about this game is the execution filter. After the media coverage it’s received about how the game was edited in order to secure it’s rating many websites seem to see the filter as a bad thing and say that you can’t see anything during an execution. Well in my opinion it isn’t that bad at all it actually adds another element to the game, granted it would have been better without it but I think they did the best they could when told to filter them because they were too violent.

Comparing both versions of the filter on the PS2/PSP and WII, I think the Wii version has the clearest filter, they have used a green (Wii) and a red filter(PS2/PSP) in both versions. It isn’t anything to be concerned about game play wise but if you are buying the game solely for the executions you may be disappointed with what is presented here.

Some of the executions were removed and some were altered after the game was edited such as now no execution will feature the ability to cut someone’s head off even though the shovel execution on the PS2 does exactly this, you will see the shovel go through the hunters neck but after the execution the head of the hunter Is still attached. The only time you can remove a head is with the use of the axe or saw but it’s done within the game its self once the hunter is already dead.

Audio

The audio is impressive at times one example that stands out is during the episode ‘ghosts’ while sneaking up the stairs behind a hunter ready to take him out you will find that the steps and floorboards at the top of the stairs will start creaking as you walk over them. Compared to the original a lot of audio has either been removed or has been turned down in volume at some parts of the game.

I found there was no background audio at all at some points. I’m not sure if this was intentional or not but If we are going by the original this shouldn’t have been the case. Where the audio is in place it’s top notch I have heard that the Nintendo Wii version has a lot more audio in place and that it’s much louder but having not played that version at this point it Is hard to say in this review which is better.

I also thought that the hunters had a lot less to say to each other although that is not to say that it isn’t as good or perhaps better than the original dialogue that the games characters spoke. The voice actors that took part in the creation of the dialogue have done a fantastic job of portraying the characters they were given, with accents and humour present in each line spoken.

The use of the dialogue is also as good as the original Manhunt you can expect the characters to react to fallen enemies or characters such as Daniel and also to situations such as spotting Daniel or hearing a noise created by him.

Controls

The controls are very similar to the original game although they have made some improvements to them such as being able to use R1 to shoot a weapon now rather than using L1 like it was in the original Manhunt. It makes sense as many other games on the PS2 tend to use R1 for shooting it is a welcome change to the controls. A new feature to be added to the controls is the use of a menu which pops up when you press the select button.

This menu allows you to select various weapons and items that you may have but I think this menu is unnecessary as you can press down on the d-pad and cycle through available weapons anyway just like you used to do with the original game. Since the controls have been kept very similar it is fairly easy to pick them up if you have played the original and fans of other games may also find them easy to pick up since the buttons are kept similar.

Gameplay: General

If you have played through the original you are going to have no problems when it comes to this, you can expect everything you did in the original. The goal is still to sneak up on your enemies from behind and execute them as brutally as possible.

Although you can get involved in fist fights with your enemies if you want it does tend to result in a quick death similar to the original although now the hunters are much more likely to team up on you and take you out choosing to fight you in groups rather than one on one something that seems to have been added specifically for Manhunt 2.

You can expect to be spending your time in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to execute the hunters this can be done with a variety of methods such as knocking on a wall or throwing an object such as a brick or bottle as a lure. Depend on where the object is thrown the enemy will be drawn to that location giving you some time to take him out. You can judge the location of the hunter by looking at your radar which can be found at the bottom left hand side of the screen just like the original game.

One thing I did noticed with Manhunt 2 was I didn’t find myself spending quite as much time in the shadows as I did during the original game. I don’t know if this is down to the fact that Manhunt 2 is much easier in difficulty or just down to the fact that I am a much better player having played the original game and knowing the basic game play mechanics. Either way I am thankful for not having to wait anything up to 10 minutes before moving out the shadows and taking out a hunter.

Gameplay: New Elements & A.I.

Manhunt 2 features an assortment of brand new gameplay elements which all help bring a new feel to the game. Many of these new features come from feedback from fans who played the original Manhunt and their many frustrations at the missing gameplay elements that they thought would have made the original a better game. Rockstar have added these new features in response to that feedback.

One of the new game play features that has been added in Manhunt 2 is the ability to use environmental executions these are shown on the radar as a small white skull icon and are usually around 2 in each episode of the game. The only way to use these executions is to be behind the hunter while he is facing the environmental execution. These are named as such because the executions all feature things in the environment for example the fuse box, telephone cord, fire extinguisher or the toilet cistern execution.

I found that some of these were placed in areas where it was very hard to lure an enemy to the location of the kill. One that springs to mind is the manhole execution in the episode ’domestic disturbance’ this particular execution is placed behind a truck which is sitting in the middle of a street. The reason this one is particularly hard is because the cops on this level have flashlights and a helicopter aid is placed above the road moving back and forth.

When I lured the cop to the manhole I would need to go hide in the shadows but since the cop is carrying a flashlight and is the only cop nearby it’s pretty hard to take him out as he spots you in the shadows when he gets close and if you choose another place to hide the helicopter ends up exposing you. Other than a few instances I found them be a worthy inclusion in the game.

Similarly, some are reused a lot over the levels while others are only used once in the whole game, also some have not been thought out well such as the liquid nitrogen execution in which a hunter is dipped into it although nothing happens to the hunter such as him shattering from the extreme cold or something similar which begs the question why wasn’t another execution used such as the oil barrel execution that we see in other levels.

The extra variety that these executions add to the game is limited as you will only be able to use them once each per episode although the gas puddle execution and the meat hook pulley can be reused many times it isn‘t enough. Even with that said the environmental executions tend to be a good thing because they help break away from the constant executions using a handheld weapon. My only wish is that they should have added more of them.

The one alternative to using environmental executions is the gasoline canister which allows you to create your own environmental execution spots by pouring the gas on the ground anywhere and lighting it when a hunter is near. If this kind of ability that I would have liked to see added to other weapons, it would have really helped, making your own execution spots is an amazing feature but unfortunately in that particular episode you only have the ability to use it for a very short time.

Another new game play feature to be added this time around is jumping executions, these can be preformed like a normal execution although you need to find a location high above the hunters. Daniel will jump down from behind and kill the hunter with whatever available weapon he has to hand.

These work well and are a welcomed feature but not many of the areas in the game have a high enough vantage point that can be used to jump down onto the hunter from. I found that I was unable to use many of the weapons because of this which is frustrating.

I also found that getting the timing just right in order to perform the execution was also annoying, you can have the aim perfect but when you go to press the button to perform the execution the hunter you have targeted will walk out of range or the aim will deselect as the hunter seems to face your direction just as you about to make the kill. This can be annoying as you may have to wait for the hunter to make another pass before being able to take him out.

The game also features the ability to break lights in order to create additional shadows which you can hide in, breaking such a light will also attract any nearby hunters as they will hear the light being broken so it adds another level to the stealth that the game insists you use at all times but I found this feature to be pretty useless as it is hardly used in the game itself.

The game also features some basic puzzles, your tasked with closing several of doors in an area in order to open a main locked door. In the first section of the game this is achieved by taking out the hunters in the area and then pressing the buttons outside of each of the cells and closing them off which in turn changes the lights above a locked gate to green, once all 3 are green you can pass to the next area.

It does get a little more complicated later in the game when you have to open 3 more doors to pass a locked gate but the twist here is that you have 6 rooms to choose from and many of them have hunters locked inside so you must take them out first.

The games A.I. is flawed in some parts of the game, they really don’t hit the mark that the originals A.I. did for example while spending my time in the shadows during one particular level I found myself trapped by 2 hunters. It’s impossible to execute one of them without being seen so I had to wait for an opportunity and separate them which eventually happens if you use a lure.

This particular time however the hunters simply would not part from each other I threw lure after lure and the hunters would investigate then stop and look around. They would then go back to walking around, after trying a few times without much success I decided to wait it out for one of them to leave the area but in this case the hunters walked in circles, walked into the walls and even walked in and out of doorways without purpose.

I was eventually forced to gun down the hunters as they simply would not function correctly which is extremely frustrating when your low on health and end up being killed doing so which means you go back to the nearest checkpoint. Even with that said I would gladly say that the games A.I. can be considered good and better than most games, the A.I. will function as you would expect with them hiding in the right places when you shoot at them and some even knocking over objects in the environment to gain some cover you can also expect them to be cautious when you throw a lure or knock on walls, they walk over to your location and actually peer into the shadows.

This will prompt the game to pop up with a random button sequence to be pressed, if you mess up and press the wrong buttons the hunter will see you and pull you out of the shadows and begin to beat on you until your dead. if the correct buttons are pressed he will walk away from the shadows completely allowing you to take him out. It’s an interesting twist as you cannot simply sit in the shadows anymore and think your safe from attack, this makes you ready for anything and doesn’t allow you time to relax, it gives the game a more realistic feel as you never know if the button sequence will pop up as it is random.

Game Length

The game is rather short, you can easily complete the game in around 8-10 hours depending on how you play. The final play time isn’t listed on the game as the final times were removed from the end of each level by Rockstar themselves so that is why I’m listing the game at around 8-10 hours.

The game also doesn’t feature anything in the way of bonus materials such as the art panels or bonus levels that were unlocked after completing the original Manhunt. As I said in Manhunt 2 all you unlock is an alternative ending.

Although this is an nice addition to the overall game it unfortunately doesn’t add anything more than roughly 10 minutes to the game as the episode is mostly just shooting so there is not much chance to use stealth and take out your foes without being seen. As for replay value, the game is worth playing through again but maybe only once to pick up on the story, it simply has no other replay value in my opinion with the removal of the star ratings at the end of each episode.

This has in effect eliminated 2 things from the prospect of playing through the game a second time. The first of these being the chance to improve your star rating, in the original Manhunt you would gain these to unlock the art panels and ultimately the cheat codes for the game. You were awarded stars depending on how good you played the level such as how many hunters you killed by stealth, the cheats also allowed you to be invisible and get unlimited ammo such things as this gave the game a lot of reply value.

The second thing it has eliminated from replaying the game is the chance to improve your overall time for each level, in the original Manhunt this would be displayed when you had finished a scene, the reason your time was so important was because getting under 15 minutes gain you an extra star rating you could also post your time online and see if other people could beat your score.

I think with those being eliminated from Manhunt 2 it has drastically changed how much replay value it has, Manhunt 2 also doesn’t have multiple paths that can be explored so you are simply stuck on the same path. With that said however you can if you wish, fight more rather than using stealth, some levels will allow you to do that but this isn’t much to add to the replay value in my opinion.

Final Verdict

After waiting 5 years for the game to be released in the UK I was expecting a lot more from it, don't get me wrong I enjoyed playing through the game but I can’t help but wonder what was removed from the game that we did not see. If Rockstar Vienna had not been shut down could we in fact have seen a completely different game in terms of how many episodes were presented and also how long the game was, it is rumoured that the game featured bonus levels much like the original Manhunt but these were apparently removed when Vienna was closed and the other studio’s took over the game.

I also have to wonder about the game since after the game was refused classification, Rockstar London went back and started to remove violent stuff from the game. They removed executions and added the filters to the game but then they proceeded to remove extra things for example as I said Leo is also missing from some cut scenes, and many are changed meaning both games are not even.

I would still recommend the game to anyone who was a fan of the original game as it has everything you would expect. The changes in the executions, cutscenes and the added filter are not enough to put me off playing through the game and shouldn’t be for anyone else who is a fan. I also have to point out that with the game being so cheap now you should have no reason not to pick this one up this Halloween or Christmas.

Menu
- Introduction
- Story
- Missing Story
- Graphics/Visuals
- Blur/Filter
- Audio
- Controls
- Gameplay: General
- Gameplay: New Elements & A.I.
Game Length
- Final Verdict
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